Jason Mraz Talks "Love Is a Four Letter Word"
Tue, 17 Apr 2012 07:14:10
The sweetly endearing pop music that Jason Mraz makes on Love Is a Four Letter Word is emblematic of the easy, breezy, laid back city of San Diego, where the singer-songwriter is based. The album, his fourth and first since 2008's We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things, is textured and vibrant pop, filled with intimate compositions that feel born of life lived.
ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino extolled the album saying, "Mraz has crafted his best effort to date. It's a shimmering pop epic with all of the hallmarks of a classic. You won't forget any one of these songs any time soon…"
ARTISTdirect.com's Amy Sciarretto spoke to Mraz about the sweet backstory that defines and powers some of the album, revolving around the person Mraz co-wrote four of the songs with. He also spoke about his foundation, which fuels the arts and those who make it, as well as the overarching concept that love can be right in front of your face. You just have to choose to see it.
It's nice to have Mraz's songs to envelope you when life shows its not-so-nice-side. It's a comfort, like a warm blanket.
Can you take us inside the writing and recording process for Love Is a Four Letter Word? We like it to be intimate, something we wouldn't be able to glean from simply hearing the song.
Four songs were written with Michael Natter. He is in his '60s and he and his wife Nancy live up in the mountains of San Diego, and have lived there for 35-40 years. They have six kids, 13 grandchildren. He's been playing the same guitar since 1967, since he got it new at the guitar store.
I met him at coffee shop gigs, open mic nights and songwriter nights. He and his wife would play and sing' they are adorable. I invited him to my house to help me change out a toilet, since I figured he would know. He did and brought his guitar over. We change the toilet and he played his guitar. He had all these ideas and riffs that he has been playing for 35 years. He has never had an outlet. I am almost 35, so some of those ideas came into existing same time I was being conceived. One of the songs is based is on something Michael would say when we would be sitting out in the sun, playing guitar. We'd look at the sun, this fiery nuclear furnace, 93 million miles away, by the time the heat and light gets to us, it's just right. One of the jams is "93 Million Miles." We'd loop these chords and melodies for hours and hours. We'd eat dinner, smoke a little herb and play guitar well into the darkness. This went on for a period of weeks. We wrote songs together, four of which ended up on the album.
Wow, that sounds like the life and what a period of discovery between you and he. It's like generations colliding.
He has a riff he has been playing for 35 years, and when I heard it, it was like, 'My God, we have to work together.' Now that they are about to be released. He has quit his job and is working as a professional songwriter, which is a dream come true for a man in his '60s who has been playing guitar his whole life. That's the sweeter backstory to this record, in that it contributed to someone else's life.
That is amazing on so many levels.
His kids and grandkids thought he was crazy, spending his weekends at my house, since he lives two hours away and would drive and hang out. His kids thought he was bananas, writing songs with Jason Mraz. Now they're all about it.
Let's flip the script back to Jason Mraz. You have had so much success in your life as a singer and songwriter. What is your goal with this record?
I was happy to get it out and hope it offers a sense of joy and celebration and comfort, or whatever people use music for. I am not attached to how people receive it, but am grateful that it is received. I would love to explore a variety of genres, from big band to jazz to dubstep to electronic. I love all kinds of music, but I may never get out of the singer-songwriter format. One things I get to master is the relationship. I look forward to having a family and using technology so I don't have to travel as much. Being out on the road for 10 months of the year is bananas.
I want to have land, cultivate it and raise a family, which are any man's dreams. I don't have far out goals about traveling into space or breaking records with my music. I just want to serve the music community. I also started my foundation to help others through music.
Can you give us insight into your foundation, as well?
It's fairly simple. The generosity of others got me where I was. I was dirt poor, so friends took me to dinner or movies, and kept me living a rich quality of life, which fueled me to keep playing music. They believed in me and I believed in myself. Now I am in a place where I can do the same for others, I will. It's what I know. I get to do it for a variety of others, organizations and projects. My foundation supports a vast selection of groups, from environmental preservation to human rights. I've met people on my journey, who are down or struggling but doing extraordinary things. They could use the support. There's no heavy lifting. It's music generated, and not about money.
What other crucial details do we need to know about Love is a Four Letter Word?
The artwork is four shapes, back to back. It looks like it says the word "love." I wanted to create an album about love. That image says love, but it doesn't. It comes in and out of focus. Love is a choice that we make. We can choose to see love in it or not. We can choose to see love in someone else or in the mirror or the world or the environment. Or not. Sometimes we don't see it. Our human nature makes us blind to us. But it's always there.
Wow, that's such a beautiful theory, especially when applied to the music.
It's the songs that kept that in focus more than anything. It's my first concept album that all began with the artwork. The music fit the artwork. I wrote 80 songs in the process, but what made it fit inside the package. I am stoked with it. It was a journey.
Jason's new album is out now. Buy it at iTunes
What's your favorite Jason Mraz song?