It’s nighttime in Indonesia when we get Jason Mraz on the phone, although day broke just a few hours prior in New York. Mraz is in Bali for his latest tour, which features just him and percussionist Toca Rivera performing at iconic venues like the Sydney Opera House and, this week, Carnegie Hall.
Mraz gave us some insight into these stripped-down shows.
How’s your tour going so far?
I can’t complain because we’re in Bali at the moment, and I never thought that my tours would bring me here. The night before last we played in Taiwan to a captive crowd of 3,000 people. As a musician, you get spoiled when an audience gives you the silence that you crave. When there’s a silent cavern for you to perform in, the sound truly exists in its truest form and I get off on that.
Why did you decide to play Carnegie Hall?
We really just tried to pick great locations and great venues that we’ve always wanted to play, because this isn’t about promoting an album — we’re just having an opportunity to put our music out there.
We could come to New York and play in any theatre or club, and our fans would come, but why not give them the experience of Carnegie Hall as well? And for the musician, it’s perhaps the pinnacle. It’s what you to aspire to, to play in these historic venues. I’ve played in more than one basketball court, and arena, and coliseum, but when you get to play in a venue that was created specifically for music or art, then the words, the lyrics — it’s going to be so much more powerful in that space, as will the receiving of those words, the listening.
Are things different when you play these songs now, as opposed to when you first wrote them?
I think the only thing that’s changed, honestly, other than time, are little silly things like hotel accommodations. The core of what we do is the same: We’re still singing songs about gratitude, transformation, self-awareness, love, self-empowerment — it’s just really human stuff.
One of your shows at Carnegie Hall will be just for children. Do you have babies on the brain or something?
I don’t have babies on the brain (laughs), but I have many friends who do have babies on their laps.
I’ve written a few songs in the past couple of years that I’ve set aside because I’ve said, “These sound like they belong on a kids album.” Reintroducing these songs in a kids show seems like the best place to test the material out before I do dive into something like a kids album, which I think will show up in the next couple of years. It’s not that I wanna make an album for kids, it’s that I wanna make an album for the parents who I know have to listen to kids albums a thousand times in a row.
My brother, for instance, who has a five-year-old son, we get in the car and the most absurd music comes on and the song is on repeat — I don’t know what it is, but it’s all like noise and bells and whistles and goofy voices and stuff, so I have compassion for him and wanna make an album for that.
You have a new album set to come out in 2012?
Yeah, it’s finally finished. It isn’t a departure from anything that we’ve done in the past — there’s certainly a new sound but it isn’t a departure from the genre. The sound is rich in texture, I think the vocal performances are strong (and) the themes tie together really well on this album. I’ve always been a writer that likes to explore the contradictions, or the paradoxes, in life, or the balance in life, and how all of it I think is necessary, so this new album just kinda carries on that same path of thought.