The latest addition to Mayer's star-studded family-and-friends plan is teen troubadour Taylor Swift (who, if there is any justice in the world, will replace Mayer's buddy Kanye West). While the track Swift and Mayer have collaborated on, "Half of My Heart", bears no resemblance to anything ever released on the Disney label, few Mayer haters will be won over by his dip into the juvenile talent pool—after all, many people have already pegged the artist as some kind of superannuated Jonas uncle who still gets teddy bears thrown at him onstage.

"I don't know if you know, but I'm not exactly Bob Dylan—I'm already a pop musician," Mayer says. "I'm not on [rock-snob archive label] Razor & Tie. I want to reach as many people as possible. Listen, I can play you Wes Montgomery's Smokin' at the Half Note. I can play you Van Halen's 'Panama.'" In person, this—like Mayer's referring to himself as a "learned musician"—is not nearly as arrogant as it sounds.

"I love Big Bill Broonzy and I love Charlie Patton, but I'm not interested in carrying on these people's legacy," he says. "I'm interested in being informed by all of this music while still meeting the requirements of what a pop song is. I don't mind compromising."

And no rock-show headline act has compromised more fiercely than John Mayer, who has entered into lucrative promotional pacts with Gap and BlackBerry. To be fair, he did point out that he is not Bob Dylan.

Among the many contradictions surrounding John Mayer, his relationship with Twitter may be the most telling of all. Just this year, Mayer told an interviewer that using Twitter was "one step away from sending pictures of your poop." Today he is a poster boy for the company, having accrued more than 2 million followers with his whimsical riff-ettes about modern life—"If you want to go out and buy an entire crate of AA batteries, I say more power to you"—and real-time deconstruction of his own career.

Many artists might find this level of self-awareness to be creatively crippling—or worse, the inspiration for a novel about Brooklyn. However, Mayer insists that his love affair with Twitter in no way dissipates his musical energies. "If I see something like Twitter, my brain looks at it from all angles," he says. "How am I gonna make this work? I'll use whatever means I can to stay in touch."