John Mayer says wearing headphones live on stage has helped him become a more dynamic guitar player

John Mayer performing live with Dead & Company
(Image credit: Katie Friesema)

John Mayer is currently taking a break from any Sob Rock-related activities, and is instead working his way through the opening dates of his most recent tour with Dead & Company. And, in the few shows the group have played so far, Mayer looks to be rocking a permanent new addition to his live rig: some over-the-ear headphone monitors.

Though the move carries the obvious benefit of protecting his hearing, the electric guitar icon has also revealed that using headphones has a number of knock-on effects – ones that directly impact his playing and supposedly make his live performances even better. 

“I’ve started wearing headphones on stage, which has several benefits, among them being able to have more of a dynamic touch on the guitar,” wrote Mayer on social media after the band’s gig in New York and Pennsylvania. 

“I’m actually more connected to the band, the music and the moment this way,” he added.

When asked by a fan during an Instagram Q&A whether his Audio-Technica ATH-M70x headphones had any impact on limiting his audience interaction, the PRS Silver Sky signature artist rebutted, “Not at all!

“I’ve got a pair of stereo mics that pick up everything around me. And I’m getting the front-of-house feed,” he elaborated. “I’m IN the live recording!”

It remains to be seen whether Mayer will incorporate this new-look live setup into his own solo sets when his Sob Rock tour kicks off later this year, though one thing is certain: for now, while the Dead & Company gigs continue, the headphones aren’t going anywhere.

Plus, if Mayer is correct in saying headphones make his already-expertly-dynamic playing even better, those with tickets to one of his upcoming gigs are sure to be in for a treat.

The Audio-Technicas are the most recent addition to Mayer’s Dead & Company rig, which was the subject of a recent in-depth pedalboard breakdown by YouTube channel Justin’s Gear Corner.

Highlights from Mayer’s Gear Acquisition Syndrome-inducing ‘board include an Xotic Effects XW-1 wah pedal and a Boss OC-3 octave pedal, as well as his favored Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron+ and Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.