Songwriter Interviews

Jason Mraz

by Dan MacIntosh

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Jason Mraz is a laidback folk-ish singer/songwriter best known for his reggae-grooved hit "I'm Yours." He got his start in the coffee house scene of San Diego, and although he's achieved much commercial success, he still carries socially activist urges, which has always been a part of the folk music scene out of which he emerged. For instance, he recently served as an associate producer and created music for The Big Fix, a documentary that studied the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mraz's commercial success has already led to two Grammy Awards. One was for "Make It Mine," where he took home Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, while the other was for his duet with Colbie Caillat on "Lucky," which earned him Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. He won both of these in 2010.

Always pressing forward with new approaches to creating music, Mraz's most recent album, Yes!, is a collaboration with the all-girl band Raining Jane. It's also his first solely acoustic album, even though acoustic music has always been a big part of his live performances.

Songfacts ran into Mraz at All for The Hall, a benefit for the Country Music Hall of Fame held in Los Angeles.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): Who are your primary inspirations as songwriters?

Jason Mraz: When I listen to songwriters, it makes me not want to be a songwriter. Because I think, 'Well, he's already said it, and he's said it so eloquently.' It usually takes me listening to classical music - where I don't need to understand lyrics - for me to then feel compelled to say something.

It doesn't mean I don't enjoy listening to songs. I love Bob Dylan. I love the cadence and the smooth flow. I love clever, wordy songwriters like Ben Folds. Modern songwriters, I include Sara Bareilles. But I don't get attached - I never really had a big fandom. The biggest fandom I probably ever had was for Dave Matthews, but when I look back at some of his early work, it's more poetic than it was about song structure, which appeals to me more now than it did when I was younger.

Songfacts: Are there songs that you've written that you're most proud of?

Jason: Sure. I love two songs off my last record especially. "93 Million Miles," and "Frank D. Fixer."

"I Won't Give Up" from two albums ago, I feel like I got it right. Interestingly, with "I'm Yours," I don't even remember sitting down to write it.

Songfacts: Really?

Jason: I remember sitting down to write the others. But "I'm Yours" just came out of joy. It came out of this spirited, joyful hour.

Songfacts: Like it came through you?

Jason: Absolutely. And a lot of that happened with "93 Million" and "I Won't Give Up," but I remember I had to make time a few times. I had to schedule a date with the divine in order for it to come through. Whereas, "I'm Yours," it just shaped without me being prepared. But I didn't have a pen handy. I had a guitar.

Songfacts: Don't you wish they all came that easy?

Jason: Of course.

Songfacts: Why are you supporting the Country Music Hall of Fame? What does it mean to you personally?

Jason: Well, I've not made it into the Hall of Fame yet [meaning he has not entered the building], but I want to celebrate that culture so we know who came before us, what masters walked the earth before I was even born.

At the museum we can get a sense of who they were and what they did and what pioneers and innovators they were. And it's the formulas for the songs that I'm using today, the genres themselves originated by those that you're going to find there.

But I'm here for selfish reasons. I'm here to be able to sit next to Vince Gill and to see him in this type of setting. I appreciate that.

Songfacts: Well, I hope you have a wonderful night. It's been a pleasure to meet you.

Jason: Thank you, my friend.

September 2, 2014. Get more at jasonmraz.com.
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Comments: 1

  • Gwen G. from Spartanburg, Sc Nice interview (and I really like your bio)!
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