When I was in college, my best friend and I used to play a game. If your life was a musical, what songs would be in it? We would sit around and listen to music and pick out this or that song as a representation to how we felt about what we had gone through at that particular time. Sixteen years later, we still do it. It’s what keeps us connected, our love of music. Through the years, I’ve always connected with John Mayer. No matter what I was living through. It seemed John Mayer had a song for it, an album ready to get me through.
Room for Squares, released in 2001. Seemed to sum up everything in my life thus far. It was the year I should have graduated college, if I hadn’t been on the five year plan. On it, Mayer sung about first loves, first heartbreaks and about trying to figure out where you were going. As most twentysomethings could identify with, we had no clue what life would be like after graduation and usually it wasn’t anything like what we thought.
Heavier Things in 2003, truly reflected how I felt at the time. While everyone was gushing over the song Daughters, I found myself listening to Something’s Missing over and over again. At that point in my life something was missing and I didn’t know what it was or how to find it. I was in debt from school, from poor judgment and in a bad relationship. I shopped because I was unhappy and got more in debt which made me depressed. So I totally identified with, “I’m dizzy from the shopping malls, I searched for joy and I bought it all. It doesn’t help the hunger pains and a thirst I’d have to drown first to ever satiate.”
Three years later he released Continuum. I had just buried my grandmother and my mother was dying of cancer, she would pass away the following year. The songs, The Heart of Life and Stop This Train, got me through those times. It was like he was singing directly to me, “I hate to see you cry, lying there in that position. There’s things you need to hear, so turn off your tears and listen. Pain throws your heart to the ground, love turns the whole thing around. No, it all won’t go the way it should but I know the heart of life was good.” I heard that it was a wake up call to get up out of bed, dust myself off and start all over again.
Mayer released his next album, two days before my daughters first birthday in 2009. My life was about to go in a direction, I would have never thought it would go. Battle Studies was referred to as the “heartbreak handbook”. My life from that year to the next was a battle. A battle to stay alive, literally. A battle for my kids and a battle to save my sanity. Perfectly Lonely and Half of My Heart became the anthems I would sing myself to sleep to.
While 2012 was the beginning of a new life for me it seemed that musically, it was for Mayer as well. Born and Raised was almost like a summation of all his albums with an allusion to what was to come. In Shadow Days, he writes about all his dark times being behind him. The song that resonates the most with me is, Walt Grace’s Submarine Test. It’s a cute little song with a big story. That goes something like this. Walt is tired of his life and wants to go out and live his dream. To do something, anything. We’ve all been there. So he builds this submarine by himself and takes it out on the water. His friends and his wife ridicule him but he makes it anyway, he survives and now he’s a hero. We should all take that lesson to heart. Figure out what your dream is and then push toward it, no matter what. Do it, or die trying.
Now, true to form, John Mayer has written the soundtrack for the next phase of my life. The dust has settled, I’m on the “path” and carving out a life for myself. Paradise Valley, his newest album plays like the scene in a movie where the couple rides off into the sunset together. He’s a master at crafting a story into a song and proves it on this album, track after track. Musically it’s really folksy, with a lot of country and jazz thrown in. It sounds like John Mayer 2.0, which is a lot like me.