Last year, as Jason Mraz celebrated the 15th anniversary of his Platinum-certified debut album Waiting For My Rocket To Come, he began to ponder the meaning of his time in the spotlight since getting his start in coffeehouses in San Diego. While amassing a global fan base for his positive message and soulful, folk-pop sound, Mraz has earned numerous diamond and platinum certifications for his various releases, including his classic singles “I Won’t Give Up,” “Lucky,” and the record-breaking “I’m Yours.” He has won two Grammy Awards, received the prestigious Songwriter Hall of Fame Hal David Award, and sold out such fabled venues as The Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, and London’s O2 Arena.
“As I thought about the next chapter, what kept occurring to me was the idea of being a songwriter in service,” he says. “I feel like I’ve been awakened to a higher purpose with my music. At some point, you get all your bills paid. You get the girl. What’s motivating you? What’s driving you? Is it to get more money? To get a yacht or fancy cars? For some people, maybe so. For me, I want to help people tap into their feelings. I know there are people out there who are using my music for some version of love, whether it’s a song for the first dance at their wedding or one that helps them through heartbreak. The song is the glue that plays an important role in someone’s togetherness. I love when it’s parents and their kids. They’ll write me and say, ‘You’re the only thing we can agree on to listen to in the car.’ I love that. I love imagining a dad and some soccer kids in the back all singing along.”
It’s a testament to the generosity of spirit in Mraz’s music that so many people have chosen his songs as the soundtrack to major moments in their lives, and new memories are certain to be made with the songs on his upcoming sixth album, Know. Prior to this title, which serves as a nod to his 2014 LP “YES!,” the working name came from an excerpt of one of the album’s tracks.
“In 2016, I wrote ‘Love Is Still The Answer,’ with Dan Wilson, which included the original working title for the record – “‘MASTER PEACE as in ‘MASTER PEACE,’ which I think is really what we’re here to do,” Mraz says. “The song asks the question, ‘Are we here to master war or master peace?’ I don’t know the answer, but I ask, ‘What would love do?’ Maybe whatever it is we’re after, love is the answer. If we all could live by that, we might all be in service and we might actually transform the world or experience peace within. Nothing makes you feel love like giving it to somebody. So, love is still the answer.”
Mraz introduced the album’s theme with its first single “Have It All,” which was inspired by his 2012 visit to the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar. “The common greeting there was ‘Tashi Delek,’ which was translated to me to mean ‘May you have auspiciousness and causes of success,’” Mraz says. “I love that salutation and I took to my journal and tried to clone that line over and over again in rhyme scheme on the airplane ride home. Several months later, I found myself banging through some ideas in a songwriting session and I pulled out these verses and the song was born.”
Other notable songs include “Making It Up” — a collaboration with his songwriter friend Bob Schneider about how anything is possible, we’re just making life up, so why don’t we make it up to be something great, and “Better With You,” which was inspired by his marriage. “Marriage is about asking someone to help you heal your wounds and hold space for you,” he says. “You are going to make each other crazy, but it’s about realizing, ‘Okay, I know why I married this person.’”
One of Mraz’s favorite album tracks is “Unlonely,” which hearkens back to some of his early, beloved songs. “When I first started writing, I would make up words or do anything that was required to get the laugh,” he says. “‘Unlonely’ took me back to that energy and spirit and I enjoyed it. The second verse is a throwback to my old, humorous rap sensibility that I began my career with and I think the fans are really going to like it.” They’ll also be pleased to see the inclusion of “Sleeping to Dream,” a live fan favorite Mraz wrote in 1999 that has never been recorded in a studio. “People shout for it at shows, so it’s finally going to have a home on an album,” he says.
Know. was produced by Andrew Wells, who brings an organic and groovy feel to the album’s classic, acoustic rock sound. “I see it as a sonic evolution from my last album, YES!” Mraz says. “It’s just got a bit more caffeine, whereas my last album was a bit more herbal tea.” Know. reteams Mraz with his longtime collaborators, Raining Jane. “We thought it’d be fun to make ‘No’ as the follow-up to YES!, but instead of ‘N-O,’ the negative, it’d be the positive, ‘K-N-O-W.’”
While writing the album, Mraz took a break to star in Sara Bareilles’ Broadway show Waitress. “The performance art aspect of it was a thrill,” he says. “It stoked me more creatively than anything I have done in years. I felt transformed by it.” He has also continued his philanthropy, including the Jason Mraz Foundation, which aims to uplift humanity through arts education and the advancement of equality, and serving as a sponsor and program advisor for the School of the Performing Arts (SPARC) in his home state of Virginia.
For Mraz, music has served as a way to draw attention to the things he cares about, including farming. For years, he has grown organic avocados at his own Mraz Family Farms in Oceanside, Calif., and coffee trees were planted in 2015. He attends city council meetings and is a driving force behind inspiring other local farmers to convert to regenerative agriculture and preserve land. “My wife jokes about how some people collect cars, we collect trees,” he says. “Originally, I wanted to live out in the country so I could make loud music and not have to worry about a neighbor behind me. I didn’t know I was going to be doing this with my life, but I do it because now it’s something I get to grow old doing and it feels good.”
“I like the analogy of the farm because it has taught me so much,” he continues. “When I’m on tour, I spend a lot of time on airplanes, but when I’m home, I can literally put my hands in the earth. It doesn’t get any more grounding than that. Songwriting, like growing food and trees, is a game of patience. It’s a game of respect and one that’s quite sacred. If you screw it up, you can really screw it up. But if you work with it and you listen, it can provide a lot of good for a lot of people.”