John Mayer’s Nashville fans were treated to more than just a rock concert last night. They also got a lengthy, tearful apology, delivered mid-song, and the promise – or threat, depending on how one feels about the musician – that he’d be quitting what he referred to as “the media game.”
“I’m out. I’m done. I just want to play my guitar,” said Mayer during the closing song, “Gravity.”
The announcement comes after a misguided interview with Playboy magazine landed Mayer in hot water. In the story, Mayer made racist comments and spoke explicitly about his relationship with ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson.
“In the quest to be clever I completely forgot about the people I love and the people that love me,” he said from the stage. “I decided I would be as clever as possible all the time and I did that at the expense of people I love and that feels absolutely terrible.”
Mayer broke down as he announced his exit from “the sound bite game, the media game” and introduced his backing band, whom he thanked for standing by him and supporting him. “Everybody on this stage is here playing with me not because they condone what I say…. They are on this stage because they support me as a possible future grown-up,” he said, as the crowd cheered.Â One of Mayer’s backing vocalists was in tears.
Mayer, known for giving juicy and often controversial sound bites to the press, had first taken to his Twitter account to try to do damage control. “Re: using the ‘N word’ in an interview: I am sorry that I used the word. And it’s such a shame that I did because the point I was trying to make was in the exact opposite spirit of the word itself. It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize that there’s no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged,” he wrote, in a series of posts.
A few posts later he was even more contrite, “I should have never said the word and I will never say it again.” By the time he hit the stage that night, he was done not only with that word, but with speaking to the press entirely.
In a January Rolling Stone interview, Mayer hinted at the struggle to think before he speaks. “I will continue to make these worldwide dignity mistakes as often as it takes to not make them anymore,” he said. One would hope he has finally learned the lesson.
What remains to be seen is how badly the incident will affect the public perception of Mayer. Two celebrities who created controversies after using ethnically insensitive language — Mel Gibson, and Michael “Kramer on ‘Seinfeld'” Richards – have taken on higher public profiles only recently, years after the incidents in question. Gibson has a new movie, “Edge of Darkness,” in theaters now, and Richards reprised his famously quirky Seinfeld character in the last season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”