EXCLUSIVE FULL INTERVIEW
San Diego-based singer-songwriter Jason Mraz spoke with New York City Monthly while on his European tour in Munich, Germany. He is the third recording artist ever to attempt a five-borough residency in New York – The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan will all be graced with Mraz’s magic September 17-23. It’s a safe bet the multi-Grammy winning artist will play a variety of hits including “I Won’t Give Up,” “I’m Yours” and “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” as well as new tune “Love Someone” off recent release “YES!” and he may throw in some interesting covers along the way. Mraz held a press conference to announce this special NYC tour in mid-July atop the Empire State Building kicking off his “YES!” world tour which runs through November will multi-day residences in several other cities as well.
NYCM: How did you come up with the concept of a five-borough residency in NYC? This sounds like the must-see event series of the season. Only David Bowie and NYC’s Beastie Boys have accomplished this feat.
JM: I started playing large venues and I begged that we play in theaters again, but my manager thought we should play in a bunch of the boroughs. It’s going to be challenging for us because it’s the most shows we’ve done in a week. I know that some people will try to come to all if not many. We are gonna want to make the show different every night to respect the people coming more than one night. It also got me excited about playing Staten Island, I haven’t been there much since college. It made me think of other neighborhoods, maybe it’ll teach you a new train route or break some fears about going to new neighborhoods. I like the idea that we can awake people to New York City.
NYCM: Your new album “Yes!” is a collaborative effort with all-female band Raining Jane, how did this come about?
JM: I met them about eight years ago and fell in love with them and have been collaborating with them ever since. It really is as much about them as it is about me. We fell in love with each other.
NYCM: You live in what sounds like a peaceful area near San Diego, what do you enjoy doing in your free time in the bustling New York? Your new tune “Back To The Earth” feels like the exact opposite of New York City.
JM: I enjoy the parks. They are where it’s at. If you stay at Gramercy Park Hotel, they give you a key to Gramercy Park which is the only private park in New York City. The quality of the flowers is great. Central Park is super dynamic. Buskers. Shakespeare In The Park. Interestingly, New York has over 600 registered public gardens, more than Los Angeles. New York should be really, really proud of that. From flower gardens to food gardens, including where people have their tomatoes and watermelons. I learned it from a mentor in San Diego who is my farming guru.
NYCM: You have a 5 1/2 acre avocado farm in California, have you whipped up some interesting recipes?
JM: Of course. The best in my opinion is the chocomole. Instead of guacamole which is a savory, limey, peppery, spicy treat, you can go the other direction, after you mash it up, add agave and dates, a drop of vanilla for that little kick and add raw cacao powder, one scoop to your liking or more if you’re a chocolate freak.
NYCM: Are there any young or emerging singer-songwriters that are on your radar right now?
JM: Emily King right now. I saw her a couple weeks ago opening for Sara Bareilles.
NYCM: “Love Someone” is a clear favorite on “YES!,” but another standout is probably “3 Things,” which is full of positive energy. Where does your optimistic outlook on life come from?
JM: It’s a variety of things. One, it stems from not being optimistic in my personal life. I have a story I count myself, that I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough time to accomplish everything I want to accomplish. So this is my sort of default. So when I sit down to practice music and write music, I am writing things as an optimist because I need that to fill in this hole where I’m not. These songs become my mantra, they become tools for transformation. When I have a show, I have seen all these positive things, I am buzzing, I’m elated. When I sit down to write the song, I focus on the positive, it’s important to know how to get yourself out of a gloomy situation. If through the duration of writing a song I have awakened to my true potential, I realize what my true mission was. I’m fulfilled and whole and complete when I do this. There is this thing I get in my gut when I see someone not having a good time, I want to fix that. By being on a stage with lots of people I feel it’s my responsibility to have a good life experience. Not just for my concert or a song I’m playing, in addition to these songs, I want people to get that their life is as great as they want it to be. I’ve fallen into this career where I am motivational, where I do include some conversation in some of my shows. Third, I’ve had my dream come true, I’ve had my career take off. Because of that I feel – whatever dream it is, with joy people will be on board and support it.
NYCM: How did you decide on a Boyz II Men cover?
JM: Because when I was a teenager I was singing the Boyz II Men cover. We wanted to put an a cappella on the record. “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye.” We searched for things and couldn’t find anything and decided to record that as an experiment.
Jason Mraz’s “The Five Boroughs Tour” 2014:
September 17 at Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts at Brooklyn College
September 18 at The Bronx’s Lehman Center for Performing Arts
September 19 at Queens College’s Colden Auditorium at Kupferberg Center for Performing Arts
September 20 at Staten Island’s St. George Theatre
September 22 & 23 at Radio City Music Hall
(Photo Credit: Eric Morgensen)