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John Mayer is one of the biggest-selling artists of the last decade — and with love interests like Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Aniston, one of its most pursued by the media. In 2010, he gave a pair of interviews to Rolling Stone and Playboy that shocked readers with sexually aggressive and racially insensitive language. Mayer seemed to be self-destructing in full view of his fans.
The blowback was intense, and Mayer pulled way back from the spotlight, rejecting almost every interview request. But this spring, he's started to come out of his shell to promote his first album since the controversy: a tender, introspective collection called Born and Raised.
Mayer has been dealing with other problems in the meantime. Last year, he developed a nodule near his vocal cords called a granuloma. While not cancerous, it required surgery and a long recovery process — and several months ago, it returned. It's caused him to cancel his upcoming tour.
"I'm not in recovery now. I'm actually just in a holding pattern until I can get the wherewithal, the endurance, to go through a six-month period of extreme self-discipline," Mayer tells NPR's Guy Raz.
"There's no talking for the first month — and then, there's whispering. But really what this has to do with is diet, because acid reflux is as much a contributor as overuse is," Mayer says. "Basically if you made a list of all the things you enjoy eating or drinking, you can't do those things. Doctors have said, 'You just live like a monk.' "
Performing is clearly out for Mayer while his recovery is under way, but he says the condition might also threaten his writing process.
"The way that I wrote this record was by singing. I didn't sit down and compose this on a piece of paper; this was composed into a microphone, with a ProTools file that was four hours long," he says.
"What I have to do as an artist and as a person is to just sort of re-purpose this," Mayer adds. "There's not a ton of different colors I can paint with here, but I have to figure out a way to re-purpose this time so that it's not purgatory."