jasonmraz is a southern california wanna-be born in virginia to a brief stint in new york studying the ancient art of musical theatre. jason began playing guitar late in life, 18, at strawberry fields and on the streets of manhattan. during that period of experimentation and transformation, jason was inspired by a psychic in central park to dream the way he does today. the lesson offered to him was "to avoid the questioner and go with what you know. get experience youth, he said" and following this new rule as well as his instincts to sing he eventually made his way out west where he has spent the last two years in san diego learning from the best about sleep, peace, and poetry in song.
jason has always had a vision to see how songs could be interpreted if left only to the listener to decide. what began as "songs to sleep to", a collection of songs for an album fit to play during one's dreamlife, has now evolved into a moving wide awake exploration for jason. since his ridiculous move out west (according to his virginia native family), he has shared venues with bob dylan, paula cole, jewel, and david gray to name a few.
in 2002 jason set up camp in los angeles and partnered with percussionist toca rivera playing weekly there and still in san diego at the world famous java joe's in ocean beach. (check local listings) together they are traveling the coasts this summer and are moving to make the album jason once heard in a dream.
the following is an excerpt of an interview i never had with jason earlier this year. it is 2001, the year of the snake, jason's birth year. he is excited, optimistic, and encouragably humble.
What inspires jasonmraz?
"Relationships. I love 'em. I don't know if it's my Cancerian nature or the fact that my parents once had one. I love being in a relationship as much as I love my world becoming crushed by them. I love observing the relationships of others and then uncovering the lessons within. Life is too short to make enough mistakes ourselves so it's important to learn from everyone else. I think it's exciting translating common stories into song."
"Respecting relationships is the same reason I wear that 'I love sex' button, it was given to me by my two favorite people who are so perfect for each other. I hope someday I find my perfect other and we have a lot of sex."
Okay, gross. What about musical inspirations?
"You'd have to ask my merchandise guy, Dennis. He and I went to college together and as long as I've known him, he's been the one to turn me onto so many great things. Currently I'm inspired by melody driven instrumentalists like Brad Mehldau, The Soft Pink Truth, Air, Telefon Tel Aviv, Herbie Hancock, etc. These artists, no matter the rhythm, relate to that free spirit of jazz that has always been my preferred music to relax and write to. There are no words to get in the way of my own thoughts. By that I hope someday to make an instrumental album."
"In the way of words, however, I love hip-hop. I love what a rapper can do with as many syllables and suggestions as possible in a short span of time. Rapper's are like the sensitive singer songwriter to the extreme. It's not about end rhymes and keeping to a predictable structure within the song. It's more internal and easier for the ear to swallow. There are some rocking songwriters out there on the softer side that I adore, guys like Damien Rice, Ryan Adams and Matt Costa to name a few, and girls like Liz Phair, Tori Amos and Bjork are constantly surprising me with new and inventive writing/singing styles."
"Growing up I listened to all kinds of music beginning with pop. I'll admit I learned to dance to "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by the Gap Band, and I followed my performances using songs from the artist formerly loved as Michael Jackson, as well as many other disco breaks and 80's dance-ables. Every Saturday morning I would take my boom-box to the backyard and break-dance to the Breakin' Movie Soundtrack. I lived in a small town and we didn't have cable or even good record stores that I knew of. My friends and I relied on the radio and the skating rink to play us the freshest beats and remixes. Luckily my parents had great taste in music. On my dad's side of the family structure I listened to the Motown sound, 50 and 60's doo-wop, be-bop, rhythm and blues, and a whole lot of soul, whereas at my mom's house I heard the great vocalists from as far back as Nat King Cole to the modern day Celine Dion/Josh Groban duet. She hates when I mention Celine and leave out so many other's that she digs. I'm just trying to make an example. It was my mom who took me to see Yanni and Barry Manilow. My dad took me to see The Commodores, The Four Tops and The Temptations, Kenny Loggins, and an assortment of what they called 'beach music festivals.' My sister, being a few years older gave me my first Nirvana cassette, which got me out of my Boyz II Men phase. I was lucky to be turned on to so many things but also lucky to have been open to all that stuff."
A first concert can make such an impact on one's life. was one of those shows your first concert?
"Actually, my first concert was Milli Vanilli. I saved up my money and bought the tickets myself. I was in seventh grade. Young MC was the opener. To this day I keep Young MC, Stone Cold Rhymin', in my top ten favorite albums of all time. And I tell no one of the tear I shed when I made eye contact with Fab mid-show."
Now you're putting on concerts of your own, how did you meet your band and convince them to join you?
"I have a crazy connection with all of them that would require me drawing a chart or diagram with arrows and all kinds of doodle on it. The first person in the group was Toca Rivera. He and I met way back in San Diego when I first started playing live. I wanted a hand drum against my strumming in case I got a gig at a bar and needed a backbeat to nod the heads of the loud folks in the back. I admired his vocal harmonies even more. That was the bonus to him owning a drum. The next guy to join the team was Ian Sheridan on bass. I met him while playing in another band in Los Angeles a few years later. We both were backing this rapper guy to expand our creative minds and I asked him if he had any interest playing love songs in San Diego. He said yes and that was that; though I think he liked that a lot of girls came to the shows. Come to think of it, he might be the reason a lot of girls starting coming to the shows. Who knows? After we made the record and our touring needed an upgrade, we used two top notch players to fill in the drums and keyboard who were recommended to us, but after a while I longed for a connection like I had with Toca and Ian, I wanted homegrown players and long time friends. I first called one of my oldest friends, Eric Hinajosa in San Diego. He and I shared a love for electronic music as well as Belle and Sebastian style Nick-Draking. I knew he had just come off the road playing keyboards with the Incredible Moses Leroy and Sigur Ros and was looking for a new home to display his insane vintage keyboard collection. I was finally in a position to share my stage with him and was delighted when he accepted the invitation. For years he and I had wanted to be in a band together and now we were finally making it happen. Someday Eric and I will do a side project of some crazy sh--. This new foursome began rehearsals in the UK where we met up with Adam King, a drummer we first met at a festival in Florida. He was playing with the Weekend Players but not touring as much as he'd like. We hit it off immediately and added him to the practice sessions in his neighborhood in London. Adam comes to us with a love of jazz, funk and rare groove, a perfect backbone to the already eclectic style of the band. About a month or so later I got a call from another of my oldest friends, Bill Bell, who was just calling to see what I was up to. Bill was the guy I used to call to demo my songs because he was hip on the technology and had produced many albums up in Canada and around Los Angeles. The call was amazing. He said he had just finished a year of making this one record and was itching to tour again. I almost jokingly asked if he'd want to play guitar with me anytime. How about tomorrow? The next day he was in Texas with us and has been the sixth sense ever since. His mood and lead guitar work is so perfect for this project it's frightening. All the guys add to the mix in just the right way having known me for quite some time. I like that each one of them knew what they were getting into, and I allow everyone to participate however they want. The creativity is always flowing on the road, on and off stage. We're a true band of brothers."
You mentioned there being a lot of girls that come to the shows, do you have any time for a love life of your own?
"There was a time when all I wanted to do was dive into the audience and be devoured by all the women. But I quickly realized that if you single any one girl out, you're disrespecting every other girl in the room. When you sell tickets to a performance of yours, you have to respect that the night is for everyone to enjoy. I hope that everyone leaves feeling lifted and loved. I get the love in return just by them showing up and allowing me to do what I do onstage."
That sounds so PC. How many times a day does someone like you look at his tongue in the mirror?
"Ask my girlfriend."
With that said, there are a lot of things I'd love to ask your girlfriend. Boxers or briefs?
"Her or me?"
Moving on... Are you a morning person?
"Hardly. I see the morning if I'm up all night. I prefer to trust my nocturnal instincts. I do my best writing late at night when my cell phone is calm and the outer world is quiet. Even if I happen to fall asleep, I can count on my dreams entertaining me."
"Like this one dream I had. I was visiting a high school where I guess I was working for this new telephone company. I was with my partner, Gregory Page, my favorite songwriter if I didn't mention that before, and we were installing a new phone booth into one of the halls. Before we were even done programming the thousands of numbers needed to program, there was a line through the whole school waiting to use this phone. It wasn't your average phone. You could dial up old conversations you'd had with someone years ago, like a loved one or former schoolmate. You just sat there and listened to the two of you talk. The phonebook was printed on letters you had written or once received. I woke up laughing and wishing I could get to one of those phones. I tried to get some investors and get the prototype rolling but it was a lot harder to do that was presented in my dream. But you see what I mean; I never would have come up with that in my state of awake."
I see. So you're no stranger to the snooze alarm?
"I think there is so much life to be lived and learned, especially when you are asleep. And the things you can do are boundless compared to this simple life. I'm sure everyone flies from time to time and it's always enough to leave an impression and create a memory of doing so. That's what a life is really, a collection of memories."
Are you into finding what's symbolic of your dreams?
"Exactly. A few nights ago I dreamt it was the opening night of tour and I was doing a duet with Shirley MacLaine. Halfway through the song, Jonathan Winters comes out to ask Shirley something. Can't this wait? I'm thinking, still performing the song as the band is kicking in on the first chorus. Then I'm thinking, isn't this an acoustic tour, what's the band doing here? And we hadn't practiced these songs and they're making up new parts and I'm trying to keep it all together and pretend this is supposed to be what's happening. Then I notice I'm not wearing a shirt. It's the classic nightmare, standing before the class naked. And like that guy in incubus, I'm not sure if my shirt is supposed to be off or not. So I'm rocking it pretending that it is, knowing that if I show my fear the audience is going to eat me alive. To follow that kind of dream to fulfillment would be terrifying. I don't take my shirt off for anyone."
"It's still important for me to get everything I can from my dreams. I assume the Jonathan Winters addition to my dream represents the comedy I like to add to the show, whereas Shirley implies my love for being passionate on the stage. My shirt being removed probably means I should be doing more push-ups than I allow. But overall the dream can be interpreted as simply stating I need to be prepared for everything."
"I try with every show to spread the love and inspire others to realize what their dreams are and to go after it, to make a life rather than a living."
You seem to be doing just that and folks are catching on. It seems you are gaining new followers day by day who just love what you do on stage and on your website.
"I hope they laugh at what I do. But as long as I can take them away from any stress for a couple of hours, I'll be anyone's clown. I love to see the world smile. And while the world's got it's mouth open grinning, I'll sing right down their throats hoping they'll find their own way of regurgitating it later spreading the sickness of simple life. Like a global vomiting of wisdom, purity, and enlightenment. Or better said, a movement of love. Good things."
So what's next for the comedic love activist jasonmraz?
"Well we've been working on our touring life for quite some time and it's finally at a comfortable pace. In our off time we've been preparing for the next record, another collection of love songs presented in the keenest variety. That's my style. Variety. I hope to appeal to all senses. And even to those who still aren't satisfied with my music, I'd hope they let me come over and cook for them."
One more question. If this were a perfect world. Where would you be and what would you be doing?
"I've had this one before. I'd be right here doing this. It is a perfect world somewhat and we all have the power to be and do what we choose. There is nowhere I'd rather be and no name I'd rather call myself. Though early on everyone suggested I change my name. They said Mraz wasn't going to catch on. I thought about calling myself Rand McNally. It would be the kind of name that people would say, I've heard of him before, even if they hadn't remembered all the maps from high school geography. It is hard being called my name when there is an entire team involved, from the band onstage and on the recording and in the writing process, to the many folks behind the scenes who get us from town to town and organize the ride and sell the t-shirts and so on... but it's been proven that all involved don't mind the name. We all share the same dream and everyone is doing the job they love to do and laugh that I'm the spokesman and have to do these interview segments while they sleep in."
Speaking of these segments, if anyone asks, you never saw me, and this interview never happened.
--- from the official Jason Mraz website