Mraz talks fame, finding roots
By Jess Decina
Wearing aviator shades and a trademark knit hat, Jason Mraz squeezed into a conference room on the second floor of the Student Recreation Center with a handful of members from the University’s media organizations. He arrived on campus around noon yesterday after a flight from North Carolina and a drive up the turnpike (“I love the New Jersey turnpike,” he said).
Though Mraz is fond of Garden State roadways, he fell in love with California the first time he ever visited. He moved to San Diego shortly after a brief stint in college, where he began lighting up the acoustic music scene.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said. “I couldn’t bear being anywhere else. It was the topography of the land, the adventure of getting out there, the atmosphere, the people, the culture. Everything was blowing my mind and was inspiring me, and I thought, ‘If anything, I’m going to write great stories with this.’”
Mraz was right about being inspired. By 2003, his first hit “The Remedy” was a huge single, reaching No. 7 on the U.S. Top 40 chart. The song is a tribute to Mraz’s longtime friend, who was battling bone cancer at the time.
“There was all kinds of weirdness that went into making that song,” he said. “This guy is 22 years old, he’s got no hair, he’s near death, and I couldn’t figure out why I was writing a record for a major record label and my best friend in the world was in the hospital. The song sort of came out through that.”
But it took several sessions for Mraz to figure out how the story would be told. Finally, after a “nip, tuck, here, there,” he had put the song together.
“I’d never written or made anything like that,” he said. “And it scared me.”
Mraz conquered his fear, however, when he realized the impact of his sound.
“I learned how to do it [by] seeing the reaction on people’s faces and how they were reacting to the message in the song,” he said. “It changed my view of why things are made and how things are made. It became more of a shared thing, and music is meant to be shared.”
A few years later, Mraz released a second album, Mr. A-Z, which focused more on “trying to figure out who I am and what this [is] about,” he said.
“My life experience has been sort of contorted,” Mraz said. “What once was this guy in a pickup truck driving to California was now a guy in a tour bus touring around the world.”
Mraz is slowly working on his next release, an album that he plans to be not “about me, but about we,” he said. But for now, the singer-songwriter has achieved his primary goal.
“I wanted to write my own songs and tell my own stories,” he said.