Musician/songwriter John Mayer stopped by Berklee on June 16, 2017, to workshop songs from six students in front of a 500-strong crowd. One of those songwriting students, Charlotte Lessin, shares her experience below.
By Charlotte Lessin
Getting the chance to meet and perform for John Mayer is a rare and incredible opportunity. I have been a fan of his music for a long time and to be in his company, let alone have the chance to play my own song for him, was actually a little nerve racking. Until three weeks ago I had never imagined that this could happen. When my songwriting teacher, Pat Pattison, asked me to participate in the master class with John Mayer, I was elated. I suddenly felt like I was on top of the world. Then, there I was a week and half later, myself and five other songwriters, in the green room of the Berklee Performance Center (BPC) waiting to meet him. We are about to play for him and 500 of our Berklee peers. As I met the tall, well styled rock star, all I could say was “hello” while holding back my insides screaming with terror and excitement.
During the build up to this day my biggest concern was what song to choose. I ended up playing him one of my recent unfinished songs, “Space,” and he immediately started using the word “abstract” to describe it. Because of the title “Space” he said that sometimes, “the attempt to write big can sometimes come out very small,” but then he called my ear “iron clad” and said “I could listen to those chords all day.”
Related: Read about Callie Sullivan’s workshop with Mayer.Read more about Mayer’s songwriting workshop from fellow participants Callie Sullivan and Eva Cassel.
While I relished in his compliments, his other comments revolved around the idea that the lyrics were too vague. When he asked me to change a line for more specificity and try to play it that way, the audience went into an uproar. It was a terrific improvement.
John also said a few brilliant things about songwriting. He described it as “a cryptogram. You’re solving a code,” while adding that, “songwriting is getting all of the energy from the beginning, and you have 100% battery… all the way through until the last hit.” These statements resonate with me greatly as each and every day I try to become a better songwriter. I am so appreciative to have had this experience and to have also shared the stage with five other amazing writers. Being able to communicate and get feedback directly from someone whom I admire so much as a songwriter was surreal. I will not soon forget this short but exhilarating chapter in my journey at Berklee and as a songwriter.
Charlotte Lessin is an instrumentalist, vocalist, and a singer-songwriter. Her goals are to inspire the youth through music education and to reach a higher purpose as a musician herself through teaching, songwriting, and performance. Recently, she has honed in on her writing skills, and now studies songwriting at Berklee College of Music.
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