Ladies and Gentlemen, an Evening with Jason Mraz and Raining Jane
The Palladium // Sunday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m.
Since his start in the coffeehouses of San Diego, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz has released six acclaimed studio albums of his laid-back melodic pop tunes, rooted in acoustic guitar and flavored with hints of reggae, funk and other styles. With such hits as “I Won’t Give Up,” “Make It Mine,” “Lucky” and the Top 10 smash “I’m Yours,” he has landed four Grammy nominations and two wins, among other honors. Mraz’s latest release, “Know,” debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and featured the single “Have It All.”
Joining Mraz on this tour are his friends and longtime collaborators Raining Jane, an all-female folk-rock quartet. The Los Angeles-based band has performed with Mraz frequently and backed him on his 2014 acoustic album, “Yes!” This performance will sell out, so act fast! Visit thecenterpresents.org to inquire about available tickets.
When you started your career in the early 2000s and were working in local coffee shops in the San Diego area, did you ever think that your career would look and feel the way it does today?
Definitely not. When I started out—even before coffee shops—I didn’t know where my venue would be. I just knew as a young person I wanted to be involved in music. I wanted to be involved in entertaining people through music. As a kid, [for me] that could have been anything; a band or working on a cruise ship or being in a musical. I was open, my heart was open to anything. When I was 18 and discovered troubadours and playing guitar, that’s when I felt like I could do this [entertain] anywhere. I didn’t have to wait for a “job.” So, I started playing open mics and on street corners, “songwriter nights” and college parties. It just filled me up, and the “high” was the same no matter what venue I was at.
Once you connected with the local coffee shop community, did you feel like you had “made it” and were you satisfied? Or did you hunger for bigger venues and brighter lights?
I just loved the service of performing, and I found a home in coffee shops around 2000–2001 in San Diego. That’s where I started having a regular residency, and back then—to me—that was it. I had made it. I had a regular gig. I was making my ends meet. If I stayed there my whole life, I would have been fine. I had joined a community of songwriters where that [community] was their home and that was their final stop. There is a built-in audience around the coffee shops, and I had found songwriters that I could learn from and work with. But it [my career] just kept growing, and people kept coming to my shows and sharing my music. The next thing I knew, my music was ending up on the desks of record executives who wanted to work with me.
What was going through your mind then?
I thought, “OK, let’s give it a shot.” I thought the worst that could happen is that I put a record out, maybe go on tour, but I could always come back to the coffee shop. The reason why I think it worked [for me] is because I’m kind of unattached to the outcome. I wasn’t going to play into the rock and roll ego mind; that I was “important.” I think a few times I may have gotten intoxicated by fame, but it doesn’t last. It’s not a sustainable concoction to consume. So, I would always find myself back in the coffee shops between tours and in between albums.
What is it about coffee shops that makes you want to continue to perform in them?
That’s where all my songs get tested before they ever make it on to a record. I have to know what they feel like playing on stage, and I have to know what it feels like to say these words in front of an audience. Everything sounds great on a demo or in a studio, but it really needs to be tested on an audience. I’ve kept the coffee shop culture close to my heart over these years. I’ve built a little studio in my backyard where coffee shop musicians come to my studio and record because I know how important that process is. And I know how important having a recorded piece of work is, so we have a really nice little thing going on in the coffee shop community. That’s my upbringing. Everything that’s happened since then has been just a crazy opportunity that I can’t believe, and just when I think I’ve done as much as I can and that I’ve had as many experiences as I can imagine, more experiences continue to arrive at my door and they keep showing up in my inbox.
You’ve had a remarkable and fascinating career so far.
Yeah, it’s been a pretty cool trip.
You co-wrote “Have it All” with Raining Jane, which was certified gold, from your latest album, “Know,” and your entire preceding album, “YES!,” was a collaboration between you and Raining Jane. What is it about collaborating with the incredible ladies of Raining Jane that is special to you and to this tour?
I’ve been collaborating with Raining Jane since I met them in 2006. We co-wrote “A Beautiful Mess” together. They’re some of my best friends. We bounce ideas off of each other, we write songs together and we spend a lot of time together. We’re committed to making more music together and want to make another album together. So, we have a collection of new songs that we’re going to be weaving into the set list [during this tour] but not blindly. We will include the audience and ask for their feedback. If you don’t like the song, give us a big thumbs-down or “boo” us.
Why does this particular collaboration work so well?
[Raining Jane] has been a part of my band since 2014. They were on the “Good Vibes” tour, and they were part of my last album, “YES!,” but it’s really special for us to break it down to just the five of us. It’s the sound that we make when we sit around in a circle and play music. There’s no frills—no extras. There’s no horn section—no huge drum set. It’s vocally driven. They share my enthusiasm for positive articulation and for leaving the world better than we found it. They’re champions for peace, love and unity. They bring with them a high vibration, and they’re powerful women. We live in a time where it’s important that women are seen in leadership roles, and it’s important that they are celebrated. In a tour with all women, I feel like I get to uplift these women who have been behind the scenes for many years and really let them shine.
Wow, your wife is one lucky lady.
Awe, thanks. I’m a lucky guy.
Your foundation, the Jason Mraz Foundation, does incredible things for our nation’s young people. Tell us more about its purpose and how your fans and our readers can get involved.
I started it back in 2011, just trying to do good with all this fame and spotlight that I had been given. Over the years we have raised money for all kinds of organizations dealing with the environment, human rights, to assistance with recovery. About three years ago, I decided to refocus the foundation’s efforts on arts education and the advancement of equality. Through the foundation, we are able to go into communities, help kids get a hand up in the world using the arts as a medium to unify and to give young people some dope experiences. Our emphasis is on arts education and the advancement of equality.
People can get involved with what we’re doing simply by visiting my foundation at jasonmraz.com/foundation. But they can mostly get involved by going to a concert because we give a portion of every ticket sold to the foundation. Just by supporting my music, you’re helping the foundation and the kids we serve.
What do you hope people will take from this experience and get out of seeing you and Raining Jane?
We’re going to do a song called “Looks for the Good.” It’s not released yet. It’s something we just wrote. “Looks for the Good” is kind of the message or mantra that I have carried around with me through my music for years.
We live in trying times, and it requires a positive attitude to endure it and to continue to get up in the morning and make changes in our lives for ourselves, our families, our communities—the world. So, I’m hoping that as people trust us with their entertainment and come see us that they will not only get great music, beautiful melodies and harmonies, and humor from our concerts but that they’ll leave with the sense of optimism. And that they’ll leave with a sense of hope that in trying times, you can still look for the good and find your way through life because life is precious. We need every bit of encouragement, support and connectedness that we can get to feel like we matter. That’s what I’m hoping people walk away with—a reason to look for the good.