jasonmraz is a southern california wanna-be born in virginia to a brief stint in new york studying the ancient art of musical theatre. jason began playing guitar late in life, 18, at strawberry fields and on the streets of manhattan. during that period of experimentation and transformation, jason was inspired by a psychic in central park to dream the way he does today. the lesson offered to him was "to avoid the questioner and go with what you know. get experience youth, he said" and following this new rule as well as his instincts to sing he eventually made his way out west where he has spent the last two years in san diego learning from the best about sleep, peace, and poetry in song.
jason has always had a vision to see how songs could be interpreted if left only to the listener to decide. what began as "songs to sleep to", a collection of songs for an album fit to play during one's dreamlife, has now evolved into a moving wide awake exploration for jason. since his ridiculous move out west (according to his virginia native family), he has shared venues with bob dylan, paula cole, jewel, and david gray to name a few.
in 2002 jason set up camp in los angeles and partnered with percussionist toca rivera playing weekly there and still in san diego at the world famous java joe's in ocean beach. (check local listings) together they are traveling the coasts this summer and are moving to make the album jason once heard in a dream.
the following is an excerpt of an interview i never had with jason earlier this year. it is 2001, the year of the snake, jason's birth year. he is excited, optimistic, and encouragably humble.
what inspires jasonmraz?
"robots. i admire the old ones man predicted would evolve that look a lot like humans in aluminum foil costumes. it says something about how we envision the future. at least, how our forefathers saw it"
"god. understanding that there is god in everything. especially us. and god sees fit that we do and say whatever we need to to play our part in this life. knowing there is no right or wrong answer.. and stuff."
"breakdancing. i never learned to do it when it came around the first time. but i once saw a man of 60 plus years throw down. i knew it was never too late to begin anything."
"smoking. it's religious. something about seeing your breath, breathing fire, feeling like a dragon or sinatra. i think sometimes i'll smoke myself new octaves." "..and dreams."
what about musical inspirations?
"oh those. the last few years i've submerged myself in anything i could get my hands on. there's so much out there. i love instrumentalists like AIR, or name any DJ. i'm more into dancing than understanding someone's story. if i listen to too many words at once i get my own out of order. but if i have to answer i'd tell you belle and sebastian, beck, bjork, john coltrane, miles davis, nick drake, bob dylan, michael jackson, dave matthews, greg page, toca rivera, sade, ..sir mix-a-lot to be alphabetical. that's a tough question. i could name hundreds i keep in rotation."
how do you meet toca rivera and convince him to join you?
"it wasn't hard. he was one of the first people i met when i moved to san diego. i joined he and his brother carlos olmeda and we did some touring together and a commercial for spike lee, thanks to carlos. that was an amazing experience. after awhile we all went our own way to write and make sure we didn't kill each other before the ride was over. i asked toca if he wanted to keep playing with me. i dug the groove toca laid down with his drum. he says he digs the songs and i like delicate touch on the harmonies he finds. he's like every member of the dave matthews band and boys to men rolled up in one prized wind-up teddy bear designed to beat drum. and the ladies love some toca rivera. he was once on the love connection in the eighties. grand champion i think."
"just toca.. no, not anymore. times were tough once. we got hungry."
any loves in your life?
"just the pursuit of happiness right now. that's love to me. but whatever or whoever gets in the way i'll ask to dance usually."
how many times a day does someone like you look at his tongue in the mirror?
"twenty, at least. that's four times an hour during the five i'm awake at home working. and usually those are during the midnight hours."
so where are the rest of your hours spent?
"searching. be it hidden within the grip of l.a.'s tit, or tucked safely somewhere in my head that i lean to in my bed. i love dreams. i can't get enough of them. everyday i wake up asking myself, who came up with that? oh, you did."
"like this one dream i had. i was visiting a high school where i guess i was working for this new telephone company. i was with my partner and we were installing a new phone booth into one of the halls. before we were even done programming the thousands of numbers needed to program, there was a line through the whole school waiting to use this phone. it wasn't your average phone. you could dial up old conversations you'd had with someone years ago, like a loved one or former schoolmate. you just sat there and listened to the two of you talk. the phonebook was printed to give you letters you had written or once received that needed to be found and rediscovered. i woke up laughing and wishing i could get to one of those phones. i tried to get some investors and get the prototype rolling but it was a lot harder to do that was presented in my dream. but you see what i mean? i never would have come up with that in my state of awake."
"i think there is so much life to be lived and learned, especially when you are asleep. and the things you can do are boundless compared to this simple life. i'm sure everyone flies from time to time and it's always enough to leave an impression and create a memory of doing so. and that's what a life is really. a collection of memories."
are you into finding what's symbolic of your dreams?
"always. but according to freud i'm a pervert. i find peace of mind where i need to and complete awe in others. i think of them as movies i've seen and come up with my own interpretations. often in my music. it's how i've gotten so far i believe."
like the saying, follow your dreams.
"exactly. eventually you find the fine line between when you are awake and when you are knocked out. and then you're really collecting and creating. it's important that i try to make a life rather than a living."
you seem to be doing just that. and folks are catching on. it seems you are gaining new followers day by day who just love what you do.
"i think maybe they laugh at what i do. but as long as i can take them away from any stress for a couple of hours, i'll be anyone's clown. i love to see the world smile. and while the world's got it's mouth open grinning, i'll sing right down their throats hoping they'll find their own way of regurgitating it later spreading the sickness of simple life. like a global vomiting of wisdom, purity, and enlightenment. good things."
so what's next for jasonmraz?
"i think just that. i've had a lot of luck finding those who share my dream and wish to pursue this as a career. we're taking the steps now to advance to a more major market and turn more on lives to the madness. there are still many secrets i wish to unveil and many places in this world i wish to see and feel. i hope to just keep moving, writing, singing and sleeping until there is nothing left to be said and done. and by the looks of our current boundaries, we've only just begun."
one more question. if this were a perfect world. where would you be and what would you be doing?
"i've had this one before. i'd be right here doing this. it is a perfect world somewhat and we all have the power to be and do what we choose. there is nowhere i'd rather be and no name i'd rather call myself."
great. now if anyone asks, you never saw me and this never happened.
"i never knew you."