Mayer gets heavy

JANE STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

Pop-folk singer-songwriter John Mayer takes over the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night with his first major headlining tour.

To describe the difference between playing arenas and clubs -- Mayer previously performed at the Opera House and Kool Haus -- he uses a sports analogy.

"You have home games and away games," says the 25-year-old during a recent promotional visit to Toronto. "Away games is where you get put in some little room and you're kind of subject to whatever comes along that day. Home games are when you own the building -- and that's what I'm looking forward to doing in Canada."

Mayer, who first garnered attention with his 2001 major label debut, Room For Squares -- which sold three million copies and spawned the sexy Grammy-winning hit, Your Body Is A Wonderland -- said success hasn't bowled him over.

The only thing that genuinely surprised him was picking up the best male pop vocal Grammy earlier this year, beating out such veterans as Elton John, James Taylor and Sting.

"That one really evaded my own head," said Mayer.

John, it turns out, was already a fan who had earlier quizzed Mayer for Interview magazine, and later invited him to sing with him at annual post-Oscars bash.

"(He's) not really a mentor," explained Mayer. "I don't think our relationship really has much to do with, 'Tell me more. What else can I expect?' It's a little less 'Grasshopper' than people think it is. But we'd become friends before (the Grammys). He's been great to me. I remember I played his Oscar party and during the sound check, he was in the back and he said (puts on English accent): 'I want my f---ing Grammy!' "

Keeping Mayer further grounded is living in New York City, where everyone is treated the same no matter how famous they are.

"Oh, it's great," he says, before slipping into a New York accent: " 'F--- you, buddy! Oh, I love your record! F--- you! Get the f--- out of the way! My wife loves Wonderland! What the f--- are you doing? You crazy bastard! Good luck on the Grammys!' "

More seriously, the Connecticut-born singer says he loves the energy of the city and wanted to move closer to his parents after spending some time in Atlanta, where he first made an impression on the club circuit.

Since Room For Squares, Mayer has released a sophomore album, Heavier Things, that debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 3 in Canada following its Sept. 16 release.

It has since sold 1 million copies in the U.S. and 50,000 in Canada, and spawned the hit Bigger Than My Body. Mayer also picked up a Radio Music Award this past week for artist of the year (modern adult contemporary radio).

While he says there was more freedom in making Room For Squares, the follow-up disc turned out the way he wanted -- for the most part.

"I got to do what I wanted the first time out because nobody gave a sh--. That's a beautiful place to work from," he says. But when the stakes were raised for the new album, he says, "There were obviously compromises but they're compromises that have everyone's interest in mind, so I don't feel like anything's lost. Any notes the record company had -- 99% of them -- were founded. It was like, 'Ah, good point.' "

And while Mayer's large contingent of female fans coo over his sensitive, analytical lyrics, the singer isn't similarly jazzed about his own words. Or those of others.

"I've been to plenty of shows by highly esteemed singer-songwriters and I have been bored to tears because so much emphasis is placed on the wordplay, 'Watch me spin, watch me spin,' " he says. "It doesn't really interest me. I don't like lyric-based songs. Songs that don't really have to be that engaging because you just listen to what he's' saying. Write a book!"


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