MIMO - When Music is Your Fix

Take 5 Interview with Jon Mayer

Jon Mayer started his musical career with the New York jazz scene of the 50s and 60s. Now based in Los Angeles, Jon has worked with Jackie McLean and John Coltrane, Dionne Warwick, Sarah Vaughan, the Manhattan Transfer, and many others as well has written songs recorded by Les McCann, Nancy Wilson and others. We managed to catch up with Jon at the Desert Rose in Los Feliz, CA.

KIM: Did you choose music, or did music choose you?

JON: Probably music chose me. In fact, for sure, music chose me. I was surrounded by music growing up as a little kid. Mother played piano at night, and I got to hear it. I got my first lessons from her. There was a lot of music in the house. I guess I got chosen, it chose me.

KIM: What part does passion play in music?

JON: About 97%. Without the passion, nobody’s going to make any music that I know of, or that would be worth hearing. The reason we keep doing this is because the passion is still alive. It’s hard to put a definition to it. I think you can hear it, rather than describe it. These are big questions you’re asking.

KIM: Who or what is the most important thing in the recording studio?

JON: Who is the most important person? Everybody’s important. Obviously, you need a great engineer, but I think that’s a given. A great engineer can make or break a session. The studio itself is rather important. For me, the piano is very important and how the piano is recorded varies according to studio and engineer. The arranger, the leader, the band; all of these things are important. There’s no single most important link.

KIM: How would you describe the fraternity of musicians?

JON: That’s kind of miraculous, actually. How do you do that? How does that get done? There’s a kind of a magic that goes on, and it’s developed, it’s allowed to grow, based on the years that you do this stuff. The more that you do this stuff, the easier it is to sit down with somebody that you’ve never played with and sound like you’ve always played it. That’s really a great gift.

KIM: What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to you because you are a musician?

JON: There was a couple cool things that happened. Of course, it involves meeting other musicians who were kind of . . . One of the coolest that happened to me was I opened with Duke Ellington’s band with Sarah Vaughn, and Duke introduced me every night. That was pretty cool. There was a lot of cool things that happened. Recording with John Coltrane was pretty cool, although I didn’t realize it at the time. You never realize when something’s happening, how significant it may be down the road. I can look back at some pretty seminal moments.

KIM: What do you want to be remembered for musically?

JON: Making people feel good, that’s really what it all arrives at. Make people smile, feel good about a song, and feel like they’ve never heard that song played that way before. I bring 100% of myself to every song I play at all times. There’s nothing left out; I leave nothing on the table. That’s my approach.

About the Author


Kim Nilseek ran into the reality he was stone tone deaf in the 60s when he was told to move his mouth but emit no volume for graduation singing. Not one to let his enthusiasm for music be denied, Kim turned his passion into reporting and has been covering music since the 70s. He was there for Woodstock, Hendrix, the Beatles, Stones, Dylan and Donovan before moving to Hawaii where his video coverage of local acts helped the resurgence of Hawaiian music. His favorite group of all time is Little Feat (Lowell George version). Today, his vision of music coverage has resulted in MIMO. He hopes you enjoy the efforts of the staff, all much more musically inclined than he is.

Posted in: MIMO Interviews