|Guitar slinging heartthrob John Mayer recently dropped by MTV Canada to promote his latest disc Continuum, which hits stores next Tuesday. (Sun file photo)
John Mayer's opinion of the music industry is harsh but fair.
"It's a lonely time to be a musician, I can tell you that," Mayer says. "A lonely time."
"Well, there aren't that many outlets left to present your music," he explains. "And when there are, they're not really germane to the spirit of music.
"I don't care how much you pay me, I don't want to bring my music to you over a cellphone."
Reports in the past couple of days have indicated that the 28-year-old Mayer, a veteran singer-songwriter, has been dating Jessica Simpson. Mayer and Simpson are not a stylistic match, but Mayer has wide-ranging musical tastes -- shades of everything from Sam Cooke to U2 to Otis Redding to John Denver to Eric Clapton are on his new CD Continuum, which hits stores next week.
Mayer is very proud of his new album, whose lead single is the catchy Waiting On The World To Change. But in terms of the music biz in general, the phrase "waiting on the world to change" pretty much sums up his feelings.
"I remember when the industry was struggling, and now I'm back and the industry is just plain dying," says Mayer, whose best-known songs so far in his career probably are Your Body Is A Wonderland and Daughters.
"They (record-company executives) have not yet begun to address the problem. There is just more freaking out."
Mayer laments the influence of TV shows like American Idol and Canadian Idol, but notably, he doesn't blame the shows themselves.
"What it does is glamorize a certain type of histrionic, one certain type -- it actually applauds terrible performance skill," Mayer says of Idol-mania.
"But here's the thing: It's not American Idol's fault. They're just a TV show and they got big. The problem is when the record companies begin to see it as some sort of new world, a gauge of what people want. And then they start holding the American Idol template up to every other artist."
Don't get the impression Mayer is all doom and gloom. After all, this is a guy who had his own half-hour TV comedy special a couple of years ago.
Thoughts of combining music and comedy have long since left Mayer's head, however.
"I'm done trying standup (comedy) on stage with a guitar," he says. "I'll just keep my damn mouth shut.
"When I first started, I didn't have enough songs to fill a set, and I would do standup in the middle. Or I'd just start talking out of my ass. But I saw one too many band leaders do it and it made me sick to my stomach. So I said, 'I had better stop doing that, because if that's what I sound like ... '
"I want to be known as a guitar player and a singer. It's like the woman you love -- you can pretend you're over it, but you just come back. I don't want to dabble in too many other endeavours. And, God forbid, I don't ever want there to be a slash before the word 'musician' when people are describing me. If musician ever comes after a slash, I've done something very wrong."
It is precisely because music is Mayer's first love that he worries about it so much.
"You know, 'cool' probably is the biggest industry of all time," Mayer says. "What makes cool happen. Who thinks what is cool. Billions of dollars are spent every year to help people who aren't cool figure out what is cool. But you can't chase it, man. You have to let it roll. And over the past 10 years, it has rolled into -- I can't even call it bad music, because who am I to say what's good or bad? -- but just none.
"There's just less music. And with less music comes less good music. But there still are the same number of slots on the radio and the same number of slots on a record shelf."
For some acts, however, there is a silver lining in Mayer's analysis, and he knows it.
"This is good for good bands," he says. "It's good for bands like the Fray, because they can break so easily. The market is so soft that if you have a good chorus, you get in. The Fray has great choruses and great melodies, and they're ruling the world right now."
Mayer doesn't want to rule the world, per se. But as far as the music industry goes, he would like to rule a small part of it.
"They need to put me up in the record company, high up, and I will change the whole system," he says.
"Usually people don't stay in these companies long enough to think past saving their own asses. So my condition would be that they have to keep me in there for at least five years.
"And the first two years, they wouldn't even see me. Because I would be down in the trenches bringing people up."
Sounds pretty ambitious. But sometimes, rather than Waiting On The World To Change, you have to face the darkness and change it yourself.