INTERVIEW: Words with Mraz

Amidst throngs of concert-hungry students, musician Jason Mraz opened up this week’s welcome back concert with all the wit and charm of a consummate performer. Born in Mechanicsville Va., Mraz started out in the musical theater, moved onto the coffee shop circuit and now is right where he belongs – entertaining college students in need of love songs.

I sat down with my tape recorder and Mraz sat down with a turkey sandwich, banana and bottle of Dole apple juice. What ensued was a chat about Britney, touring and “Freddy v. Jason.”

Hatchet: You’ve performed with some very different artists, including Britney Spears, Bob Dylan and Jewel. How do you think this affects your fan base?

Jason Mraz: I think it’s great. I’ve always tried to write music that would cater to a wide audience. I’m glad that we get the opportunity to play with all different kinds of acts. I dig it because it challenges me. Every time you go out in front of those audiences to figure out “OK, which songs are gonna best really rock this crowd? Or do I want to go anti on them?” Cause I want to be fucking different, you know. It’s done nothing but help us.

H: How did it feel to be playing with a heavyweight like Bob Dylan, one of the greatest songwriters that’s ever lived?

JM: Well, at that time I was only on a side stage. I didn’t get to meet him. It was only in the same area.

H: OK, so what’s been-

JM: Oh wait! Actually, we did a couple of festivals in Australia.

H: Cool. What has been the most difficult adjustment in your transition from musical theater to touring clubs and other venues?

JM: Not much, really. Once your songs are written and once you know what you’re going to be playing that’s basically saying that your show is written. According to the songs, there is a script to the show, so then you can go onstage and perform. There’s a bit of acting involved if you really want to re-create something onstage. Like when I sing “You and I Both,” I try to go back to the garage where I wrote the song. There really hasn’t been a big adjustment. I started in the coffee shop scene, which was a great place to build a show, and went from there.

H: Many of your songs, you said, were fictional. Have you considered doing stuff that’s more autobiographical?

JM: Actually, the Rocket album is all autobiographical. There’s a couple of songs where I assume the characters of someone else but they’re all based on people I knew, situations I knew. That’s a bit easier for me to do. My earlier stuff was more fictional.

H: What are some of your favorite contemporary artists?

JM: I’m way into Damien Rice. He’s pretty bitchin. I love Howie Day, I think he’s a great artist. I love Bjork, she’s probably one of my favorite artists.

H: Oftentimes I hear your music mentioned in the same breath as the Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer. Do you think this is a fair comparison?

JM: I think so. We all play guitar. I think Dave started at the same age Mayer and I did, we all broke in our early twenties. We can’t help but sing about things early 20-year-old males sing about, which often is love and relationships and whatnot. Once you dig deeper you’ll find tons of things that are different. A common question I’m asked is how do I feel about these comparisons, and I’ve got to say that I feel honored. I think those guys are fuckin top-notch at what they do, so being lumped in with them can’t hurt. I remember when Dave came out people compared him to Hootie.

H: And he took it in his own direction.

JM: Totally. So I think you’ll see Mayer and me grow in different directions.

H: What are your feelings about Guster?

JM: Guster? I think Guster’s great.

H: No, seriously.

JM: No, seriously? (laughs) I’ve never seen Guster live. Ask me after the show.

And now…10 Stupid Questions For Jason Mraz

1. What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?
Uh, Fruity Pebbles.

2. Which did you like better, “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Return of the Jedi”?
When “Return of the Jedi” came out, so did “National Lampoon’s Vacation”. My mom took me to see that instead, so I’ll say “Vacation”.

3. Do you embrace the five-second rule?
Yeah, I’ll let the food sit for minutes.

4. Who’s your favorite California gubernatorial candidate?
Gallagher.

5. Were you attracted to Bugs Bunny when he dressed up like a girl bunny?
Absolutely.

6. Which do you like better, Georgetown U. or G-Dub?
I’d have to say GW.

7. Are you an Elvis man or a Beatles man?
I’m an ass man. I’m an Elvis man.

8. Who do you prefer, BB King, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix or Michael Bolton?
I have to go with the mullet on that one.

9. If God and Bob Dylan were to get into a fight, who do you think would win?
It depends on what form God takes. I think if it was a staring competition, Bob Dylan would win.

10. Last but not least, Freddy or Jason?
I haven’t seen it, goddammit! I’m excited. I don’t know, man, I’ve been working on that one for years.

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