Easy-listening Jason Mraz talks about his journey for his fourth album called Love, writes Subhadra Devan
“IT took me breaking my heart, getting outside my head, getting involved with volunteering, working in soup kitchens, working with organisations basically as an activist, before I started to understand about love,” said American singer-songwriter Jason Mraz in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday.
In Malaysia’s capital city for his second concert since 2009, Mraz was talking to the press at a swanky hotel about “the journey” of his fourth studio album called Love Is A Four Letter Word.
The Virginia-born artiste came to worldwide attention with the 2008 I’m Yours, a single from his third studio album, We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.
Nominated for a Grammy in 2009, the year he first performed in Malaysia at Stadium Negara, Mraz did take home the coveted American Music Awards for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (Make It Mine) in 2010 as well as for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (Lucky).
Mraz’s stop in Malaysia is under his “Tour Is A Four Letter Word” World Tour which started in June with South Korea. After Malaysia, Mraz and his nine-member band will perform in Hong Kong (tomorrow), Taiwan (June 26) and Singapore (June 29), before heading back to the United States for more gigs.
The album Love, which was released in April this year, boasts a mix of musical genres but its core is coffeehouse folk.
For Mraz, “the guts of the album is in the discovery of the music, the channelling of the music, figuring out what I want to say.”
He said the artwork for the album came first. “I was blown away by these four shapes. So I wanted to make an album with those four shapes as the album cover.
“I felt it was a cool way to promote the word, which message would be sung a million times.”
But the concept for the album made it difficult for him to write because the 34-year-old felt he was falling short when it came to love. Hence, the experiences which also led him to an expedition to Antarctica in 2010, and setting up the Jason Mraz Foundation which “helps sustain organisations aligned with his “pillars of service”. These include the arts and education, environmental preservation and providing a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need.
“I don’t sit with a pen and write it. I channel — let the music go and open my mouth, and see what comes out.
“But the artwork doesn’t say love. You must chose to see it and if you can, then you have the power to see it in others.”
And for Mraz, “I conclude that love is about sharing... giving your time, your money, whatever... It wasn’t till I got to that place that all the songs started to flow.”
The album has spawned the hit, I Won’t Give Up, thus far. As for the songs that Mraz himself likes to sing at a concert, he said: “93 Million Miles and I Won’t Give Up lift my spirits up.
“Both are cosmic. They are different from most of the other songs I’ve written. I’m playing a new guitar, I’ve an open strumming sound. The melodies are sweeping, like a wave and a roller coaster. As a singer that’s important.”
Where once it was about finding the next gig, today Mraz works at finding the messages to make life worthwhile. “The biggest change for me, after 10 years (as an artiste), is about my environment and the inhabitants of earth.”
He added that he had no commercial pressure to do albums today.
“The pressure comes because my audience has now grown. People are listening to my songs now, singing them to each other and that inspires me as a songwriter to make more songs of the same calibre.
“It’s now about writing songs that make a difference and not trying to sound good.”