Jason Mraz Knows Love Songs | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Jason Mraz Knows Love Songs 

The optimistic wordsmith talks making honest music, his beginnings and what's next

"Well, you done-done me in, you bet I felt it. I tried to be chill but..."

There's no shame in admitting the lyrics to "I'm Yours" instantly fill your head all these years later. For one, it happens to be the most streamed song by a solo artist from 2000-2009. Second, it still lives in our heads because of its warm sentiment and catchy simplicity. Jason Mraz will be at Hayden Homes Amphitheater Friday, where the singer will do his potentially first-ever Bend show. Mraz thinks he maybe has played here before but couldn't 100 percent remember, and I can't find anything that says he 100 percent has, either. Either way, it's the first time in a long time.

click to enlarge In October Mraz will hit the 20-year mark of his debut album, "Waiting for My Rocket to Come." - JUSTIN BETTMAN
  • Justin Bettman
  • In October Mraz will hit the 20-year mark of his debut album, "Waiting for My Rocket to Come."

While "I'm Yours" might be the pinnacle of Mraz's love songs numbers-wise, he has an entire catalog of other love songs that are also massive hits. So it makes sense why he put together a compilation album of his favorites this year titled "Lalalalovesongs," featuring iconic Mraz numbers such as, "I Won't Give Up," his duet with Colbie Caillat, "Lucky" and "You and I Both." Looking back at these songs was a wild ride for Mraz.

"It was pretty trippy. It was kind of pitched to me as a greatest hits record and I was like wait a minute... am I old?," laughs Mraz.

Some of the songs on the comp are actually deep cuts that Mraz was excited to give new life to with this release. There's also a bonus unreleased song on the digital version called, "Always Looking For You" that didn't quite fit on his 2018 record "Know," but was able to find a home here.

"I actually had forgotten about it. If I remembered soon enough it woulda been on the vinyl. I'm glad that actually came out. It's a sweet little tune. Similar to others I've written and maybe that's why I withheld it in the past because I was looking to evolve."

Mraz notes Damien Rice's "O" and Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago" as good examples of work he admires when it comes to music about love. With so many of his own under his belt, I asked Mraz what makes a good love song. The first thing he said was the truth.

"When you hear a good love song, you can tell. Like, 'wow... Phil Collins was really going through some shit, man,'" says Mraz. "Really make sure truth is the genesis of the song. You can be clever all day and really craft a love song, but to make it work it has to come from a spontaneous place of truth and urgency."

The way Mraz talks about the human connection to music makes it all seem so simple and easy. He understands the power of emotion. He knows this because it’s what he looks for in music as a listener. It’s a big reason why his writing helped launch such a successful career. 

That career really hit its takeoff point with the release of his debut album, “Waiting for My Rocket to Come,” which turns 20 this October. Then, Mraz says his ambitions were much different and more aligned with someone in his twenties. He wanted to be cool, smoke cigarettes and have a fun time on tour. This is a far-off cry from the version of himself today who does plenty of humanitarian and environmental work. The notoriety and speed of the industry was an unexpected challenge for his younger self, who was just a singer making his name in coffee shops like Java Joes in San Diego.

“I kind of went with the flow. I trusted the musicians around me. I trusted my manager. I trusted the enthusiasm of the label. But I gotta admit man, I was just so kind of scared. But I didn’t have time to be scared because our schedule was so busy,” he reflects. 

The song that really helped Mraz’s debut take off was “The Remedy.” Not only was it the first Mraz song myself and many others heard, but it hit as high as #15 on the Hot 100 and was one of the biggest songs of the year. It also opened a door filled with insane opportunities. 

“The biggest thing was it kept us on the road. When we first started we were an opening act and when that song took off we started getting into bigger clubs and theaters, and bigger acts to support. [We were] Touring with Dave Matthews Band. We got to open for the Stones a couple times,” says Mraz. “We finally graduated from a van to a tour bus. But at the same time we were just reckless. It was a party. Which is the total opposite of who we are today. Because sustainability is all about taking care of yourself and your environment. And 20 years ago I wasn’t thinking about that at all. I was even smoking during the show! Which is crazy.”

All jokes aside about his early days in the industry, Mraz reiterates how blessed he feels to have had a past life that “The Remedy” was a big part of. Still, even with that hit happening two decades ago, Mraz has been able to find success all these years later.

“You know my manager told me you’ll be lucky if you get 10 years. That’s the average. And that kind of put [in my head] like, ‘Ok. Let’s have fun but also keep working. Keep showing up and keep trying to write great songs,’’ remembers Mraz.” “I was 28, and I had been writing songs for about 10 years when I wrote ‘I’m Yours.’ And then I put it out a couple years after that. Which breathed life into the machine all over again. Which was bananas. So it kinda bought me another 10 years. I got really lucky.”

Mraz’s luck didn’t stop there. He won Grammys for both “Make It Mine” and “Lucky” that following year in 2009. Then in 2012 he released “I Won’t Give Up” that debuted at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. Since then he’s released three more studio albums. With his ability to craft witty, straightforward songs that hit home with their relatability, it’s no wonder the hits haven’t stopped coming. So what does Mraz write about at this stage in his career? What inspires him?

“The throughline is optimism. Especially in this world we’re living in where it feels like we’re going backwards in many ways. While technology advances there’s other things in civil and social situations that are just going backwards. And at the same time I’m getting older,” he says. “So I’m trying to stay optimistic on all these different topics and not have, say, a mid-life crisis but I’m certainly experiencing, you know, getting there. So that’s what my songs are reflecting. A new perspective with the same familiar optimism.” 

Mraz will be joined by Raining Jane in Bend and throughout the rest of his summer tour. The friends are also turning into collaborators this year, as after the tour Mraz says all of them will head into the studio together to work on his next album. About one-third of his set will be unreleased material, so we're all in for a treat.

Jason Mraz & Raining Jane
Fri., July 8, 6:30pm
Hayden Homes Amphitheater
344 SW Shevlin-Hixon Dr., Bend
$49.50

About The Author

Isaac Biehl

Isaac is living proof that "Iowa Nice" is actually a thing. A journalism graduate from Iowa State University, he regularly writes about music, the outdoors and the arts/culture scene. Isaac loves the Trail Blazers, backpacking and a good IPA. He plans to one day win Survivor. Your move, Jeff Probst...
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