He's All Yours: Jason Mraz on post-major label life, his upcoming tour and co-existing cats

He plays St. Pete's Mahaffey Theater on March 17.

click to enlarge Jason Mraz, who plays Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 17, 2018. - Steve Jurvetson [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Steve Jurvetson [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Jason Mraz, who plays Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 17, 2018.

One might think that Jason Mraz would have a Broadway hangover right about now thanks to a successful run as part of the Waitress cast, but the 40-year-old songwriter and farmer is ready to get back out on the road.

His solo acoustic tour hits St. Pete’s Mahaffey Theater on St. Patrick’s Day, and CL catches Mraz on Valentine’s Day, just a few hours before he and his wife, Christina Carano, get ready for a lowkey evening of yoga and then take out supervised by the couple’s three cats.

After Broadway run, Jason Mraz brings solo acoustic tour to St. Pete's Mahaffey Theater

“I just got home last night after being in New York for four months so my wife is very happy to have me home and that alone is a great Valentine's for us,” Mraz said. “She usually loves to cook everyday, but we're going to go out and [probably] pick something so we can just come home and enjoy each other's company without running around.”

For 20 minutes, Mraz waxed on his relationship with Carano, paying bills, the end of his recording contract with Atlantic, touring and the changing state of the music industry.

Read our full Q&A — and get more information on the show — below.

An Evening With Jason Mraz
Sat. March 17, $59.50-$126.
Mahaffey Theater, 400 1st. St. S., St. Petersburg.

Hi Jason how are you?

I'm good how are you, Ray?

Good. You're a trooper, hours worth of press on Valentine's Day. I'm sure you've been asked questions of you and Tina and all that stuff. So thank you for your time.

Surprisingly very little.


Yeah, No worries—yeah.

People don't want to know that? About your plans for Valentines Day?

I don't know — no. No one's asked.

Do you have any big plans for tonight? Or is it pick up some food on the fly?

Yep. I just got home last night after being in New York for four months so my wife is very happy to have me home and that alone is a great Valentine's for us. But we are going to go to a yoga class this afternoon, and then we're going to pick up some dinner so my wife doesn't have to cook. She usually loves to cook everyday, but we're going to go out and [probably] pick something so we can just come home and enjoy each other's company without running around.

Right on, so how many cats are you sharing — what's the cat count these days in the Mraz household?

Cat count is three. We got three very loyal, loving, quite, chill cats that are also happy to have me home, so we will probably be sitting on the couch with three cats scattered around the room and we'll talk about how much we love and appreciate each other and try not to go too fast — time flies.

Yeah is that something that you still [kinda] have to work on? I think I read that you are really big on writing your feelings down, taking your time to journal; do you and Christina have a lot of open communication about where you're at? I mean you're relative newly weds. She seems like a very righteous person. I imagine you guys doing a lot of proactive things for your relationship.

Yeah. Yeah we do. The biggest thing is we encourage each other not to change, like, it's easy to get into a relationship and just give all your time and energy to someone else or doing only the things someone else likes and then you lose yourself and you ultimately lose the love and excitement in that relationship, so we just encourage each other to continue to continue follow our dreams and passions, whatever that might look like. You know, one example, last night my wife really wanted to go take this class and so she finally did and that meant she couldn't pick me up from the airport even though I had been gone for four months and I that was fine with me, I am so happy that she found this class that she wanted to do and that she is doing it so that is one thing we are mostly constantly in communication about, is just making sure the other person is fulfilled.

What are some of the other things Christina is chasing? Because I think you met in the coffee shop, and shared that going on, and your both passionate about some of the same things. But where do your paths separate from each other in terms of your passions and things that you chase in life that frustrate you and that you want to get better and what is she into?

Well where we overlap is in our health and in food and land. We are very blessed to live out on a ranch so we can work the land together. Where we differ would be my job. I want to make sure I'm paying the water bills around here. My joy is being creative and so I want to stay creative, continually collaborate and record so that I can release and tour material that will ultimately come back around and pay our water bill.

Which is a lot when you're a farmer out in the country.

[Laughs] Yeah, it's a lot. Her passion would be to actually live in a smaller house or just worry about feeding people in a community. Like the actual physical feeding of people, not just the earning money to feed people, but sourcing the best possible food economically and sustainably, and while I have an interest in that, I don't have an expertise and a passion in that. I'm lucky to afford, but I have never given myself time, besides if I just focused on food and feeding people I wouldn't be able to pay to water bill. My thing is creativity and her thing spirituality. She's a nurturer, she's a caregiver and she's really really good at it. She cares for people of all ages, it's really a talent. Mine, I've always been a loner, I wanted to leave my family since I was a teenager so I can go out and be a romantic recluse who played guitar who would communicate with large rooms of people rather than just one on one, which is interesting. So that is where we differ as well.

OK. I like hearing you talk about all these things you've kind of realized in this journey whether you did it deliberately or not, but it feels like your life has come to this super happy place where you have an opportunity to do something else. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you have one more record left on your deal and then you kind of have the rest of this life where you kind of want to do music and creative stuff on your own terms and on your own time. Have you given it a lot of thought to what you think that last album is going to sound like thematically or sonically?

Yeah, and we're about halfway through making it, which is great and so finally starting to hear the sonics. And there are no different than things released in the past. To me this sounds like a follow up to the Yes album which is what I did in 2014, but with a little more oomph, a little more low end, a little more oomph to it. The [inaudible] voices are still part of it and the themes are still the same, as far as love and gratitude and remembering that love is still the answer, no matter what it is we are looking for. You're not going to find it out in the world, ultimately you're going to find it in your world. And for that I'm going to call the album Know, which is a follow up to Yes. And we live in time a of fake news, in a time where everyone has something to say, almost to the point that they make everyone else wrong. But why does everything have to be so black and white? Love is the only answer. Why can't we have kindness, ya'know? The theme is: whatever you think you know, listen to your heart to find the best answer.

OK. I think that is probably your answer to this one question I was going to ask you. Because one of my closest friends has seen you a lot, he is a big fan of yours but he's also a super huge fan of Trump and Tucker Carlson and their ilk. Obviously people are entitled to be multi-faceted, unique, have diverse tastes, and obviously you've talked about love being the only way — "gratitude" and "forgiveness" and things like that, but does it ever frustrate you that some folks in your core fan base seem to be a little aloof — either by choice or by accident — to the some of the more inclusive, and less hateful, and more loving parts of your message in your music, because your music doesn't really skirt around that. Ya'know?  But it seems like this is anybody's fan base I guess. Is it ever frustrating for you? Or are you able to zone out and focus on giving love and exuding gratitude.

Yeah, I get frustrated, but in my show and even in the content I have tried to create, I tried to steer away from what I think about this issue or that issue because that just only creates more debate and argument. I'll get hate mail, people saying shut up and sing.

Right, yes. [laughs] Because that's all you are, is a singer.

I actually think they have a good point to that though, is that I have a platform to promote love as rather than just add to the argument. And at some point in anybody's argument they're going to figure out love. Even if it's on their death bed. We've figured out most usually at times of disaster or tragedy. You know, when theres something horrific that happens everyone stops arguing about the issues and they start helping. And you find yourself at your best when you start helping others, when you start serving others and so I feel like I found myself through music because I have the opportunity to perform these songs and these messages, in a way that I feel that I am actually of service by teaching these little nuggets of happiness, these little nuggets of wisdom that can lead you to your happiness. So I try to do that in all my media and in my music and not worry if a fan has also has an addiction to the Tucker Carlsons or Donald Trumps. That to me, that form of media doesn't help, it doesn't serve the world in anyway other than feed addictions.

It sells commercials.

Yeah, it sells ads, exactly. It sells ads and it justifies fears people have, it justifies old school racisms that might have gotten passed on from generation to generation, but we as a new generation can reprogram ourselves, and we can start to flip that and move towards a kinder, gentler world where we have enough resources for everybody rather than just clinging to the limited resources that are there and making them only available to the elite. So I think everybody has different reasons for why they subscribe to what they subscribe to. I try not to — I can't be in control of that.

But one thing I've noticed in music, no matter where I go around the world is that music is a unifier. Ya'know? When I'm singing to an audience and an audience is singing back with me, you can't tell if one is a Presbyterian, if one is a Jewish person, one is a Muslim. They are all in the same room together, so all our political borders dissolve, all of our geographical borders dissolve. I can't tell if you're from Tennessee or if you're actually from Kentucky or if you're from Ohio. None of that matters. Doesn't matter if you're a Republican or Democrat, music unites us, so there is a real power in song that is a higher vibration than just talking heads on other media channels. So I feel really blessed to contribute to those higher vibrations, and that is why my summer tour is called Good Vibes, ‘cause we just want send out good vibrations. Not continue to fight these other bad vibrations that are out there. We just want to continue to pour good vibrations out there. Period.

Right on, and speaking of that summer tour, how much of a warmup or reprogramming after Broadway is this month long solo acoustic tour? And you probably won't tell me but do you have plans to come back to these solo acoustic towns with the full band show afterwards?

Eventually. There's some towns I did full band with last summer that I'm not hitting this year that I'm doing solo, so I'm trying to create this system where I alternate and where as a small business it also makes sense, too. What markets you can fit for the larger band and what markets are better for a smaller show. So unfortunately that's the true economics of the situation. But I do try to alternate when I can so that I don't leave a place hanging for too long without experiencing one or the other.

So is the solo acoustic thing purely an economic thing? Or are you trying to get your wheels back under you after being in the Broadway machine? Waking up going the same place, same coffee, same things like that.

Yeah, it's a little of both. It's easy for me to get out and do a solo show, because I only take two or three crew people with me. There's a really low overhead. I mean I don't even have a guitar tech. It's just hit the road, get back, get warmed up. I can play smaller theaters, which I love, I so prefer that, and then if I'm taking a bigger band out then we usually need a bigger venue so that it can cover all the costs of the salaries of everybody, so it's a harder business to operate when you have 10 people in your band then you also have a crew of 10 people, then you got more busses, you got more trucks. Your expenses are outrageous, so I try to do this solo thing as much as I can keep the business running, so that I can afford to have the big band out but at the same time it is mostly a warm up because I have not been in that arena in a very long time. Playing songs and understanding the purpose and the narrative I'm gonna be telling, to be out there sharing these songs. I never enjoy going out into a show where I'm just singing a list of songs. To me there really has to be a purpose on why I'm singing this song and why I'm singing this song next. Why is this song coming in the show at all? If I'm just reciting material it doesn't have an energy. It doesn't have a...I'll go back to the word purpose. And I think if something does have a purpose, it's a better show. For me at least, but if it's a better show for me, it's usually a better show for the audience.

Right on.

So yeah, this March is me kind of remembering what I do, trying to build on my past solo shows which I have really figured out a good narrative for those shows. I don't want to do the same show all the time, so I'll be evolving on this one.

Right on, I think I'm running low on time here. I wanted to ask about a possible Agents of Good Roots cover band but I'll ask about something less exciting, I guess. But you've talked about wanting to walk away from this competition aspect of pop music, and you've been at a major label for about two decades now, just for other artists who are entering different phases of their career, could you expand upon how that competition aspect has changed and how the major label thing could be tiring for somebody. You made Rocket and you wanted to prove yourself and you did, and now you'll be getting out, taking your foot off the gas pedal as far as putting out music and just being in that machine. Could you talk about maybe how the competition wore you out and how you may be better managed for people coming out.

Yeah, well nowadays, I think there's even more creators than ever, which is a good thing. It's great that people have access to music making devices. Technology has gotten to us, but that technology has also changed the way we listen to music and not just how we listen to music but the sonic quality of music. And I think I've always done that. Every decade the technology changes and the music changes, so a lot has changed just since 2002, if you go to see a festival there's going to be a lot of DJs or backing tracks added to the band just so that the sounds are massive and then if the next band that comes on is just a regular band with just their instruments they're going to sound very thin and very small, so sonically things have changed a lot. And that's more and more challenging for someone like me, who has never played the backing track and just an acoustic pop guy with a band (occasionally) and for there being more creators out in the world it becomes a more competitive marketplace. How is your song going to cut through all of these hundreds of thousands of songs. I think there are at least 150,000 new songs uploaded to Spotify every month and 50,000 of those come from major labels. I think that's the right number, I could be way off, it could be a half a million or something.

I could check the numbers later.

It could be a half a million uploaded. But I do believe it is somewhere around of 50,000 that get uploaded by major labels. I mean that is a lot of material that's constantly coming out. And so it becomes even harder when you are working with your team at the label to figure out what song are we going to put out, when are we going to put it out, how is it going to stand out from the rest and rather than just put one CD out or a single out, now we've got this whole category of playlists, people are making playlists, which you really want to get your song on a playlist, which are basically like modern versions of radio stations which are generated by the fans, so some of the avenues and technology has changed but the biggest thing that has changed is the number of creators, there are so many more creators that it's made the value of music go way down so that it's harder to earn and sadly the labels paired with government legislation on these bills they're working on to modernize music. They make it impossible for a songwriter to negotiate his own theme on the song. Which any other business, if you we're a coffee shop you could say this coffee is five bucks, and the customer could go "Oh that's too much, I don't want that," and they'll walk out.

Well great, fair enough, but in music when we put it into a service we don't get the opportunity to negotiate, I mean there are a few small sites where you can do that but that's not where the visitors are and where the numbers are as far as the listeners go. So it's very very challenging. And certainly how the labels play, when you're on them you're on their rules, you're on their terms, so there is definitely no negotiating what a song is valued at, you're basically giving away all your music nowadays and hoping that there's going to be enough listeners that it turns into royalties that recoup the money that you spent making your album and hopefully it'll trickle back to you so that you can pay your electrical bill and stuff like that. So yeah, things have changed a little bit, but I'm happy to play it as long as I did, and I'll continue to play, I'll just have to get creative on how I do it, but having had a label be my champion for so many years, which is a blessing.

Yeah, you did a great run with them.

A great run. It's also challenging when you want to curate an album, you know, you have to figure out 10 to 12 songs you all agree on you can't just do 10 to 12 of your own crazy songs on anything you want. It really has to be something that they feel confident putting their energy behind and supporting you as the artist that they originally signed up 15 years ago. It's been harder to take big left turns or just do crazy stuff and be spontaneous because all the recording rights belong to them. Which is fine, we've had a great run and I'm still enjoying the process. But it'll be interesting to see what happens when there isn't that umbrella, that big company overhead. How I will release music and what music I will release.

I think coffee subscriptions. Seven-inches with coffee from the Mraz family farm.

That's a good guess. But will I become a synth band?

Who cares what people think. People are still going to be into it, it's music.

Well thank you, I thank you because it's going to be a little bit of everything because I've been so limited in what I've released over the past 15 years.

That sounds super exciting.

It's kind of like when you finally move out of your parents house and you get an earring and a tattoo and you dye your hair purple. I think similar things are going to happen for me around the year 2020.

Well that's awesome, man. Well congratulations on all your luck and if you talk to Libby tell her I said sorry for going over. But I'm looking forward to seeing you and hope you have a good tour with Brett and hope you have a good solo acoustic tour and thanks for your time.

I appreciate that. Yeah, man thanks so much, sounds like you really cared I appreciate all the nuggets and information you had.

Of course. I remember buying your Live at Java Joe's CD off of CD Baby or something. I was still a teenager and I remember it was my first credit card or something like that. So I was worried it wasn't going to come in the mail. But it did! But yeah, congrats on everything!

Thanks so much!

Cheers, man! Have a great night, and enjoy your take out with Tina... And the cats. All three of them.

Oh I appreciate that, thank you.

Alright, bye.


About The Authors

Brendan McGinley

I am Brendan McGinley I am a writer and student at the University of South Florida, I enjoy music, baseball and the occasional craft beer. I am a New Jersey transplant who calls Florida home.

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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