Jason Mraz is a world-famous musical artist for a lot of reasons.
He writes catchy folk-pop songs built around memorable melodies. His lyrics radiate relentlessly positive messages about life and love and how to embrace both to the fullest.
Live, he's a charismatic performer, and he seems like a genuinely good dude. He even has his own charitable foundation, which is focused on supporting inclusive arts education and the advancement of equality. "Our purpose," the Jason Mraz Foundation website says, "is to cause peace in the world."
But perhaps the biggest reason Mraz has sold millions of albums and scored several big hits — most notably "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" and "I'm Yours" and "I Won't Give Up" — and toured all over the world is because he understands the symbiotic relationship between artist and audience, and he knows how to nurture that relationship. "The most valuable thing on this planet is someone's time and attention," he says in a recent phone interview with the Inlander.
"I try to create the kinds of songs that people would want to hear on their wedding day or their birthday or on car trips. That's always a goal for me as a writer," he continues. "And then as a performer, make the shows interesting and humorous and real and vulnerable and as authentic as you can, so you are respecting the time and attention that people give you when they buy a ticket."
Mraz will bring his most recent tour, backed by the long-running band Raining Jane, to Spokane on Saturday. Here's our conversation with him, edited for clarity.
INLANDER: Have you always held such an appreciation for people's time and attention, even going back to your coffee shop days? At that age, a lot of artists are still taking their audience for granted.
MRAZ: I was 21 when I started in the coffee shop, and if I go back to high school, I was a performing arts kid. I was always on stages, so I knew the privilege it was to perform for people. I learned how to gauge the audience and feed them the things they needed to keep them laughing or clapping or singing along. And then when I would see singer-songwriters, I would think in my mind, "This is kind of boring. What's happening here?" So I knew that I could have an edge if I just made sure I wasn't boring. I didn't have a lot of experience and I didn't have a lot of songs, but I did everything in my power to keep it interesting.
With the recent political climate and the general turbulence throughout American society, do you find that more people are coming up to you and thanking you for the positivity that pours out of your music?
I do. I get that a lot. And because I get that a lot, it actually encourages me — if not inspires me — to be a better writer. To be a better person. To be totally prepared when I show up to provide that kind of service, because people do thank me for the messaging I've stuck to or the vibration I put into the song. So I want to continue to honor that.
This goes back to people's time and attention. If they're choosing to put on music, that's because they want to, in a way, change the story (of) whatever's going on in their life back to music, back to love, back to harmony, back to rhyming and rap and whatever it is they like about the music. It's the same with a concert. They're choosing to not stay home and watch the news. They're choosing to not brood about everything going on right now and to put themselves in a soft theater seat and trust in the arts to give them some entertainment and some comfort and some joy, and possibly some transformation.
How about you personally? Do you find it difficult to maintain a positive vibe in your songs given all that's going on in the world? You're only human, of course.
Attitude gets you a long way. Even if someone bullies me, it's going to be my own attitude that has to pick myself back up and keep going. So I do try to work on that attitude constantly. My most recent album had at least one song ("Love Is Still the Answer") that was a direct result of the 2016 presidential election, and that was kind of about attitude. Like, "OK, what's going to happen to this world now? I have to still choose love. I can't just go out there and start blaming and pointing fingers and being afraid. I have to just choose love." ♦
Jason Mraz and Raining Jane • Sat, Nov. 2 at 8 pm • $39.50-$99.50 • All ages • First Interstate Center for the Arts • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • inbpac.com • 279-7000