Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Fractures – John Mayer, Heavier Things (2003)
All I remember about the formative part of my musical life is scouring whatever resources I could to figure out how John Mayer played the way he played. This is pre-YouTube so I didn’t have much to work with.
The prevailing memory is my brother Dave having his debut album Room For Squares hanging around our shared bedroom but I didn’t pay much notice to it. My musical snobbery was arguably at its peak so the radio friendly pop-rock wasn’t really doing much for me or giving me the musical boners (boner of the mind) I so yearned for.
A live DVD, Any Given Thursday changed my mind pretty swiftly.
The pop-rock elements were still there in full force but featured more prominently was John’s fancy pants guitar playing which set my musical boner at full mast. Frankly I didn’t know he had it in him, but it opened up something in me that made me want to listen to everything he’d ever done and it opened a door (a door in my mind – a mind door) to the wondrous possibilities and ease of listening of pop-rock and thus, a legend was born.
So many of the memories I have of my ‘musical upbringing’ (I didn’t enjoy typing that phrase) are centred around John Mayer’s music and me trying to dissect them. The acoustic guitar sounds he pulled were, in my mind and at that point of my life, the epitome of recorded acoustic guitar engineering. So full and crisp. I tried to emulate them in my playing.
I exhausted what I could find of his back catalogue, waiting ever so patiently for the next full-length release.
I think I even caught him on the tail-end of his debut album tour, thanks to Australia always being the last stop.
I believe Lo-Tel opened for him at the Palais in St Kilda. It was a fine show, a fine show indeed.
‘Bigger Than My Body’ dropped as the lead single, I remember seeing it on Rage on a Saturday morning. Or maybe it was Video Hits. Either way I saw it and it took me a while to warm to this wild new ROCK sound! In hindsight it was nowhere near rock but I was a supple young boy, so I didn’t know any better.
I remember something about him levitating in the film clip, playing his new signature Fender Strat with the pin stripe on some metallic looking paint. Naturally I wanted to play only Stratocasters from this point onwards and about 7 years later I would be gifted one for my 21st birthday.
Then the day came and Heavier Things landed on the shelves of JB Hi-Fi’s Camberwell store.
So I bought it. I think I got the deluxe edition but I can’t remember exactly what was deluxe about it. Maybe just the price.
‘Clarity’ opened the whole thing up and I remember it feeling like a massive departure from what I thought was his sound.
This is in the context of me being a pubescent musical purest – thinking ill of any music that didn’t utilise ‘real’ instruments so to hear electronic clap samples in the opening of the album rocked me to my very core.
Having said that, this song remains probably my favourite on the entire album.
I’ll stop short of reviewing every single track but they ticked the boxes that I wanted ticked at the time. I learnt the chords, the guitar solos. It was a productive partnership.
Upon reflection, while I write this more or less, this album isn’t actually one I listen to all that regularly.
Nor did I at the time. It just takes me back to a time where I was in the infancy of my musical life.
I remember learning to play guitar through his songs. I wouldn’t actually sing in earnest for another decade or so but I’d sing along – learning melodies and how they can work. It had to rub off somewhere.
As I got older I got less patient with music and probably a bit more analytical to the point where music wouldn’t excite me like this album did. I don’t remember being excited about any music in the lead up to its release like I was with this one.
So that’s what it represents for me. It’s not my favourite album of all time, not even my favourite of his, but I just have distinct memories of where it led me.
Fractures’ new EP, ‘EP III’, is out now. Listen here.