A Conversation with Jason Mraz – HuffPost 7.14.14

Mike Ragogna: It’s Jason Mraz! So you’re doing a world tour with Raining Jane

Jason Mraz: Yep, I’ll be taking Raining Jane with me on the road, so we’ll be able to recreate this album and obviously, we’ll be able to play a lot of our old songs through our new musical filter that Raining Jane and I laid down. I first saw Raining Jane about eight years ago and I loved their musicianship. They’re all multi-instrumentalists and beautiful singers. I loved their attitude, how they connect with the audience. I immediately wanted to work with them, so for the last eight years, we’ve gotten together twice a year to write songs and collaborate, thus resulting in the album Yes!, which is a complete collaboration between myself and Raining Jane.

MR: “Love Someone” is the first single from your new album Yes!, and you performed it on American Idol, right?

JM: We did! That was a very brave American Idol choice, for them to let us come on and do an untested song. It was pretty much a world premiere at that point. It was great.

MR: Seems like you’re doing the TV tour.

JM: We were on Ellen with one of the other songs, though. We’re just getting our bearings to take these songs out on the road and take them on television shows, but we’re happy to share it, that’s for sure!

MR: Jason, your album titles have become positive, one-word anthems. LoveYes!

JM: I think it’s important and I think it’s true that our life experience is going to be about our attitude, our thoughts, our beliefs, our speech and our actions. We can transform our life experience simply by changing our language. So rather than say, “I’m not good enough,” or “Something’s missing in my life,” or “I am broke,” or “I am suffering”… See, “I am” are the two most powerful words on the planet. Whatever we put after “I am,” we’re going to become. I’ve tried to be really specific in my language as a writer to start putting more affirming and heartfelt and thoughtful lyrics in the songs so when you sing along, you’re actually getting these tools of transformation and maybe your attitude can shift a little bit, or at the very least maybe your mood can change for three and a half minutes in the song. So I also wanted to extend that onto my stage, I wanted to extend that into my interviews, I wanted to extend that down to my album covers. “Yes” is the mother of all positive words. When you say, “Yes,” something is going to be born into this world.

MR: You know, many singer-songwriters have traditionally written socially conscious songs to affect politics or raise awareness. In contrast, your approach differs because it doesn’t focus on what’s wrong with the world, it’s the exact opposite.

JM: Right. I wish I could take credit to thinking that whole-mindedly, but thank you for being something of an historian on that topic because that’s a brilliant point. I had not wanted to sing protest songs or songs of “this should be that and we should change this” because I only think about my own perspective and trust that other humans can relate through their human-ness. I sing songs for me that are, “I won’t give up” because I don’t want to give up. I sing “I’m Yours” because I’m singing to my infinite, that which I sing to, and I say, “Make me an instrument so that I can be yours, I can be of service.” I’m hoping that my listeners or fans of this music have similar experiences in that when they sing along to it, they themselves become transformed by it. I can’t take credit for everything you just said, but I think that is definitely the goal.

MR: Can you take us through a brief tour of the album, maybe the two or three songs that you feel are the most positive, the biggest “Yes!“-es of the album?

JM: Man, this is going to be a tough one, because it’s going to come from my own perspective. I love “Long Drive.” I think it best represents what Raining Jane and I do as a whole. It was built around Becky’s bass line; Becky [Gebhardt] is also a classical sitar player so we got to utilize that. Mona Tavakoli is our phenomenal percussionist. She really demonstrates her percussion and her drum skills. We have Main Bloomfield who play the cello, which is apparent, and Chaska Potter who’s following me on all of the harmonies and together, they’re all singing. It’s a story that you either live or you dream. It’s a lovely escape. I love it musically. I love how it feels energetically. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record. I also love “Quiet.” To me, it’s one of the most challenging songs I’ve ever performed. It’s mostly because of my range, it just falls in a really challenging place, but the song is about overcoming those internal challenges, where we can sometimes be overwhelmed by how fast life is evolving and technologies are evolving. How fast our communities are building and how sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and maybe hold the hand of someone who knows us, who knows where we came from, or someone who recognizes that you’re on this journey and through that, we can actually quiet our minds on the struggle. We don’t need to add self-inflicted pain to an already painful human.

“Quiet” is a really strong entry in that category. I’ll say “Shine,” as well, which is the finale of the record. It’s based on a thirteenth century poem. It originally said, “Even after all these years the sun never said to the Earth, ‘You owe me,’ and look what happens with a love like that; it lights up the whole sky.” I wanted to embellish upon this poem, and I created this story of the sun and the moon and how the moon actually didn’t have a light of its own, but it was still going to work at night to light the sky and borrow light from the sun. The closing verse to that is, “If you forget that you’re special, just remember that wherever you go and however you move that light shines directly to you.” We can experience that when we’re looking at the moon on water or when we look out of our car and the moon is following us. In our own thoughts we can choose to feel that we’re loved and we’re being watched over and that we matter. Those are important things as humans who often times fall victim to our thoughts and feel like we’re alone and that we can do no good.

MR: In the Vedic tradition, the full moon is supposed to fill humans who observe it with beauty, especially on a full moon. It’s interesting that you had a perspective that aligns with classical thought.

JM: How about that. Thanks for sharing that.

MR: Jason, what advice do you have for new artists?

JM: I would just say get out there and play. If you’re a new artist, practice your art and share it. Set up shop somewhere, whether it’s a street corner or a coffee shop. I got my start in a coffee shop that didn’t even have live music. I wanted to play in coffee shops that did have live music, but I didn’t have an audience. I didn’t really have anything to offer those coffee shops, so I went down the street to a place that didn’t have live music and I said, “Hey, can I bring some speakers and some music on Friday night?” They said, “Sure.” By the end of the Summer, it was packed every Friday night. You couldn’t even get in. That’s what I try to encourage artists to do, make a home for yourself where it’s easy for the community to find you and by playing often you’ll improve as a writer, as a performer, and you’ll develop a loyal fan base. I think these days, new artists have a tendency to try to cut corners. Maybe they want a Kickstarter campaign and have an audience pay for their album. Well, you can also go out there and play enough gigs and earn money for that album and the music will probably be better and your listener will probably be stronger because you’ve actually spent more time on the road and in the venues. I think it’s important to earn your fan base and not just try to immediately advance to the top. If you ride to the top quickly, you’re liable to fall as quickly. Take your time. It’s a long journey ahead of you as an artist. There’s nowhere that you’re supposed to be other than right now living inside of your art.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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