Virginia-born, New York-educated (a brief stint studying musical theatre) Southern California-living singer/songwriter, who recently
released his first album, Waiting for My Rocket to Come on Elektra/Asylum records, after releasing
several live albums on his own.
Accompanied mostly by his acoustic guitar, Mraz made his name by playing often in San Diego's
Java Joe's. He has since re-located to Los Angeles and toured the U.S.A. A short blurb about him was placed in
the October 17, 2002 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, and told of how Dave Matthews asked Mraz
to play two makeshift shows in the parking lot before two of Matthews' West Coast shows.
Mraz's music alternates between almost Beck-style folk/pop, with sliding, arpeggiated guitars, funky basslines
and quick lyrics ripe with wordplay - "raising a toast to the highway patrol/it's the most/but my cruise control's
on coast" to more stripped down, jazzy
love songs, such as On Love, In Sadness - "And we just lay awake in lust and rust in the rain/And pour over everything we say we trust". Many times his songs are punctuated by Jeff Buckley-style
vocal departures, where Mraz manages to sound both breathless and breathtaking.
Influenced very clearly by Dave Matthews, who hails from the same region, Mraz's music might at the surface seem similar to other singer/songwriters
currently out there - Jack Johnson, John Mayer - but is set apart by his effective songwriting - managing to be
romantic while avoiding cliché -
and distinctive voice. What first stands out is his range - though usually keeping in a silky-smooth
medium-high register, Mraz's voice occasionally departs to a fine falsetto without hitting that wail that
leaves you begging for baritone. His delivery is also all his own -
his voice possesses character, the tongue-in-cheek nature of some of his lyrics showing right through his
singing. His stage presence is also said to be very convincing, though I haven't had the opportunity to see this for myself.
Up to now
Highlights of his music so far (available either on his debut album or his previous live CDs) are
the upbeat Curbside Prophet, the relaxed Who Needs Shelter, and a great cover of Seals and Crofts'
Summer Breeze, featuring some terrific vocalizing by Mraz at the beginning. His debut album takes the songs he's honed over the last few years and adds a polished
- but not stale - production (by the same man who produced John Mayer, John Alagia, along with
some approriate string arrangements which only rarely detract from the song. Another particular highlight is "The Remedy", a song Mraz performed on Dave Letterman - chock full of poppy hooks and stating "the comedy is that it's serious - this is a strange enough new play on words". Two songs not on the album that still are worth checking out are "So Unusual" and "Bright Eyes". The songs will bounce around in your head for days; a great first record.
A highlight from his Justify Your Existence appearance in The Onion:
The Onion: Why should anyone buy your record?
Jason Mraz: When people buy the record, they can just walk out of the store with ease and and finesse, feeling good about themselves. They won't have to flee security when the alarms go off, the way they would after stealing it. To actually purchase the record would be the honest approach.
- Jason Mraz (http://www.jasonmraz.com)
- Stephen Thompson, "Justify Your Existence", The Onion, November 21-27