Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

February 14–21, 2002

music picks|rock/pop

John Mayer

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Even at the tender age of 24, John Mayer’s smart enough to know there are worse things than being compared to Dave Matthews. Formerly bothersome — a "kink in my master plan of making records forever" — the vocal comparisons are now "totally cool" with Mayer if they lead even one potential fan to his music.

"I’m just so damn happy that people are listening," the affable singer-songwriter-guitarist says by phone from Gainesville, Florida. "I’m having such a blast, it’s surreal."

The last few years have been an interesting musical journey for the Connecticut native, whose catchy acoustic songs blend pop, folk, blues, rock and even bits of jazz into an infectious, radio-friendly mix.

As a teen, Mayer fancied himself the next Stevie Ray Vaughn, but by the end of his stint at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, came to view blues primarily as "something that saved me from being a crappy musician."

"I just wasn’t intrigued by it anymore," he says. Determined to create his own sound and find listeners for his songs, he relocated to Atlanta, and reined in his six-string heroics to focus more on songwriting. His 1999 indie release, Inside Wants Out, showcased Mayer’s burgeoning talent, but it wasn’t until last year’s Room For Squares that his career got going. While Mayer’s breezy, confident guitar is a standout on that disc, he says it’s hardly his best work.

"I’ll be opening that up more on the next record; putting more focus on the guitar." This time out, he mostly wants to avoid painting himself into "this really tight corner musically." The resulting quasi-autobiographical songs on Room for Squares— which focus on finding one’s place on the planet, hopefully with some good lovin’ thrown in for the ride — are charming for their openness, both lyrically and musically. While some listeners may find Mayer’s tales of his self-described "quarter-life crisis" more cutesy than intended, there’s no mistaking the raw talent within.

"I don’t need to be the next Dave Matthews, but it wouldn’t matter if I was the biggest thing in the world either, as long as I can have a personal relationship with the listener," Mayer says. "As long as you give me a guitar and I get to play some real stuff. That’s where it’s at for me."

Nicole Pensiero

Wed., Feb. 20 and Thu., Feb. 21, 8 p.m., with The Clarks, the TLA, 334 South St., 215-922-1011.

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