“Please ask him when his avocado gift packs will be available again.” That was one important question a friend and Jason Mraz super fan in Spokane requested to be asked of the award-winning singing-songwriter turned San Diego resident and farmer.
Mraz, who is of Slovak and Czech descent (his surname is Czech for “frost”), was born and raised in Virginia, but America’s Finest City has become his adopted hometown for two of his careers: music (his last album, “Know,” was released in August 2018) and farming (his new coffee line launched this month).
Ahead of his “Ladies & Gentleman, an Evening With Jason Mraz & Raining Jane” tour stop at the First Interstate Center for the Arts on Saturday night, Mraz, who’s known for the hits “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry),” “I’m Yours” and “I Won’t Give Up,” chatted over the phone on Oct. 17 while standing in his avocado grove in San Diego:
Your new tour with Raining Jane kicks off in Modesto, California, on Oct. 23. What are you most excited about with this new tour?
Getting back to just the five of us performing. We’ve collaborated for a long time. We toured in 2013, 2014 and 2015 with a much bigger band, and, on this tour, we’re stripping it down to just the five of us. We’ll revisit songs and sneak in new material and get honest feedback and forge ahead as creators.
How did you meet Raining Jane?
We met in 2006 at a college music festival. There was an immediate connection because we share the same interests and believe in optimism and a strong positive attitude that we bring to the stage and song. We want to guide the listener and audience on this journey into the heart.
There’s a lot of laughter in our relationship, too. Upon meeting, I immediately wanted to see more of these artists, and the collaboration started in 2008. I’m just delighted to be working with Raining Jane – we were meant to be.
What can audiences expect in your concert stop here in Spokane on Nov. 2?
Rawness. We don’t play to tracks, and we don’t have a big band. It’s acoustic. It’s still musical but with amplified harmonies and songs. It’s a night of story and song. I hope that it’s humorous, thoughtful and spirited. It’s a great night for coming with a date or your family – a heartfelt night.
What is your definition of a gentleman?
That’s a good question. And the end of the day, I think it’s all about kindness.
Your most recent “Good Vibes” tour took you to arenas, and “Ladies and a Gentleman” is a return to more intimate venues. Do you prefer arenas or smaller venues?
Smaller venues because I want to see and feel the audience and feel like you know who’s there. You have microclimates in arenas, and audiences experience different things at different times. An arena is more scripted, whereas in a small room there is more room to improvise and work with the audience.
My journalism career included a stint in San Diego from 2002-08, so we may have overlapped in America’s Finest City. Speaking of your adopted hometown of San Diego, please tell me about your new coffee line.
I’ve been in San Diego since 1999, and I purchased an avocado grove in 2004. It was a retreat for me to make music as well as promote healthy eating. It was important for me to take care of the trees and grow organic, but I was losing money. How the heck do farmers make money?!
It is a lot of time and energy, and, in hanging out with farmers, I learned that you have to diversify, like a layered forest, and grow what others don’t. I grow avocados, and now I interplant by growing coffee beans, too. This is the first year of my coffee harvest, and it’s going well so far. We’re just getting started.
I have a friend here in Spokane who is a Jason Mraz super fan, and he wants to know when your avocado gift packs will be available again.
Aw, thanks! Hopefully as soon as February. They’re here – in fact, I’m standing underneath a tree with avocados while talking with you!
What are you working on now besides the tour, coffee and avocados? For starters, the musical “Shine” debuts at Spreckles Theatre in San Diego next February.
Correct! It’s musical-ish. It’s a talent showcase of San Diego nonprofits to advance equality and use the performing arts for inclusion. It includes seven schools and nonprofits. My song catalog is used as a bit of a story. It is a huge undertaking and unpredictable and a lot of fun. This year has been about my first coffee and my first kind of concert or musical for this city.
You’ve had an illustrious and varied career. What are a few of your remaining goals?
I have checked them all off the list! One goal is to slow down, but I just love what I do. I do ask myself, “Why am I so busy?” I’d like to find a balance and figure out how to create and relax and just go on a vacation.
What do you love most about your career after all this time?
I just feel so blessed and grateful to be given this opportunity. Our best wealth is time, and people giving me their attention onstage and in my CDs and records and including me in their attention is a huge honor, and I’m so grateful.
It’s an enormous responsibility. I ask myself, “What am I going to do with that time for good?” I have a foundation, and my music is about positive messages and being transformative. When I started 20 years ago, I was driven by hormones and wanting to be the cool guy (laughs). My career has surpassed all my expectations.
Please tell me something that your fans would be surprised to learn about you.
Probably that I am just making this up as I go (laughs) or I’m not usually confident about what’s about to happen just like any other human being. I’ve gotten lucky, but I also want everything I do to be great, and I invest a lot of energy. I still have plenty of doubt – it’s a lot of guesswork.
You have a special place in my family’s heart because my now 8-year-old nephew Shawn grew up watching “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” and I enjoyed watching it with him as his Uncle Don. How did that come about?
Awww, thank you. I believe that it came about when I was in Washington, D.C., to perform the theme song to “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” and a team from PBS caught wind of it. It was for an event honoring Ellen DeGeneres with the Mark Twain Award.
When PBS and I met afterward, I told them, “If I can ever be of service, please do call on me. I’m a huge fan and a child of the ‘Neighborhood.’ ” An invitation came a few weeks later to work on ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.’ I just raised my hand.
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