John Mayer fans were surprised when he announced he'd be releasing a new album this summer: after all, he'd just released a new album, Born and Raised, in 2012. But John says he knew that he'd be touring this summer, and he really wanted to have some new tunes to play on stage. That's why he made Paradise Valley, in stores today.
Now, John never actually toured behind Born and Raised due to his vocal problems, so it's not like he was sick of the songs on that record. Rather, he says he wanted to make sure he was playing songs that he was emotionally connected to.
Speaking to Billboard, he explains, "I remember saying to myself several times, 'I don't want to go on tour this summer unless I have as much music [as possible] that represents who I am right now,' because times change for a writer. You can write something in one year that feels like the most vital thing, and then, 12 months later, you can sort of look back on it and go, 'Ehh.'"
In addition, John explains that he didn't think the songs on Born and Raised would be easy for him to rock out on stage with.
"I realized, 'Born and Raised is a very personal, very sort of intimate record that I don't know how it's going to come across in an amphitheater,'" he recalls. "I went, 'I really wanna have more music for 2013 summertime to keep myself happy and then keep everyone else happy.'"
He adds, "It was a bit of a theoretical desire to have more music to play on stage, which, looking back on it, was totally the right call."
The Grammy-winning singer and guitarist says that one of the big inspirations behind Paradise Valley was his new home in Montana, which initially was just going to be a vacation home. But when his vocal issues forced him to stop touring, recording and even talking, he found refuge there.
"I had nowhere else to go really, and I thought, 'Well I'm just gonna retreat to this place,'" John tells Billboard. "And it became part of my life, and the people there became a part of my life and, and it's really given me an anchor. Not just spiritual, but just a real cultural lifestyle anchor. And...really, the sound of Paradise Valley really comes from there."
Of course, what fans are really interested in is scrutinizing the lyrics of Paradise Valley for references to John's love life. They've already decided that "Paper Doll" is about Taylor Swift, but there's no mystery about who inspired the track "Who You Love": It's a duet, and a co-write, with John's current girlfriend, Katy Perry.
Speaking about writing that song, John tells Billboard, "I just thought it was really, uh, an interesting bend on what could normally be sort of a cloying idea." He explains, "All of a sudden it was like this idea of a song that's like, 'I love you based on the fact that I've tried to run and I'm not running, I give up.'"
He says he "immediately" thought of asking Katy to join him on the song. "It was a really fun opportunity for her to write her answer to that," he says.
John's Paradise Valley tour will wrap its North American leg in early October; then, he'll head to Europe for additional shows.
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