Born and Raised: The Meaning Behind the Music

Have you ever heard a song that moves you so much you are almost brought tears? Sometimes, that song is not even a sad one, but it sends a message that relates to a situation that is going on in our lives which strikes up those pesky, unwanted emotions again. Maybe, even, it is the hundredth time you have heard a song; you know the lyrics and its ability to bring tears, but you keep it on until your misty-eyed and over-thinking, anyway.

John Mayer does that to me. He is one of the only musicians who can make my chest feel heavy, my eyes well-up, and scatter my brain. Regardless of how many sad moments I have had reminiscing to John Mayer, I believe that music is a great healer. While many (or most) albums are based around relationships; heartache, heartbreak, fully equipped with heart-wrenching lyrics and soft, melodic guitar sequences that strum the overly emotional chord in our hearts, music is so therapeutic. 

My favorite artist of all time, the Connecticut native was first introduced to my world in 2002. Rewind a decade ago:

“This is the radio début from Fairfield’s own, John Mayer, called No Such Thing,” the radio DJ said.

I left it on, cruising around with friends at 14 years-old, probably skipping class.

At first, it was just all right; it had catchy and relatable lyrics about his dislike for high school and the poppy tune was right up my alley. I ended up hearing it over and over, you know, the protocol radio stations use to brainwash their listeners into liking mediocre songs (All hail, big business music corporations!). Eventually, I went home to my clunky Gateway computer, signed onto Napster and ripped all of his songs straight to a CD. I was obsessed. Although his first independent EP, Inside Wants Out, was released in 1999, it wasn’t until ’02 that his name spread like wildfire with Room For Squares, which led to his nomination and subsequent Grammy win for “Your Body is a Wonderland.” Now in 2012, John Mayer has a total of seven Grammy Awards, including Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album and Song of the Year for his 2005 hit, “Daughters.”

Until recently, after going through some sticky life situations, I could not listen to him. It was one of those unfortunate cases of “everything reminds me of that time…,” and no matter how irrelevant the lyrics are to your predicament, the lyrics become relevant to your predicament. After almost two months of boycotting John Mayer, I am back. Some fan, huh?

My first JM concert in 2003!

He was born in the same city, Bridgeport, as myself, and grew up in Fairfield, where I spent the majority of my teenage years. Not only was he a total hunk from the next town over, but his music had been the soundtrack to my über promiscuous and wild child days; a time when we all thought we were in love, and sneaking out the window of your bedroom was a routine you were all too good at.

I was successful in getting all of my friends on the John Mayer train. Every time he came on tour we would see him. Oh, and he always came to Connecticut- native duties! Then boom, I met a guy! We will call him Boy X. The worst part about Boy X was that not only did he look like John Mayer, but he was equally down for his music as I was (swoon!) As Boy X kicked little ol’ me to the curb, John Mayer’s love-crazed songs simultaneously were ingrained into my DNA.

Crying for weeks like a baby, all I did was listen to John Mayer. By this time Heavier Things had been released; with hits like “Bigger Than My Body,” but moreover, John Mayer’s evolution of soul arose, producing songs with a more achy feeling such as “Gravity.” My first completely predictable breakup was in full effect, and I had something to get me through. It was a reassuring feeling. 

What I am saying here is to hold onto the artists that make you feel good as they do sad. There is a warm, comforting feeling in knowing that music can take us back to a time when life really was much simpler, a time where we learned valuable lessons; introduced to heartbreak and loneliness. The complexity of relationships seems never-ending, and while most do not last, there is something to be said for the ones that impact you to the point where a handful of albums need to be locked away in the bottom drawer in an attempt to prevent a crying fit.

Today, I want you to find a spot for John Mayer. Log on to Spotify and tune into Continuum, or his most recent album, Battle Studies. It is a bluesy, feel good/feel something, soul-shaking mix of guitar whaling, accompanied by a fluctuation of vocal tones and, at times, the raspy voice makes its appearance. It is not all pop and quirk like you may think. More likely than not, you will be able to identify with his the various messages he belts out.

Myself and bestie, Nicole at our 2nd JM concert in ’04!

So now, after a couple of months feeling overwhelmed, I can drive down to Fairfield Beach and play songs like “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” and feel something other than despair. When the right tunes are on, and you are in the right state of mind, you can feel the atmosphere; it is just easier to get deeper about things one would normally overlook.

John Mayer’s new album, Born and Raised, will be released on May 22nd of this year. To hear his first single, “Shadow Days,” click here now!

If you are feeling ballsy, and by ballsy I mean amazing, tickets for his U.S. tour have started selling to the public today. For us Connecticut folks, tomorrow at 10 a.m., have that credit card ready. I am setting my alarm.

Myself (far right) at the JM concert in 2010!