Here’s a blast from the past…a story I did on Jason Mraz and his album “Mr. A-Z”, back in 2005. Hope you enjoy it!
Jason Mraz: “I’m Back”
(originally appeared in the Boston Herald and ASX Magazine)
With his second album “Mr. A-Z” just days away from release, Jason Mraz reveals the stories behind the songs, his struggles as a writer and what his fans can expect from him next.
“You’ve got fifteen minutes,” buzzed Atlantic publicity as I connected with Jason Mraz.
For Jason, fifteen minutes is a lot of time these days. Besides touring with Alanis Morrissette and headlining his own shows, he’s on the brink of releasing his self-titled album “Mr. A-Z” on Atlantic. A follow up to his 2002 platinum album “Waiting for My Rocket to Come,” Mraz dug in and achieved another level of artistic evolution.
The album was exactly one year in the making, from January 2004-2005. Mraz believes that it captures “a very introspective year” as a sophomore in the music business.
“I definitely went in this album with a lot more confidence,” says Mraz. “Before we even went into the studio I produced a version of the album at home, so when Steve Lillywhite (producer) got there, we could give him a roadmap.” Jason acknowledged Steve was a huge creative influence on his sound.
The album concept was to paint vocals over backdrops that best reflected the nature of the songs themselves. The diverse melodies, from Latin to R&B flavored tracks, showcase fearless creativity and impressive lyrical prowess. It’s no wonder Mraz was discovered playing the acoustic music scene in San Diego in 2002.
“Once the song is written, it doesn’t belong to me anymore,” Mraz comments. “I hope that if [the lyrics] reveal anything it’s that I’m optimistic and I love thinking about love. I love finding a way out of a painful situation, always looking on the bright side. There are a couple songs on the album that definitely steer down a mysterious, somewhat dark path. But I always try to balance that out with an optimistic outlook.”
Mraz maintains songs are “character studies.” He often writes about his friends and the life lessons they learn. Writing new material hasn’t always come easy, though. Mraz admitted to struggling after the release of his debut record.
“When the first album was done I didn’t write for nearly a year because I was so exhausted from traveling for the first time at such an intense rate,” he recalls. “I thought I would never write again and then [finally] I just exploded. I started writing about my friends and writing about the situations that kept me grounded.”
There were other contributing factors to his writer’s block. After the success of hit singles “The Remedy,” “You and I Both” and “Curbside Prophet,” Mraz felt pressured about meeting expectations for the radio portion of his next record. To find a way to alleviate the pressure he felt, Mraz wrote a song about it. The result is the first single off the new album “Wordplay.”
The song originally had the lyrics “it’s all about the airplay” poking fun at his own fears of the hit-single concept. A friend of Mraz’s, Kevin Kadish, recognized the songs’ potential and encouraged him to find that characteristic optimism. Jason modified the lyrics to “it’s all about the Wordplay.”
“This is kind of my ‘I’m back’ song,” notes Mraz. “It was very cool for me to flush this out.”
What’s next for the down-to-earth rock star?
“My next goal is definitely another album. And, I’ve been working on my first literary project,” says Mraz. “I’m putting out a thirty-six page collection of journals and autobiographical essays that will come out with our limited edition package.” Fans can also look forward to a full-length book to be released sometime next year.
Mraz mentioned that right now the direction of his next record is up in the air. “Every other day I keep thinking the next album is going to be predominately hip-hop or it’s going to be more rap-based like the melodic raps of “Geek in the Pink” or “Curbside Prophet.” Or, I could finally put out an acoustic album,” states Mraz.
He is the first to admit anything could happen though, “Once we get on the road and start playing these songs live a whole new thing could occur on stage. Maybe I’ll decide to do a polka album.”
Hmmmm. Mraz does Polka? I like it already.
For more information on Jason, visit www.jasonmraz.com.