Jason Mraz’s first manager gave him a stark warning on the fickle nature of the music industry when he started out in the early-noughties.
The singer-songwriter – best known for hits like I’m Yours and I Won’t Give Up – rose to prominence on the coffee house circuit in California where he attracted the attention of Bill Silva who would manage him for almost two decades.
“I met my manager early in that experience, who kept his eye on me and said, ‘Look, when you’ve got a lot of songs and your act is a little sharper, let’s do something’,” he tells RETROPOP’s July 2023 issue. “So I knew I had a connection and I just worked really hard to impress that guy.”
His efforts paid off and Jason soon attracted the attention of bosses at Elektra Records, who signed him for his first album. He laughs: “I think my music connected because I don’t really know what I’m doing. People said, ‘I feel like I know this guy’, and I think that sense of familiarity makes me accessible.” But while he toured the US, first, and then the world, there was a piece of advice that stuck in the back of his mind.
“That manager told me at the very beginning of this, ‘You’ll be lucky if you get 10 years’, and that that was kind of a letdown. It scared the shit out of me. So I went into this thinking, ‘Alright, this 10 years is all I’ll get so let’s just make the most of it and have fun’,” he remembers.
“Luckily, I’m Yours broke right around year eight and I was like, ‘OK, well maybe I’ll get 12 years’, then I Won’t Give Up did really well and it was like, ‘Sweet, maybe I’ll get 15 years’.”
He adds: “These little wins just kept winning and during that era in 2012 I started to feel complete, because I’d done more than I ever thought I would have done, my 10 years were up and and I started to detach myself from the competitive business side of it give me more energy and more lightness to keep being creative… and here we are! You know, I don’t expect anybody to listen to anything I do, but so far it’s going really well.”
This month, Jason returns with his eighth album, ‘Mystical Magical Rhythmical Radical Ride’, which sees him broaden his musical horizons and experiment with dance and disco influences.
Of the creative direction, he reflects: “In some ways it’s a conscious effort. I definitely went into the studio trying to understand and figure out the disco and dance elements, because that’s something I hadn’t yet done.
“I feel like anything I had done that was uptempo in the past still had a rock feel to it and I wanted to try to get a little more into the dance lane, because I haven’t experienced that before. I wanted to try something new.”
Look to lead single, the aptly-titled I Feel Like Dancing, or the euphoric Feel Good Too as fine examples of his latest direction for the follow-up to 2020’s reggae-tinged ‘Look For The Good’. But there are also songs like Little Time, Irony of Loneliness, and If You Think You’ve Seen It All that lean into various aspects of his musical past.
“To say that life is just one sound is so sad,” he insists. “To say life is a mystical magical rhythmical radical ride – that makes me want to be on the ride and to enjoy life! It lets me know that life is going to be cyclical, it’s going to be exciting, maybe there’s gonna be wizards and things… I don’t know!
“But it’s going to be something I want to pay attention to and enjoy and that’s been a personal mission through music, to always try to sing in a way that sounds like a familiar friend and to weave a little bit of wisdom and comfort inside my songs.”
Jason continues: “Hell, doing this is a privilege and an honour – the fact that anybody would give me their time and attention to sing one song. So I try to make music that has some kind of purpose or matters in some way. That’s the mysticism, I guess… and everything else is just fucking weird!”
Mystical Magical Rhythmical Radical Ride is out June 28 via BMG.
Read the full interview in the July 2023 edition of RETROPOP, out now. Order yours or subscribe via our Online Store, use our Store Finder to locate your nearest stockist, or get Digital Copies delivered direct to your devices.