Jason Mraz Spotlight
By Jamie Steinberg
Starry Constellation Magazine
Q) How did you get involved with Spotlight Influences
and what made you want to take part in it?
A) They came to me. I've been friends with the people at
Target for a while. Ever since my first album came out, they
were really supportive of it, putting my music on the shelves.
They came up with this concept of Spotlight Influences and
came to us. I've always loved albums like that and series
like that. Starbucks has done one and there has been a variety
of them. I could find my favorite band and they'd be playing
a set list of their favorite tunes. I said, "Heck yeah!
Sign me up!" It's tricky because you only get twelve
songs. We started with maybe forty or fifty and then they
have to clear them all. It depends on who is going to let
you put their music on this certain CD. It just kind of gets
scaled down to ten or twelve and then, hopefully, put them
into a play list. It's pretty fun!
Q) What was the process you went through to choose your eleven
A) The process was basically going from the thirty or so
that were chosen. I would put a little asterisk next to the
songs in my favorite order. Luckily, the top twelve were pretty
close to the top twelve I had on my list. Still, any of the
forty I put on my list would have been great choices, but
these I really stood by because song like "Rainy Day"
was really strong in my family. "Pick Up The Pace"
by Young MC was the first concert I ever went to. He opened
for Milli Vanilla and I bought the cassette. I'd play the
tape every time I cut the grass. It just became this rap song
that I loved and wanted to do my whole life. All of the songs
truly are in my top twelve and "Rainbow Connection"
was number one on my top twelve. That's the song I have the
oldest memory of. If I can think back to being the youngest,
"Rainbow Connection" is the one I have the most
musical memory of. Knowing that was on the top of my list,
when they called Paul Williams to clear the song, it just
Q) How did the chosen artists shape who you are as a person
A) A lot of it lies in the lyrics for me, the way the lyrics
are combined with the melodies and the music. With Soul Coughing's
song "Screenwriter's Blues," Mike Doughty wrote
it and he just inspired me to go deeper with my lyrics and
get crazier with the cadences and over use of alliteration.
Jeff Buckley is a great lyricist who combined with sweeping
melodies. Kenny Rankin's "In The Name of Love" is
an incredible scat number. I've always been a fan of the scats.
Kenny is the master of that! Each one of those begins with
the lyrics and melodies and then how it plays into the funk
and the rhythm of each track.
Q) What is it about the song Rainbow Connection that made
you want to pick it as your personal performance piece?
A) To me, there is just a sense of community in that song
and a sense of oneness that has been achieved in that song.
For generations and generations, there has been this call
for peace and oneness. You know, "We are one, brothers
and sisters!" I feel like, in that song, it's there and
it's been achieved. There is a sense of comfort when I hear
that song and I think that goes for a lot of folks. It represents
not only a movie, but an era. It represents a creator, Jim
Henson, who is just such a loving and creative soul. He affected
a lot of us who were born in the seventies and eighties who
got to grow up with these characters.
Q) Is this a song that you will perform at your concerts
or is this special for the CD only?
A) I've been known to perform it. I do it on guitar in the
cadence of Kermit, but when I brought in Paul Williams (that's
who I am singing with on the track) who wrote the song, it
was an honor. He also wrote "We've Only Just Begun,"
which was a huge hit for The Carpenters. He wrote the words
for "The Love Boat" theme song. This guy is just
incredible! We wanted to do it in a different style with a
rolling piano. More of a lounge piano jazz bar and hope that
the words just kind of sang in a different way. When I do
it live, I just do it on the guitar and keep it simple.
Q) What would you say to those individuals that feel you
have influenced them?
A) I don't know. I truly don't know. I guess it all depends
on the person and it would be within the one-on-one because
I don't know what they would want to ask. I would say thank
you and I am honored because I write signs in my bedroom and
in my own little studio world. I don't know where they go.
I just kind of put them out there and I hope people pick up
on whatever it is I am picking up on. I would just say thank
Q) What will your fans be surprised to learn from your comments
in the liner notes?
A) I didn't write too much. I was looking through Jamie Cullum's
book (who also is doing Spotlight Influences) and that guy
wrote a ton of stuff! I just kept mine short for each song,
just a couple sentences for each, hoping to explain why it
appears in the CD. Also, what they can listen for in the song.
If you listen to the CD and you know my music, you can actually
hear the influences.
Q) Your song Geek In The Pink was featured on "American
Idol." Did you see the performance and what did you think
of his rendition?
A) I thought it was great! I sent Chris [Richardson] an email
congratulating him on such an awesome job. I thought he gave
the song exactly what the song has been needing. He's got
that voice for that kind of song. I signed it "Chris
Richardson Idol Fan" and he wrote me back! He was like,
"Wow! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to even do
the song. It's a confidence booster!" Then, he signed
it "Jason Mraz Fan Since The Beginning," which is
really neat. I thought he did a heck of a job! I didn't get
to see it when it aired, but I saw it on a YouTube link. I
did see it and it was super cool. It was an honor, an absolute
honor, to see that sort of thing unfold on television.
Q) Who are some current artists that you are into?
A) I love an all girl band that's out there now touring the
US that does it all themselves called Raining Jane. I am really
supporting them now. I listen to a lot of San Diego artists.
I've got Gregory Page in my car and Two Spot Goby, which is
a band from Brighton, England. I listen to a lot of unsigned
artists. I find that a lot of my time is spent listening to
independent unsigned artists, bands that are basically making
a living through Myspace. That just inspires me because it
is new music and it's fresh. They are not really creating
music in a competitive sense or in a trendy sense for radio.
They are creating music because they can just create it and
make it available through Myspace. They are creating music
because it makes them feel something, where ever small town
they are based in. They make music because music is the reward
and not because cash is the reward. I am drawn to a lot of
independent and just upcoming music by unsigned artists.
Q) Where do you get inspiration from for your lyrics?
A) It comes from life. In the past it has been relationships,
whether it has been girlfriends, family members or best friends.
More recently, it has been coming of age. As you get older,
you kind of get a different perspective on things such as
what might be more important or less important, political
issues or environmental issues and war is over has always
been a theme. War is not over, but the politics that are around
that are easy to draw from and mostly just life. You can walk
down the street and see life unfold, just watching the ladybugs
on the mailman or you can open your paper and read life from
all around the world. I did a lot of traveling in 2006 and
did a little bit this year, all the way to India and seventeen
different countries. I really drew a lot from those experiences.
Hopefully, my album will be a more worldly theme this time.
Q) What would you like to say to your fans and supporters?
A) I am humbled constantly that I get to do this for a living,
that I get to be an artist, a photographer, a thinker, a dreamer,
a writer and musician. The only reason I can do that on a
larger scale is because of supporters. I think it is fantastic!
I will continue to take care of myself, my health and my mind
and my heart so that I can keep going!