Via Origin Magazine
Maranda Pleasant: What are some of the things that really make you feel alive? That make you feel inspired?
Jason Mraz: I love the feeling of putting my feet back on the sand after I’ve been out in the ocean for a while. I love that. I guess the adrenaline calms down when the sense of balance returns in a really grounded way.
I love writing songs with people, which is about really taking risks, throwing yourself over the falls and really seeing what you’re made of and seeing how it sticks. Seeing how others react to it, and seeing also how it can become a melody and how it can really take off from your experience. It’s a way of seeing life unfold on the page before me.
I’ve gotten more into gardening over the past couple years. It’s a combination of patience and hustle, and I love it.
MP: That’s great!
JM: Sometimes I’m out there until eleven o’clock at night, making sure everything is great and no irrigation is broken or there are no pests eating my food. And then there’s a great deal of patience that comes with planting a seed and knowing a hundred and ten days later you might have something on the dinner table.
I love surfing and bodysurfing. I love getting slammed by the waves—that makes me feel alive. The waves are a good reminder that I’m small and fragile. There’s a great quote I heard recently: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.”
I love getting a smile out of my girlfriend—that makes me feel like I’m seen, or heard. Or performing. While there’s nothing more vulnerable than just standing in front of a thousand people, or ten thousand people, and doing your best to entertain them, touch them in some way, I liken that to putting my feet on the sand after a surf. When the show is over and I go backstage, it’s like, “Wow, what was that? What just happened?”
MP: I would agree. When the chaos gets to be too much, is there a way that you stay grounded?
JM: The other thing that’s gotten deeper for me in the last two years, to the point where even if I feel a cold coming on, I know that if I do the right amount of, say, meditation and hot yoga or something, I can move the energy through my body and get rid of my cold within twenty-four hours. And the same if I’m having relentless thoughts, I just won’t shut up in my head. I know that if I put myself on the mat and just focus on a flow that I will transmute or I will transform, transfer the energy into some other act or put my attention somewhere else, I’ll be back. I’ll feel stronger not only in my body but most certainly in my brain. I can get the same in surfing, but sometimes it’s just like driving angry, you know? Sometimes if you surf out of balance, it may not do you any good.
MP: [Laughs.] Driving angry! I forgot how funny you are. What are some of the things that make you feel vulnerable?
JM: I still feel very vulnerable when I’m doing an interview or doing a TV show. Whenever there’s a camera in my face, that’s when I feel vulnerable, and then it turns into a little bit of being self-conscious, which I think is the worst kind of vulnerability. You can get in your own way at that point. But I do try to learn from those experiences.
I think, from my gig, the most vulnerable is when I’m onstage. I’ve been trying to get my foundation a little more active in the world, and I did this thing down in Chile, maybe a year ago. I made a donation on behalf of a friend who passed away who was Chilean, and I made a donation to a school system there, to give them music in the schools. So I had to stand up in front of this school and put together my own form of really awful Spanish and sort of talk to these kids about who I am, where I come from, what I do, all about music—and it was awful! It was the most vulnerable and scary. These kids were just looking right through me. They were like, who is this guy? And why doesn’t he just speak English? We can probably understand his English better than his Spanish.
I keep finding myself in situations like that, where I just say yes to something, and next thing I know, I have this feeling in my gut, like how did I get here? It happens almost every night onstage, but when you’re in the real world, when you’re not selling tickets, when you’re just trying to do something for someone, that’s when it feels the scariest—but it also has the best payoff.
MP: Great. What has been one of your greatest struggles in this life? The questions will get easier. [Laughs.]
JM: It would probably have to do with time. I struggle sometimes superficially with my management or with my own career about how much time I spend traveling or giving myself away to promote my music or myself when I’d rather be—
JM: Yeah, gardening or surfing or being at home with my loved ones. And everyone struggles with that; everyone struggles with having to go to work. And I struggle with how humankind ended up this way. We made ourselves slaves to money, and we all have to work and be a part of this thing when time is always ticking. And before we know it, a decade has gone by, and did I really get to do everything I wanted to do or say everything I wanted to say? Do I still have the useful strength to do what it is I wanted to do while all my loved ones are still alive?
So I struggle with time. And I struggle with the big picture of What do we do? I know, I know, we’re just trying to improve life for the next generation, and every choice we make wasn’t superb, and do we have enough time to come back and fix some of those mistakes? I love eating healthy and doing the yoga thing, because I think I’m going to live to a thousand doing so. And that’s because I don’t want to leave here so soon. I want to stick around as long as I can, but I know that’s not going to be the case. We’re all going.
MP: So your new album is called Yes! I do a lot of work with yes, and sometimes they say that until you find your yes, you can’t really find your no. When I saw that the title of your new album is Yes!, I was like, of course it is, of course he would pick that word. That’s the flow of everything that’s good and abundant in the world. What was the significance of that title for you?
JM: It came to me in meditation. I was trying to fit all these little symbols and situations together to find the title, and then in meditation, one by one, each of my bandmates came to me and just said yes, yes, yes, all with this smile, and that’s really how we got to where we are.
I say “bandmates” because I have a new project right now with four incredible artists known as Raining Jane. When I saw them eight years ago at University of Redlands, they were on the same bill, and I saw them play. I just said to myself, yes, look at the way these girls perform—it’s incredible. And I asked them, would they ever consider playing with me, and they said yes. And so, for the last seven years, we get together one week a year, really—on a good year, two or three times—and we would just write songs. Then I presented the idea to my manager. I said, hey, I’ve written some great songs with Raining Jane, I’d love to make an album together, and they said yes, and Atlantic Records said yes, and that’s when I got truly present to this amazing word.
The power of yes: that’s what allows creativity to breathe and to come in. That’s what allows your ideas to become living, breathing, moving dreams in action. This album wouldn’t have been possible had not everyone involved said yes. And I want to celebrate that. I want to celebrate these artists; I want to celebrate all that happens when you say yes. It’s our language version of God, probably.
MP: How has yoga played a role in your life? Why is it important to you?
JM: First, it’s about the breathing. As a singer, if I breathe better, I sing better. And obviously, it’s this amazing full-body passive workout, so I know I’m not going to sprain an ankle, I know I’m not going to dislocate anything, I know I’m not going to
pull a muscle. It’s cleverly designed to take care of you, and I feel stronger—I feel like my posture has changed onstage. And then all of the mental benefits that I get out of it are better than any other school or book I’ve ever read. What I get on a yoga mat, and from a yoga teacher, has been more beneficial onstage than any other workshop I’ve ever done. And it starts with that breath; it starts with getting out of my head and really just slowing the system down and being in a true present moment with each and every breath. That then allows me to be a more balanced and focused individual onstage.
MP: If you could say something to your younger self, or say something to teenagers, what would it be? I promised my daughter I would ask that for our younger readers. Is there something you would say to the next generation or something you would say to yourself if you could go back?
JM: “Be nice to your parents.” When they made the decision to have a child, whether it was planned or not, they were changing their entire lives to do the best they could for this new human being. A lot of young people, we don’t understand that. We don’t come to understand that until we get to the stage of considering children ourselves. I thought I was the center of the world and that my parents had nothing to do with me, and I regret that. I wish I had been a little kinder to my family and been friends with them and let them into my life and shared with them the things I was doing rather than feel like I needed to do my life in secret. So I’m playing catch-up now.
And then if I could also go back, I’d tell myself to just go for it. Don’t hold back so much.
MP: That’s such a good one, Jason.
JM: Just go for it. If you have a dream, this is your chance. We don’t always have to play it safe because people might think you’re weird.
MP: Which we are!
JM: We are!
MP: That’s OK, that’s OK! The last thing is, how can we support your foundation or the causes you believe in?
JM: The thing about my foundation is I wanted to set up something where my spotlight and the money I make could be put into these cool projects that I’m connected to or been a part of somehow. People can help me by just advancing equality. They can do that with their conversations, with supporting this movement to support gender equality, to support same-sex marriage. Just equality for all. That goes for all ages, races—it’s just in general being nice.
My foundation is also getting involved with arts and educational programs. Specifically, there’s a performing arts school that I went to in Virginia that I’m starting to put more of my attention into, supporting the educational programs so that they only have to fund-raise for the production. So you can help me by just helping your own local arts and educational programs.
And then the environment. You don’t have to donate to the Jason Mraz Foundation to save the environment; you can just start a garden or you can join the community garden or—you know what? The best thing for you to do is shop at your local farmer’s market and support the organic growers who are there. Because those are the guys who are taking care of the soil that is ultimately going to take care of us. My foundation is there, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. It’s just something fun that I get to do with my money and my resources. But you can help me by advancing equality, supporting arts and education, and saving this goddamn planet.
Photo : Jen Resenstein