Jason Mraz: 'Coming Out Is the Coolest Thing Anyone Can Do'
It’s difficult to feel anything less than great the morning I hop into my car to interview Jason Mraz. With the windows down, left hand soaring through the wind, and his album We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. playing over the car stereo, the drive quickly becomes a scene reminiscent of one of the surf-rock singer’s music videos as I cruise down Highway 101. Clear blue skies, a gentle breeze, and a perfect 82 degrees confirm even Mother Nature agrees it’s a Mraz kind of morning.
By the time I pull into the parking lot at Center Staging Studios in Burbank, I’m convinced I couldn’t feel more at ease than I already do. But when I finally walk through the door of Studio 10 and am introduced to Mraz, his soft-spoken voice and easygoing demeanor pull me further down a river of tranquility. It’s an effect the singer appears to have on everyone around him as he patiently answers questions from several people scurrying about the room, working to prepare the studio space for a segment that will be filmed with Mraz and his band later that day. I watch as one by one, each person who interacts with him leaves his orbit with a lighter step than before, and it becomes obvious that Mraz’s feel-good, “love everyone” mantra isn’t a manufactured marketing gimmick — it’s really his way of life.
A few short minutes later, as Mraz and I sit on opposite-facing black couches in a quiet back room of the studio, his face lights up when we begin discussing the ease with which many of his songs can be interpreted though an LGBT lens.
“I love it,” he says, noting that after the success of his track “I’m Yours,” he incorporated a “greater awareness” during his creative process that ensures his music appeals to a diverse audience. “That was probably the song that really opened my eyes and ears to it. That was the moment when I started to be more conscious of how and what I was writing — creating songs that are full of affirmations, celebrations, and optimistic views.”
Now, Mraz says, his recording process has what one might call an inclusion pass.
“Right at the end I ask, ‘Can any human get on board with this? Can anyone, from any nation, any demographic, can they as a human being feel the humanity in this song?’” he says. “I try not to make it about me specifically and keep in mind that it really is about what we as humans are feeling and going through.”
It’s a tradition that continues on his fifth studio album, Yes! (available July 15), and shines through on the collection’s lead single, “Love Someone,” which Mraz says he’s already heard stories of people using as a soundtrack to their marriage proposals.
“Anytime someone uses one of my songs for anything — a ceremony or a sacred moment — that to me is a high honor. I’m proud of the song at that point because I’m trying to write something for humans — whichever humans want to get on board and put this in their soundtrack to their soul’s development or spiritual lives.”
Mraz describes his latest album as “a group effort,” for which he collaborated with his current band, the all-female pop-rock group Raining Jane. “We’ve been working together for about seven years now and every year we get together for what we call ‘ladies’ weekend’ where we do anywhere from five to seven days of writing and recording — with no agenda — and we each emerge with songs to use in our own projects,” he explains. “But about a year ago we said, ‘Let’s just focus on our songs for a second and see if there’s a record here.’ So we did, and when we presented it, both our management and our label said yes within 24 hours – that’s kind of how we came up with the title of the album, Yes!”
“We feel that saying yes was the key to unlocking creativity and getting shit done, because if you say no to an improvisation, the scene is over,” he continues. “It’s also been a theme that led us to this point. Had these girls not said yes when I introduced myself to them eight years ago at a gig and asked if they would be interested in coming over and just jamming, [we wouldn’t have created this album].”