Dead & Company guitarist John Mayer was a surprise guest on this past weekend’s installment of Tales From The Golden Road on SiriusXM’s Grateful Dead channel. Mayer talked about his group’s first tour, their upcoming summer excursion and much more with hosts Gary Lambert and David Gans on Sunday’s episode. The guitarist was originally slated to appear for an hour, but wound up sitting in on the entire episode.
The conversation started with a discussion of how accessible Mayer is. The guitarist made arrangements directly with the hosts to appear on Tales From The Golden Road instead of getting his management involved. John then talked about his 2004 appearance on Chappelle Show and how he didn’t really understand the stereotype the program was portraying until he looked into the audience at Dead & Company concerts.
Mayer then talked about how he discovered “Althea” first and how much he loves playing the song’s main riff. After finding “Playing In The Band” and “Sugaree” he discovered his inner Deadhead. “I took the ride and went down the wormhole in a big way,” John said of his early days finding the music of the Grateful Dead. He discussed how much there is to learn when you become a fan of the Dead and how there’s a big “barrier to entry.”
The guitarist said he felt magic in the room the first time he jammed with the members of Dead & Company. While some were skeptical of his role in the band, Mayer was used to backlash from his own musical experiences. He then went on to talk about the current state of D&C, “It took the whole tour last fall to get to where we are now to look forward to the summer tour. We’ve already proven ourselves and now we can get on to the next chapter of making the best music we can make. The proof of concept is laid down. Chapter Two is how can we gel as a band? How can we find more space in the music? How can we learn to sort of be one heartbeat that doesn’t get overstressed or overexcited?”
John took questions from a number of fans and revealed he almost attended Joe Russo’s Almost Dead’s show at Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday. He talked about the “lope” Dead & Company drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart lay down and how much he enjoys playing with them. Mayer also mentioned how much he enjoys playing the “encore songs” like “Brokedown Palace” and “Ripple” and watched many emotional reactions to those tunes throughout the tour.
One of those who called in was “Biff From Cabo” who was actually Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir. John talked about the playful spirit Weir has and how it inspires Mayer to bring that spirit to his own work. Bobby discussed Dead & Company’s upcoming tour and mentioned “there’s all sorts of stuff flying back and forth” in terms of the band’s playing. Mayer revealed there’s a list going around of songs Dead & Company didn’t perform last fall that they’ll work up this summer. He specifically mentioned “Dire Wolf,” “Throwing Stones,” “High Time” and “Foolish Heart.”
Another question served Mayer’s way was whether John had any issues with the tempos Bob Weir likes to play the songs. John revealed that there has been an on-going discussion about what tempo at which Dead & Company performs certain tunes. The guitarist said Weir determines tempo by the way he needs to sing the songs. A tune like “Truckin'” is a mouthful and he feels he wouldn’t be able to sing it as well if Dead & Company hard-charged through the song. He also mentioned a few “Jack Straws” that “were slower than they needed to be.”
A replay of John Mayer’s appearance on Tales From The Golden Road will air tonight at 1 a.m. ET. Dead & Company begin their 2016 tour on June 10 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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