On 15 cottonwood-covered acres in the postcard part of Montana, John Mayer sits on his back porch with a cold IPA, watching deer graze on the banks of the Yellow­stone River. This absurdly picturesque scene is what Mayer now sees daily from his log-and-stone cabin in the aptly named Paradise Valley, a thousand miles from the Hollywood gossip machine. "My wiring was off for a while there," Mayer admits. "But you don't buy a place in Montana unless you've figured it out."

He's alluding to much of the past decade, when the singer was a tabloid fixture with a reputation as a bit of a douchebag, thanks to a mouth that wouldn't shut up and a trail of brokenhearted A-listers he'd left in his wake. But since he moved out here in March – into a multimillion-dollar, 1970s-inspired getaway with a recording studio, gym, and plenty of driveway for his collection of Land Rovers – he's already noticed a difference. "I've never taken a Xanax out here," Mayer says. "I've never had a panic attack looking out over a mountain."

So far, he's resisted the temptation to become a grizzled outdoorsman. He's been away a lot, promoting his new record, Born and Raised, a rustic, Laurel Canyon–gone-country-type set that, while not technically a Montana record (he recorded most of it in Los Angeles), at least fits the vibe. He has yet to go hiking or horseback riding and still hasn't made the 45-minute drive to Yellowstone. He did buy a couple of fly-fishing rods, but he doesn't plan on doing much hunting. "I'm trying to get these deer to eat apples," he says. "It's the John Mayer version of hunting – trying to get the animals to like you."

Mostly, he likes the lack of attention out here – that he can go buy groceries at Albertsons or wear his new western hat to the local steakhouse and not feel self-­conscious about it. And while he recognizes that the whole thing could seem like one big PR move – a calculated way of signaling that he's a different person, with the added benefit of planting him in the tradition of some of his heroes – Mayer insists he genuinely loves it out here.

"I know it kind of seems like I got the place just so I could say I have a place," he says. "But really, it's pure of heart. It's not like I read a rock bio and went, 'Oh, Neil Young, Broken Arrow Ranch.' It just feels like a really original, organic choice."