Two-time Grammy Award
Mraz talks to Northern Virginia Magazine about his new album, the Jason Mraz Foundation that supports arts education and the advancement of equality, and what it will be like coming back to his home state.
Congrats on your new album. Tell us more about the vibe you were going for.
Touring last summer was quite insightful because we were able to test out new songs and get a feel for what songs the audience was not into. What they were telling us was that they wanted to stay on their feet and dance. So, we went into the studio to try and make a dance album. It’s been a bucket list item of mine for years. I knew it wasn’t going to be electronic dance music. I had to still figure out how my band and I could pull it off. I’ve made pop music my whole life, I’ll admit that. I stayed in that lane. Looking for new experiences, still, we’d never attempted to do something so up. We set out to make something you could dance to.
I’m always writing from wherever I am in life. I’m in my mid-40s, and it’s long enough to look back and see that I’ve been on a ride. I’m still optimistic about how much of that ride and time I have left, even though time is no guarantee. There’s a preciousness to the optimism on this record. I love this record and how it came out. There’s a freedom to it, and still a fresh naivete to it, but there’s also a little more learned experience and maturity inside of it as well.
What can people who go to your Wolf Trap concert expect to see?
It’s a Technicolor dream show. I’ve got all my best friends with me, 12 of us on stage including me. It’s a colorful recollection of my songs but celebrating the new album, too. We don’t play the new album in its own entirety. The way the new album feels and sounds is how we dress up the old songs as well. We’re also able to play some old songs I’ve never been able to play before because I didn’t have the personnel to help me recreate the song the way it’s recorded on the album. It’s a sonically big and beautiful and fun show. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so it’s relaxed, too, with audience interaction, whimsy, and a whole lot of dancing.
Are you looking forward to getting back to your home state? Do you have any favorite places to visit in Virginia?
I would go see shows at Wolf Trap growing up in my high school years. In those formative years, I was going to concerts and daydreaming about your life. My daydreaming about my life was being on a big stage one day. I’ve never performed at Wolf Trap, so for me it’s quite exciting because I’ve seen so many shows there as a kid. Specifically, Ani DiFranco and Bob Dylan were big ones for me. I was a fan of both, guitar for Ani and, of course, Bob Dylan for his legendary songwriting.
When I saw Wolf Trap was on the tour schedule, I was very excited about coming back because it gives my family the chance to come up from Richmond to see me and have a bit of a reunion that day. It will be an extra special day on tour.
It seems like you are very dedicated to a lot of important causes. Can you tell us more about the Jason Mraz Foundation or other issues you’re passionate about?
I am sensitive to all the issues. It’s kind of hard to live in this world because everything from climate to equality, social justice, criminal justice, they all need our constant attention and help. I feel like unfortunately this country has been kind of bought and sold and far from the people.
Where I feel like I succeed because I’m an entertainer and performer is the arts education lane. I feel like I can connect with young people and help give them resources and great opportunities for them to pursue not just the arts but an experience of inclusion, acceptance, and compassion, which I think the arts are great at.
The foundation provides grants and scholarships to programs all around the country to help young people get involved in local arts programs. I feel like my superpowers really work best when they’re connected to the arts, so that’s where I tend to do my work.
You just released Mystical Magical Rhythmical Radical Ride. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
We have a program in schools from October to February in San Diego at eight different participating schools. After this tour, I won’t be touring for the rest of the year. I’ll be spending more time doing the foundation program and a television project that I can’t mention much about yet, unfortunately.
It gives me the ability to work from home and still contribute to society. I’ll resume touring probably next summer.
Feature image of Jason Mraz by Shervin Lainez courtesy Ashley White PR
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