Interview: Jason Mraz

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Where there’s Jason Mraz, there’s sunshine. Enough sunshine for his avocados to have to wear sunglasses when he sings to them… (see below.) This year’s tour plan had only one European show listed for him: the unique Zermatt Unplugged festival at the foot of the Matterhorn.

Thus, on april 17 Annemarie Jansen and Bjoern Kahlenberg had the great honour and pleasure to meet the man prior to his show in Zermatt. They talked about playing unplugged, his avocado farm, his delicate relationship to Colbie Caillat and of course the recording sessions for his upcoming album… Welcome to the Zermatt Unplugged Festival!

Jason Mraz: Thank you very much. Did you just arrive?

Jason Mraz: (in a soft voice) Yes, I did just arrive. So you didn’t have any time yet to wander around a bit?

Jason Mraz: No, with the volcanic eruption we weren’t able to fly in, so we took a long bus ride, jumped on a train…, jumped on a car…, did everything we could just to make it in time.

I was hoping to get here yesterday, enjoy the morning around Zermatt and see the Matterhorn…, meet local people…, eat local people…, eat local food… Have you been here before?

Jason Mraz: I’ve never been here before. I’ve been to Switzerland quite a few times, but I’ve never been to Zermatt. Switzerland is famous for a lot of things. What do you like most about the country?

Jason Mraz: You know, every time I’m here, I feel like I’m speaking a different language… There’s a lot of diversity within Switzerland. I feel it’s a very green, as far as environmentally mindful, neutral country.

I don’t sense there’s any strive or anyone living on the edge here…, everyone here’s relaxing, enjoying the environment… In fact when I was in Zürich, I was blown away by how everyone wrapped up their newspapers when they were done, so they could be taken away and recycled. And I just felt wow, that’s amazing to enroll the entire community in that type of consciousness. It’s spectacular. You’re famous for both outstanding one man performances, as well as the shows with your band that features horns and percussionists… What are your favourite aspects of both ways of performing?

Jason Mraz: When I play with the full band, you get to be larger than life, you feel larger than life, and that particular moment in the song where there’s passion, you’ve got nine guys behind you, all driving that sound and that feeling with you. That’s like surfing a huge wave, because once you start you really can’t stop it, you got it going down a huge mountain…

When I’m about myself or playing an acoustic set, it’s completely opposite. Yet… I don’t know how to describe it… I can go anywhere I want…, I determine how big or small the wave is going to be, I determine where the show is gonna go… And also with a smaller set like this, I can communicate with the crowd, I can stop them, make eye contact with everyone…, really do something different, like you were in my living room or something. More chances to be spontaneous?

Jason Mraz: Yeah, definitely. Cause I don’t have to turn around and cue nine guys, I can just go for something totally new, if it comes to me. On your myspace page you wrote last december that you were about to enter the studio to record a new album. How’s it going so far?

Jason Mraz: It’s going great! There’s a lot of weird stuff on it! I don’t know what the final product is going to be, but there’s quite a few songs in the mix, that cover a variety of feelings and sounds and tempos…

And that’s usually where we are when we make a record. We go in and love to have as many different ideas as possible, and then you start chipping away at it, so it will still be a couple of weeks before I know what the record really sounds like… Are there any musical directions that we can expect on this album, that you haven’t taken before?

Jason Mraz: I don’t know what the final setlist is going to be for the album, but at the moment there exist tango and jazz elements, with kind of unique time signatures for myself. Also at the moment, there’s some darker material…, not that it’s sad, but it’s kind of reverse psychology if you will… which I really like.

My whole idea for this album lyrically is to remind people that life is all made up, really… And that we’re free to invent it as anything we choose… Because if we all decided we really wanted to invent the Earth as a completely healthy place for all, or a place that had, you know, no poverty and no starvation, we could really do that.

But everyone’s inventing something different, and some people resist change, and it kind of slows down the evolution towards the light, if you will… I don’t know… Anyway, that’s why I write songs, because I don’t want to get up there and tell the world how to be… But I write songs to encourage freedom… In Germany, Mr. Curiosity just entered the single charts…

Jason Mraz: Nice! …after having been covered by a German casting show star, Lena Meyer-Landrut. Did you hear her version yet?

Jason Mraz: I think I may have. Was it on a contest show? Yeah, I think I saw that, it was great. Completely different compared to the original…

Jason Mraz: A little different, yeah. But I’ve done it in so many ways too, there is no “right” way to do it… Each performer gets the freedom to perform that song however they feel it. I read that you own an avocado farm in the San Diego area. What makes your avocados so special?

Jason Mraz: I sing to them! And they all wear sunglasses… So I spend a lot of time making miniature sunglasses for all the avocados, to protect their skin from the harmful UV rays… I guess that takes a lot of time…

Jason Mraz: That’s why avocados are expensive! People don’t realize they’re pampered all throughout their growing… Do you sell them as well? Or are they just for your personal use?

Jason Mraz: Just for my personal use. Thousands of avocados! I bathe in them…, I fill up a hot tub with guacamole, and then I soak myself in it. Cool…

Jason Mraz: Yeah, so my skin stays so soft… I’ll remember that, maybe I’ll try it…

Jason Mraz: Yeah, takes a lot of avocados though…, need a farm. You’ve just won two Grammies… First of all, congratulations!

Jason Mraz: Thank you! Thank you very much… Before the award ceremony, you said that you hoped to win particularly the award for “Lucky”, which you wrote together with Colbie Caillat. And you said that you hoped to win the award, because then you would have to share it with her, and that would bring you two a bit closer… Did it work out?

Jason Mraz: Not yet… But we’re gonna go to court and decide who gets custody of the award. I still think we should share a house, so it’s best for the Grammy, you know? It shouldn’t grow up with two parents… We could at least wait til the Grammy’s old enough to be on its own, but until then we should at least act like we like each other, probably sleep in the same bed…, you know, that whole thing… To not confuse it emotionally?

Jason Mraz: Exactly. You’ve said about “Lucky” that you two wrote it together via e-mail. Was that just an experiment, or could that be a new way of working?

Jason Mraz: At the time it was because that’s all we had. She was on tour, and I was where I was, you know. But recently I’ve been skyping with other people, and that actually speeds up the process.

So rather than waiting for an e-mail, you can actually see the other person on the screen, and sort out some ideas together. It works great! Technology definitely speeds up the process… Thanks a lot for taking the time for us.

Jason Mraz: You’re very welcome! All the best for the show and have a safe trip to Casablanca.

Jason Mraz: Thank you Björn. I might be here for a while…

Interview & photos by Annemarie Jansen & Bjoern Kahlenberg

(live photos taken at Zermatt Unplugged on 2010-04-17)

Posted by Bjoern   @   6 Dezember 2010


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Dez 9, 2010
11:46 PM
#1 Andrew :

Great interview! Thanks for sharing! You should point out the date of the interview though.

Dez 10, 2010
12:07 AM
#2 Bjoern :

Thanks Andrew. Added the date to the first paragraph.

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