The Self-Caring Meaning Behind John Mayer’s Song “Gravity”

Just before John Mayer released the song “Gravity,” he told audience members at a December 2005 concert that the push and pull of fame, which is at odds with his desire to have a grounded, stable life, inspired him to write the song. 

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“This is the most important song I’ve ever written; it’s a time capsule song. I will listen to it every day of my life if I need to. It’s honest to God the most important song I’ve ever written in my life, and it has the fewest words,” Mayer told the crowd.

“I was in LA, and I was there for the summer, just writing tunes, and I was in the shower. And I don’t know where it came from, but it’s the damn truth, you know, and I just sang, Gravity…is working against me… This is a song about making sure you still love yourself, making sure you still have your head on, making sure you still say no the way your mom would say no. And I will need it every damn day of my life because it’s easier to mess up than it is to stay here.”

Mayer went on to explain to the audience that some people try to pull famous people down so they can feel “even” with them. He said his continuing struggle was to stay away from such situations and temptations and stay successful and grounded.

 “Being a musician is almost a side job,” Mayer, then age 29, told the audience. “The full-time job is not screwing up.”

He then went on to talk about how he is often the most famous person invited to a party or the most famous person on a jet flying from Los Angeles to New York and back.

“I’m on a track where when you get in a room, there is the outdoor,” he said. “Everyone wants to meet you, and it’s like (the word game) Mad Libs…. You’ve got to stay on it, but staying [away from temptations] is really boring.”

As has been widely reported, Mayer fell into controversies that were far from boring.

The lyrics of “Gravity,” which is on Mayer’s 2006 album Continuum, are almost prophetic in alluding to Mayer’s future romances, many of which ended in tabloid headlines and heartbreak.

Oh, I’ll never know
What makes this man, with all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away

Whoa, whoa
Gravity is working against me
And gravity wants to bring me down

Oh, twice as much ain’t twice as good
And can’t sustain like one-half could
It’s wanting more that’s gonna send me to my knees.

Although he has not detailed the personal relationships that led him to write the song, Mayer has publicly stated that memories of them inspired him to write about the emotions, heartache, fears, and expectations that come from romance. He believes the song “Gravity” should be played live because it evolves each time depending on his emotions and life stage. Although the lyrics are powerful, Mayer has said his guitar playing truly relays the feelings he has at the time he plays the song.

That playing varies, with some reports noting Mayer’s performances range from soulful to “full Hendrix.” However he plays it, “Gravity” is one of Mayer’s most iconic songs. And one that may remind him of his vow made all those years ago to avoid temptations.

Whoa, whoa
Gravity, stay the hell away from me
Whoa, whoa
Gravity has taken better men than me
Now how can that be?

Just keep me where the light is
Just keep me where the light is
Just keep me where the light is
Come on, keep me where the light is
Come on, keep me where the light is
Come on, keep me where, now, keep me where the light is

Mayer’s writing for his 2017 album, The Search for Everything, was almost a return to the musical roots that spawned “Gravity.” The singer has said that he wrote “‘Gravity’ from a place of introspection” when he tried to balance “personal growth and external pressures” and remain true to his roots.

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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