Given the type of news coverage he gets, it may surprise you to learn that John Mayer is also a musician.
His major-label debut, Room for Squares, came out in 2001, and within two years he was rewarded with his first Grammy win, followed by praise from every corner of the music industry, from blues masters (B.B. King and Eric Clapton) to rap stars (Kanye West and Jay-Z) to Nashville standouts (the Dixie Chicks and Brad Paisley). His gentle voice and introspective lyrics looked back to 1970s songwriters like James Taylor, and his guitar playing was versatile and masterful.
There hadn’t been a new solo male rock star in the music business since Lenny Kravitz, and Mayer fit the bill. He wrote hit songs--the ballads “Daughters,” which went to number one, “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Say,” the peppy and clever “No Such Thing,” the bluesy “Gravity” and the soulful “Waiting on the World to Change”--that were solidly constructed from warm sentiments and sophisticated music detail. He wrote “some of the most women-friendly anthems this side of Eve Ensler,” one journalist swooned. Not since Sting had a male singer been both so popular and so respected.
And so handsome, too. Mayer, a taut six-foot-three, was soon dating the kind of beauties who populate magazine covers: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Cameron Diaz and Minka Kelly, most recently seen on the arm of Derek Jeter. In 2006 he surprised some fans by dating Jessica Simpson, who seemed (musically at least) the antithesis of what he stood for. Alongside his music career he’s lately had a parallel life as a tabloid topic, due to his romance with actress Jennifer Aniston. They were together from April 2008 to March 2009, including a two-month breakup during their summer together. After he and Aniston split, Mayer released Battle Studies, the best record of his career, a set of related songs in which he mourns lost love, rejoices in his independence and castigates himself for romantic failure.
Mayer grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut, the second of three boys raised by Margaret, an English teacher, and Richard, a high school principal 19 years older than his wife. John’s guitar prowess led him to the Berklee College of Music, which he left after two semesters to begin a career in Atlanta. He suffered from panic attacks as well as acne “so bad that I would cancel dates and plans and stay in the house,” he has said.
He is beloved (though not universally) as one of the few uncensored stars, speaking with wit and impetuousness. He fills his Twitter feed with quips and advice, returning often to a few favorite topics: his dreams, his love of pie, Miley Cyrus songs and farting. Mayer has been “creating a new paradigm of fame,” veteran music blogger Bob Lefsetz wrote. As another journalist puts it, “Mayer takes self-awareness to new postmodern heights,” like a football player who provides “color commentary on his own career.”
Playboy contributing editor Rob Tannenbaum met with Mayer twice: first at the singer’s nearly unfurnished $7.5 million seven-bedroom villa in a gated community outside L.A., where Mayer poured glasses of 16-year-old Lagavulin neat; and then over lunch in Brooklyn a few hours before he played a secret MySpace show. Tannenbaum reports, “John Mayer talks the way he plays guitar solos--the words tumble out fast, like notes, and he may go on for as long as five minutes. He’ll jump out into different themes and suddenly slip in a new idea, but he always returns to his initial theme. He’s a prodigious talker, and he always brought up touchy subjects--his relationships with Simpson and Aniston, or his reputation as a douche bag--before I mentioned them, to show he wasn’t afraid to address them. From his soft-spoken songs you can’t tell how stubborn and defiant he is. Or how much he loves talking about sex. Or how mischievous he is. When I met him in the kitchen of his L.A. home he was talking about not talking anymore: ‘I think the world would be better off if I stopped doing interviews,’ he said. So we started there.”
Playboy: Is this the last John Mayer interview?
Mayer: No, though I have fantasies of it. And that doesn’t come out of pretension or laziness. It’s difficult for me to explain my life to someone without sounding like I’m complaining, which I’m not. I have no problem saying I’m in a bit of a strange time in my life.
Playboy: What’s strange about this time in your life?
Mayer: In one way or another, people probably know my name now. I’m squarely nestled in the crosshairs of their criticism and media reproach. I originally played music because I was an underdog, because I didn’t want to be in school, and it always had this quality of an uprising. When you first start out, you want people to know you. There is a quality of the unknown that is very sexy—like thinking, There might be a girl in this crowd who will have a conversation with me because she knows my music. For me, it has never been about fucking lots of girls. I could have fucked a lot more girls in my life if I hadn’t been trying so hard to get them to like me. If I have a conversation with a really hot girl that lasts all night and she says, “Wow, I had no idea I was going to like you this much,” that is the equivalent, for me, of getting laid.
Playboy: So how has that changed?
Mayer: I’m no longer playing music so I can walk into a party and talk to chicks, because people know who I am now. In fact, now I have a sort of negative connotation with that. [laughs] It’s a headache, you know?
Playboy: Meeting girls is a headache? You have to explain that.
Mayer: I hate being the heartbreaker. Hate it. If I date somebody and it doesn’t work out, it’s another nightmare for me. I don’t like the way the odds are stacked. If I date nine more girls before I get married—which I think would be completely appropriate—that would be nine more spats of character assassination. I don’t equate sex with release, I equate it with tension. It’s given me a lot of pause. Somewhere in my brain it has probably really f**ked me up.
Playboy: But who cares if people assassinate your character?
Mayer: I do. I just do. I consider myself a good guy, with the best of intentions. Anybody who has been in a relationship with me would stand by the fact that I’ve never been callous. I’ve never been a bad boy. I may have taken someone through the wringer psychologically, but I’ve never been sinister.
Playboy: So you’ve lost the motivation of playing music to meet girls.
Mayer: If I was playing it so I could meet hot chicks, I’ve met hot chicks, quote unquote. If I was playing it to make a ton of money, I’ve made a ton of money. If I was playing it to be well-known, I am well-known. Once you put aside girls and money, it forces you to realign your motivation for being a musician. Now I’m not a have-not but a have. Which is interesting, because music has to come from a have-not sort of place. And there are many places where I have-not.
Playboy: What motivates you now?
Mayer: My motivation is to prove people wrong, to confuse them. I enjoy the challenge—I must be addicted to the challenge. I’ve gone from being a musician to being a celebrity. And when people do that, their work usually suffers. There are tunes on Battle Studies that are more applicable to other people’s lives than anything I’ve ever written before. This whole time I’ve stayed vulnerable, stayed frustrated, stayed confused. This record is the trade-off to having sort of brutalized myself for a few years. So if people see that over the past couple of years I actually got a firmer grip on writing songs about the ups and downs of life, they might go, “How did he have the time to make a record? Was he writing ‘War of My Life’ in the middle of me thinking he was a douche bag? Did I ever actually know him? Maybe he’s a pretty solid guy.”
Playboy: What if you were to google the phrase John Mayer is a douche bag?
Mayer: You’d get a lot of hits. It’s this whole perception thing about tabloids, where 85 percent of the stories are not true. If you align yourself to be exactly who you know you are and to have dignity, maybe through that distorted lens you look askew to everyone else. I’ve done away with feeling aloof and trying to seem suave and bulletproof. I’ve resigned myself to being slightly awkward and goofballish.
Playboy: It seems as though you realize that celebrities who complain don’t generate much sympathy.
Mayer: I have never once said “I wish the press would leave me alone.” With Twitter, I can show my real voice. Here’s me thinking about stuff: “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could download food?” It has been important for me to keep communicating, even when magazines were calling me a rat and saying I was writing a book.
Playboy: Who did that?
Mayer:Star magazine at one point said I was writing a tell-all book for $10 million. On Star’s cover it said “What A Rat!” My entire life I’ve tried to be a nice guy. The best I ever felt was when friends’ parents would say, “John can come over any time. We love that kid.” When I date a girl and find out her friends approve of me, I love it. I love being liked! I’ve given microscopic dedication to doing the right thing, taking the high road, and all of a sudden Star magazine says, “He’s a rat.” I can’t tell you it didn’t give me that much more bloodlust to do what people thought I couldn’t do.
Playboy: It sounds simple, but it’s not: Battle Studies is an album about love.
Mayer: Sure. It’s an album about love in this day and age, and at my age, 32.
Playboy: What do you mean by “in this day and age”? There aren’t any references in the songs that would have been unclear 20 years ago.
Mayer: I’m a self-soother. The Internet, DVR, Netflix, Twitter—all these things are moments in time throughout your day when you’re able to soothe yourself. We have an autonomy of comfort and pleasure. By the way, pornography? It’s a new synaptic pathway. You wake up in the morning, open a thumbnail page, and it leads to a Pandora’s box of visuals. There have probably been days when I saw 300 vaginas before I got out of bed.
Playboy: What’s your point about porn and relationships?
Mayer: Internet pornography has absolutely changed my generation’s expectations. How could you be constantly synthesizing an orgasm based on dozens of shots? You’re looking for the one photo out of 100 you swear is going to be the one you finish to, and you still don’t finish. Twenty seconds ago you thought that photo was the hottest thing you ever saw, but you throw it back and continue your shot hunt and continue to make yourself late for work. How does that not affect the psychology of having a relationship with somebody? It’s got to.
Playboy: You seem very fond of pornography.
Mayer: When I watch porn, if it’s not hot enough, I’ll make up backstories in my mind. My biggest dream is to write pornography.
Playboy: How did you become a self-soother?
Mayer: I grew up in my own head. As soon as I lose that control, once I have to deal with someone else’s desires, I cut and run. I’m pretty culpable about being hard to live with. I have had a good run of imagining things into reality. I’ve got a huge streak of successes based on my own inventions. If you tell me I’m wrong or that I’m overthinking something, well, overthinking has given me everything in my career. I have a hard time not looking at anxiety disorder as being like an ATM. I can invent things really well. I mean, I have unbelievable orgasms alone. They’re always the best. They always end the way I want them to end. And I have such an ability to make believe, I can almost project something onto my wall, watch it and get off to it: sexually, musically, it doesn’t matter. When I meet somebody, I’m in a situation in which I can’t run it because another person is involved. That means letting someone else talk, not waiting for them to remind you of something interesting you had in mind.
Playboy: Masturbation for you is as good as sex?
Mayer: Absolutely, because during sex, I’m just going to run a filmstrip. I’m still masturbating. That’s what you do when you’re 30, 31, 32. This is my problem now: Rather than meet somebody new, I would rather go home and replay the amazing experiences I’ve already had.
Playboy: You’d rather jerk off to an ex-girlfriend than meet someone new?
Mayer: Yeah. What that explains is that I’m more comfortable in my imagination than I am in actual human discovery. The best days of my life are when I’ve dreamed about a sexual encounter with someone I’ve already been with. When that happens, I cannot lay off myself.
Playboy: There are some angry, accusatory songs on the record, but there are also self-critical songs. It goes through all the changing moods you have on the worst night of your life.
Mayer: Yeah, Battle Studies is that feeling between 10 p.m. and two a.m. when you have this wild level of arousal and optimism. It’s about the things people do to each other during those hours. I have wasted four hours of my life refusing to masturbate and believing that somehow the phone would ring and I’d get a call from somebody I hadn’t talked to in years.
Playboy: The phone will ring and your life will change?
Mayer: Yeah. It’s like looking for a fix. I’ll spend four hours not even putting anything into motion, just believing somehow it’s going to come my way.
Playboy: You talked before about being an underdog. What were you like at 16?
Mayer: I wasn’t paying attention in school. I would come home and play guitar, playing for all the moments I had that day when I couldn’t feel alive. I visualized I was a superhero with an alter ego: “By day, a gawky, zitfaced 16-year-old boy.…” I would sleep with my guitar because I thought it would make me play better. I had a 100-disc CD player in the basement, and I would load it up with Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Kenny Burrell and Bill Evans and play CDs while I slept on the floor. Like somehow, by osmosis, the music was getting into me. It was the only way I could build enough armor to go back to school the next day.
Playboy: How many hours a day were you playing?
Mayer: Three to four hours a day when I was in school, and in the summertime five to six hours a day. I wasn’t smoking cigarettes or drinking, and I wasn’t trying to hook up. I wasn’t going to parties. I remember being in my room when there was a party across town, sitting in my room and pretending I was at the party and playing for them. I remember saying to myself, If I have to sleep on a pool table every night on tour, I’ll do it. I always had that desire to be a rock star.
Playboy: Were you one of those smart kids who hated school?
Mayer: I would act up and get sent to the dean’s office and talk to him as though I was an adult. “I’m not trying to upset anybody, sir. With all due respect to you and your staff, I’m just not supposed to be here. It’s quite difficult for me to sit in class, because I’m supposed to be a guitar player, sir.” I was very cocky. But from the outset, there was opposition. My parents were not the biggest fans, to put it diplomatically. I grew up saying, “You’ll see. I can’t explain it yet, but you’ll see.” Early in my career, when I was 19 or 20, I’d meet presidents of record companies and refused to give them my demos. I’d say, “We’ll see each other again sometime.”
Playboy: That is really cocky.
Mayer: It was incredibly cocky. I was so tempered in opposition that when the opposition went away, I started to look like a total asshole. When my first record came out, I was still saying, “You’ll see. Check out what I did. Eat it.” It gave me this reputation for being really arrogant. I probably should have stood on top of a roof and yelled, “Fuck you!” That “I’ll show you” instinct is still alive and well. Now, instead of “We don’t think you can do it,” it’s “We think you’re a douche bag.”
Playboy: Do you still have a chip on your shoulder?
Mayer: Yep. I have an extremely tall antenna that reaches high into the sky and brings in a lot of cool stuff but also a lot of unnecessary stuff. If I hadn’t had my upbringing, I would have probably been like, “Yeah, this is fun. Cool.” But right now I still have “See? See, motherfucker?”
Playboy: You put in a lot of hours playing the guitar, but it also seems you were quick to pick up music theory, harmony, composition.
Mayer: I’m wired for it. I’m lucky I found a thing I was wired for, and I found it at 13. I’ve already won one of the biggest gambles of all time, which was to forgo an education so I could pursue a real all-or-none scenario. I look pretty fucking smart for having done that, though it doesn’t change the fact that it was crazy.
Playboy: You have a level of self-consciousness that seems like it could be exhausting.
Mayer: Maybe that’s the douche bag part of it. Maybe I’m so meta-aware that it’s off-putting to people. But I’m old enough to know I need to change. I’m getting tired of the illusion of control. I think I’ve made my best record now, at my lowest point of confidence.
Playboy: You wanted to become a rock star, and now that you are one, it’s ruined your confidence? That’s odd.
Mayer: Lately I’ve realized it’s okay to enjoy being a rock star. Like, it might actually be fun to wear sunglasses in the airport and sit in the first-class lounge as a fucking rock star who’s about to go on a world tour. I had related it to something so painful, so frustrating, so confusing, that it would give me a tension headache. Being a famous musician seemed to have brought misunderstanding and strife and a fist in the back of the head when I read something about myself. I wrote this line yesterday: “Someday soon these will just be things we used to do.” I’m sort of making a list of all the things I know I’m going to laugh at myself for taking so seriously.
Playboy: So you can already imagine your future?
Mayer: This is going to sound odd, but sometimes I meet the 40-year-old me and say, “What do I do?” And 40-year-old me says, “Don’t do every scheduled interview. Go to the zoo instead. You’re going to be fine, you knucklehead. Stop overthinking what people say.” I’m trying to fold over time, to see it as a random-access hard disk where I can move to any point in time and change the way I see today.
Playboy: What you describe sounds like a conversation between a father and a son. Can you talk like that with your dad?
Mayer: My dad is 82. I love him so much, but the way I communicate with him is by fixing his printer or the closed-captioning on his TV. These are the bonding moments we have.
Playboy: Did kids make fun of the fact that your dad is almost 20 years older than your mom?
Mayer: No, they’d just say, “Your grandfather’s here.”
Playboy: Is your heritage Jewish?
Mayer: I’m half Jewish. People say, “Well, which side of your family is Jewish?” I say, “My dad’s.” And they always say it doesn’t count. But I will say I keep my pool at 92 degrees, so you do the math. I find myself relating to Judaism. One of my best friends is Jewish beyond all Jews—I went to my first Passover seder at his house—and I train in Krav Maga with a lot of Israelis.
Playboy: You said there are still things you don’t have. What are those things?
Mayer: I could make anybody understand that my life is not all rainbows and unicorns, but why would I want to? I’m sort of selling them the idea that it’s rainbows and unicorns. I could explain that, in fact, I’m not a douche bag, but that would be at the expense of believing in magic. I don’t want to tear down the facade. People want to imagine that if they get a record deal, they can buy a Ferrari. People need that. I don’t want to take that away from people. Anything I don’t have is a direct descendant of the things I do have. I mean, let’s say there’s a 12 percent chance I’ll never marry and have kids because the music career fucked me in some way. If that’s the case, I still know it’s my calling. I hold out hope that there’s a way to be a supernatural being onstage and an extremely natural being at home.
Playboy: Why are you so anxious about never getting married?
Mayer: What if I meet a woman and it’s love at first sight, and this woman has the greatest night of her life by telling me to fuck off because she knows my reputation? I always say, “Turning me down is the new sleeping with me.” What is a guy supposed to say to a girl who says “You do this all the time”? Girls always say that. Sometimes they say “I’ve been warned about you.” But I can undo that in a couple of days. I have a line for that: “Keep your warning for a while; let’s take it slow.”
Playboy: Were you one of those people who thought fame would be rainbows and unicorns?
Mayer: I had a conversation about fame with Jen [Aniston] before we ever really stepped out in public. She said, “Do you understand what this entails?” Two weeks later I had people outside my house. I was smart enough to know it would probably make me a salable item for the paparazzi. I knew I’d have to move to a home that had a gate. But that pearl of possibility that lives in your heart when you meet somebody you want to know more about has such a different molecular density than everything else that you have to pursue it. And I wouldn’t undo it, man. Because if it had worked out, I would have reaped the benefits. I would be sitting here saying, “What I have when I go home is the thing I’ve always wanted.”
Playboy: Has Jen heard Battle Studies?
Mayer: Yes. I played it for her as the record was being made.
Playboy: What did she say?
Mayer: Look, there’s a level of honesty in that record that probably made her uncomfortable, but I couldn’t let that change the way I wrote songs. There were moments when she said, “What’s that line?” Like, “That’s not about me, is it?” While I was going out with her she was on the cover of GQ wearing nothing but a tie. These are occupational hazards. When she heard Battle Studies she just wanted to be able to say “I want to know that you hold me correctly in your heart.”
Playboy: What percentage of the album is about Aniston?
Mayer: I don’t want to say. I feel bad because people think “Heartbreak Warfare” is about her. I want to go on record saying it’s not. That woman would never use heartbreak warfare. That woman was the most communicative, sweetest, kindest person. When people hear the record, I hope the songs make them think about their lives, not my life. Like, when you listen to Coldplay, do you think about Gwyneth Paltrow? I don’t write songs in order to stick it to my exes. I don’t release underground dis tracks. [laughs]
Playboy: You’ve rarely talked about Aniston. She has rarely talked about you.
Mayer: We just have a regard for each other’s feelings that is pretty intense. It’s been a deep relationship, and it’s no longer taking place at all. Have you ever loved somebody, loved her completely, but had to end the relationship for life reasons?
Playboy: Did you send Aniston a copy of the CD after it was done?
Playboy: Maybe she’ll download it from BitTorrent.
Mayer: If Jennifer Aniston knows how to use BitTorrent I’ll eat my fucking shoe. One of the most significant differences between us was that I was tweeting. There was a rumor that I had been dumped because I was tweeting too much. That wasn’t it, but that was a big difference. The brunt of her success came before TMZ and Twitter. I think she’s still hoping it goes back to 1998. She saw my involvement in technology as courting distraction. And I always said, “These are the new rules.”
Playboy: You mean the rules of celebrity have changed since Friends made her a star?
Mayer: I said, “Tom Cruise put on a fat suit.” That pretty much sums up the past decade: Tom Cruise with a comb-over, dancing to Flo Rida in Tropic Thunder. And the world went, “Welcome back, Tom Cruise.”
Playboy: What’s the moral there?
Mayer: You have to show that you don’t take yourself seriously. Once you do that, people will say you’re cool: “You know what? I gotta say I never liked him until he made fun of himself, and now I like him.”
Playboy: If you didn’t know you, would you think you’re a douche bag?
Mayer: It depends on what I picked up. My two biggest hits are “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Daughters.” If you think those songs are pandering, then you’ll think I’m a douche bag. It’s like I come on very strong. I am a very…I’m just very. V-E-R-Y. And if you can’t handle very, then I’m a douche bag. But I think the world needs a little very. That’s why black people love me.
Playboy: Because you’re very?
Mayer: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’”
Playboy: It is true; a lot of rappers love you. You recorded with Common and Kanye West, played live with Jay-Z.
Mayer: What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.
Playboy: Do black women throw themselves at you?
Mayer: I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.
Playboy: Let’s put some names out there. Let’s get specific.
Mayer: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She’s superhot, and she’s also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she’d be like, “Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever.” And you’d be like, “What? We weren’t talking about that.” That’s what “Heartbreak Warfare” is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic.
Playboy: You said that song isn’t about Aniston. Why is it important for people to know that?
Mayer: I’m very protective of Jen.
Playboy: Do you still love her?
Mayer: Yes, always. I’ll always be sorry that it didn’t last. In some ways I wish I could be with her. But I can’t change the fact that I need to be 32.
Playboy: Last June she was given an award from Women in Film. In her acceptance speech she pointed out that the titles of her films closely parallel her private life. Then she asked if anyone in the audience had “a project titled Everlasting Love With an Adult, Stable Male.” It seems as if she was referring to you.
Mayer: I imagine I’ve got something to do with that. Parts of me aren’t 32. My ability to go deep with somebody is old soul. My ability to commit and be faithful is old soul. But 32 just comes roaring out of me at points when I don’t see it coming. I want to dance. I want to get on an airplane and be like a ninja. I want to be an explorer. I want to be like The Bourne Identity. I don’t want to pet dogs in the kitchen.
Playboy: That’s not so weird for a 32-year-old.
Mayer: Right. For a long time I was asking, “What’s wrong with me?” I spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on therapy for people to say, “Nothing is wrong.” I had seen splitting up with her as akin to burning an American flag. Do you know what I mean? I considered myself a villain.
Playboy: How did you feel like a villain?
Mayer: I felt as though I’d done something wrong and was going to be punished for it. When the media picked up on it, it was the worst fucking week of my life. I found notes at my front desk: “I work for Us Weekly; I’d like to talk to you.” I’m working out at the gym, and next to me on the elliptical trainer I see a woman I think already approached me and said she was with In Touch. But wouldn’t that be paranoid to think? I’m going insane. I haven’t slept. I’m about to go blind—you know the phrase blind rage? All I can remember is that I was about to lose my vision. My emotional tissue was about to tear. So after I left the gym I said “Come here” to all the reporters and paparazzi. I was on the verge of crying and also on the verge of punching someone.
Playboy: This was August 2008, when you said you had ended the relationship “because I don’t want to waste somebody’s time if something’s not right.”
Mayer: It really, really upset her. I wanted to take responsibility for having ended it because I saw it as such an offense. But a lot of people felt I was saving face. This would serve to begin the period of my life I’m just exiting, when love made me feel guilty and people called me a rat, a womanizer and a cad.
Playboy: You’ve also been called a man-whore.
Mayer: I feel like women are getting their comeuppance against men now. I hear about man-whores more than I hear about whores. When women are whorish, they’re owning their sexuality. When men are whorish, they’re disgusting beasts. I think they’re paying us back for a double standard that’s lasted for a hundred years.
Playboy: What does the word womanizer mean to you?
Mayer: Well, wouldn’t a womanizer have dated more than two girls in two years?
Playboy: You and Aniston got back together and broke up again in 2009. How many women did you sleep with in the eight months after the breakup?
Mayer: I’m going to say four or five. No more.
Playboy: That’s a reasonable number.
Mayer: But even if I said 12, that’s a reasonable number. So is 15. Here’s the thing: I get less ass now than I did when I was in a local band. Because now I don’t like jumping through hoops. It’s been so long since I’ve taken a random girl home. I don’t want to have to submit myself for approval. I don’t want to audition. I’d rather come home and edge my shit out for 90 minutes. At this point, before I can have sex I need to know somebody. Unless she’s a 14 out of 10.
Playboy: You have been very up front about your fondness for masturbation.
Mayer: It’s like a vacation—my brain gets to go free. It’s a walk in the park for my brain. Pull the shades and let your mind go without having to answer for it.
Playboy: The way you talk about being 32 sounds as though you were too immature for Aniston.
Mayer: No, the actual day-to-day was fantastic. I have to explain this so people don’t say, “Sure, you’re 32, and you want to fuck other chicks.” If you say I’m not adult and stable, it sounds as though I’m someone who’s watching football and playing Xbox. I have this bond with infinite possibility—when I go out to dinner, I bring another shirt, a flashlight, a knife, a hard drive, a camera. It’s not like I wanted to be with somebody else. I want to be with myself, still, and lie in bed only with the infinite unknown. That’s 32, man.
Playboy: In 2006 you began dating Jessica Simpson, and the paparazzi started stalking you, turning you into a tabloid fixture. Certainly you knew that was going to happen.
Mayer: It wasn’t as direct as me saying “I now make the choice to bring the paparazzi into my life.” I really said, “I now make the choice to sleep with Jessica Simpson.” That was stronger than my desire to stay out of the paparazzi’s eye. That girl, for me, is a drug. And drugs aren’t good for you if you do lots of them. Yeah, that girl is like crack cocaine to me.
Playboy: You were addicted to Jessica Simpson?
Mayer: Sexually it was crazy. That’s all I’ll say. It was like napalm, sexual napalm.
Playboy: But before you dated her you thought of yourself as the kind of guy who would never date Jessica Simpson.
Mayer: That’s correct. There are people in the world who have the power to change our values. Have you ever been with a girl who made you want to quit the rest of your life? Did youever say, “I want to quit my life and just fuckin’ snort you? If you charged me $10,000 to fuck you, I would start selling all my shit just to keep fucking you.”
Playboy: So at this point—
Mayer: Pardon me for interrupting. I love Jen so much that I’m now thinking about how bad I would feel if she read this and was like, “Why are you putting me in an article where you’re talking about someone else? I don’t want to be in your lineage of kiss-and-tells.”
Playboy: At this point, what’s your ideal relationship?
Mayer: Here’s what I really want to do at 32: fuck a girl and then, as she’s sleeping in bed, make breakfast for her. So she’s like, “What? You gave me five vaginal orgasms last night, and you’re making me a spinach omelet? You are the shit!” So she says, “I love this guy.” I say, “I love this girl loving me.” And then we have a problem. Because that entails instant relationship. I’m already playing house. And when I lose interest she’s going to say, “Why would you do that if you didn’t want to stick with me?”
Playboy: Why do you do it?
Mayer: Because I want to show her I’m not like every other guy. Because I hate other men. When I’m fucking you, I’m trying to fuck every man who’s ever fucked you, but in his ass, so you’ll say “No one’s ever done that to me in bed.”
Playboy: Do you do something different in bed than other guys?
Mayer: It’s all about geometry. I’m sort of a scientist; it’s about being obtuse with an angle. It’s sort of this weird up-and-over thing. You gotta think “up and over.”
Playboy: Maybe that’s easier at your height. You talked about listening to Miles Davis and Bill Evans in high school, but that’s not the kind of music you make.
Mayer: I make mainstream music. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures; I believe in pleasures. I know where I stand when I hear Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” or “The Climb”—which may be the best pop song of the past year.
Playboy: It’s a little surprising that you like Miley Cyrus so much.
Mayer: I took a friend and his kids to see Miley Cyrus in Vegas. After the show I said to her, “That was fantastic. Fantastic.” I said, “Take $100,000, put it in a shoe box and bury it in your backyard.” I walked away thinking, That may be the strangest thing I’ve ever said. It just means put a little away. Have something nobody can ever take away from you.
Playboy: Keep a secret fund in case you wake up at three a.m. thinking, Screw this, and you need to disappear?
Mayer: Exactly. That’s what I do with my blackjack winnings—I keep them safe and sound.
Playboy: Among the things we’ve read about you online is this: You’re gay. Have you ever kissed a man?
Mayer: The only man I’ve kissed is Perez Hilton. It was New Year’s Eve and I decided to go out and destroy myself. I was dating Jessica at the time, and I remember seeing Perez Hilton flitting about this club and acting as though he had just invented homosexuality. All of a sudden I thought, I can outgay this guy right now. I grabbed him and gave him the dirtiest, tongue-iest kiss I have ever put on anybody—almost as if I hated fags. I don’t think my mouth was even touching when I was tongue kissing him, that’s how disgusting this kiss was. I’m a little ashamed. I think it lasted about half a minute. I really think it went on too long.
Playboy: Perez describes you on his site as a womanizer, a word you don’t like. Is it fair to say you have a love-hate relationship with him?
Mayer: I used to. Now I believe we’re fully into fighting with breakaway chairs. I think he’s pretty much inert at this point. Perez is to hating as Richard Simmons is to health and well-being. [laughs] You can print that. Perez is so authentically off his rocker he will not let you finish a sentence. I think he has some dark things in his past. I think he comes from a little bit of hurt, and I say that with an understated tone. At the end of the day I go to his site, but I don’t see him as a threat. The impact of his tone is beginning to wane. I give a lot more credit to Harvey Levin at TMZ.
Playboy: Would you kiss Harvey Levin?
Mayer: I would rim him, probably. I can’t just repeat the kissing trick.
Playboy: From following your Twitter feed we’ve learned about many of your interests. For instance, you love the Toto Washlet bidet.
Mayer: God, I want one.
Playboy: But you already have platinum records and stardom.
Mayer: A platinum record is not going to wash your ass for you.
Playboy: Good point. A Washlet isn’t that expensive. Why don’t you have one?
Mayer: It speaks to my level of transience. I’ll get a Washlet when I finally find a shitter I’m going to be at for a good block of time in my life. [laughs] I’m really going to enjoy that. That’s what is waiting for me on the other end of this crazy rocket ride—a warm seat and an adjustable bidet.
Playboy: You said you were just exiting the phase of your life when relationships make you feel guilty. What’s the next phase?
Mayer: People are lining up around the block right now to watch me play music tonight. If some kid called me a douche bag on his terrible blog, I don’t really care. I’m letting myself out of my own prison. I’m not going to be a prisoner to a warden I can’t see. From now on I’m just going to pretend that people really dig the shit out of me. I’ve been so afraid of rocking the boat that I’m not sailing anywhere. I’ve been trying to prove to people I’m not a douche bag by not dating, by keeping my name out of Us Weekly. That’s fucked up, man. I’m not dating. I’m not even fucking. So now I’m going to experiment with “fuck you.” In 2010 my goal is to get more mentions in Us Weekly than ever.