Jason Mraz Stays in His Lane - And Succeeds

"Are You Ready to Light Rock?"

"I love positive articulation," says a beaming Jason Mraz of his forthcoming album "YES!" - written in all caps with an exclamation point. "The emphasis is on the ecstatic version of the word, because this record would not have happened were it not for some very specific yeses," he adds, explaining how he recruited all-girl Los Angeles foursome Raining Jane as his backing band, enlisted Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis ("on my dream list," says Mraz) and got his longtime label Atlantic behind the July 15 release, his fifth. Here, the 36-year-old keeps it candid on the joys of flatulence, long-term business relationships and soft-rocking in a free world.

 

With "I'm Yours," "The Remedy" and others, you've amassed quite the arsenal of light-rock hits. Do you ever want to branch out?

I used to come out onstage and joke, "Are you guys ready to light rock?!" [laughs] "I'm going to adult contemporary their asses off!" I'm very aware of it, and I'm OK with it. What's ironic is that I don't listen to my kind of music - I don't listen to my Pandora station. But for some reason, when I sit down to make music, that's what it is. I'd love to compose songs like Radiohead or Wilco, but I have what I got.

You recruited L.A. band Raining Jane for "YES!" instead of your usual players. Why?

They're funny, they each have their own personality, they play different instruments - and the harmonies! Who doesn't love harmonies? And how great that I've known them for eight years, because I can fart all day and they're not fazed by it.

Bill Silva has managed you since 1999. To what do you credit that longevity?

I thought I'd play coffee shops and drive a van my whole life, but he has always seen me as a larger artist, and I'm glad. We played the [Hollywood] Bowl twice, and when he told me I cringed each time, like, "What the f--- am I going to do there?" He's like, "You'll figure it out." So we tour, the show grows, and by the time we hit the Bowl, it doesn't feel so bad.

The Bowl holds 18,000, yet you're playing theaters on your next tour. What gives?

I fought to be in theaters. I'd rather have a commitment to quality in a theater versus quantity, where my show becomes generic, in an amphitheater. It's not because we can't sell tickets. I said [to Silva], "I can't do that. Give us this fall to rock the most beautiful theaters we can find." Luckily, I won that one.


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