A few years ago, Grammy winning singer and songwriter, Jason Mraz released an album that would change his life-- the multi-platinum best-selling, We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. The album featured the record breaking “I’m Yours” — a buoyant, reggae-flavored love song which captured the hearts of people across the globe, surpassing twenty-one million sales worldwide and setting a record for the longest-running song in the 51-year history of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart with 76 weeks on the chart. The track earned Jason a Grammy “Song of the Year” nomination, was ASCAP’s 2010 “Song of the Year” and led to Mraz being given the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s prestigious “Hal David Starlight Award,” which is presented to songwriters who have made a significant impact in the music industry with their original songs. In 2010, Jason garnered two Grammy wins to add to his long list of accomplishments winning “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance” for “Make It Mine” and “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” for “Lucky,” his duet with Colbie Caillat, both from We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.
Though the album had a major effect on the public and the music industry, it had the biggest impact on Mraz himself, propelling the Virginia-born singer and songwriter to international stardom and creating touring demand across the world playing everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House to stadiums around the globe- a sweet invitation for this socially conscious and environmentally minded artist whose mission is to celebrate music’s lasting power to inspire change and help others through global citizenship.
Mraz spent 22 months on the road promoting We Sing, which followed on his previous studio albums, the 2002 debut Waiting For My Rocket To Come and 2005’s Mr. A-Z. “The tour was a blast and a whirlwind,” he says. “I got turned on to the power of the voice and the power of the melody, and it created this desire in me to do it again immediately. Being able to inspire people and take a very simple message global gave me a preview of what that can do. I got home from the tour and thought, ‘How can I spread love to the world through this new platform that I have?’ That became my starting point for this new album.” That album, Love Is A Four Letter Word, contains a heartfelt, uplifting collection that explores love’s ups and downs or as Mraz puts it: “What one does in love to make it work, and what one does in love when it’s time to let go.”
Mraz had been writing steadily, putting all of his experiences into song. He eventually pared down to the final 12 that appear on his fourth studio album, Love Is A Four Letter Word. Recorded at Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Sound with producer Joe Chiccarelli (White Stripes, Christina Perri) and a line-up of all-star session musicians, the album’s clever arrangements and rich musical textures cushion the diamond-cut clarity of Mraz’s pure tenor voice. “I feel like it showcases a variety of moods, from soulful baby-making-jams, to colorful new-jazz, to love-fueled acoustic-guitar-strokery, to rhythmic sunshine-pop,” Mraz says. “And lyrically, I wanted the album to have a balance of the sacred and the silly because I want listeners to have both experiences. I want them to be able to go deep, but not get stuck there. I want them to have sunshine, but not get sunburned.”
What ties the songs together is their theme. “I had this vision that the album was going to be called ‘Love’ and I was going to talk about love and share love in one way or another,” Mraz says. “I thought it was going to be easy because everything I write comes from a place of love, whether it’s a new understanding of it, or a retelling of it, or a reawakening to it. But the more I looked at the subject, the more I realized that love almost can't be defined and who am I to define it anyway? So I went on a journey to try to define the word and be an expression of it in the world.”
That journey led to such songs as first single “I Won’t Give Up,” an emotional acoustic-driven declaration that has already connected with the public, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Songs chart and topping the iTunes “Top Songs” and Hot AC radio charts. “It’s about the experience I had with someone in which I had to go dark and let go of a lot things in order to see that I had everything already,” Mraz says. Another movingly reflective moment is the hushed song of longing “In Your Hands,” as well as “93 Million Miles,” in which Mraz finds peace in the realization that you can feel at home in the world no matter where you are.
Fans of Mraz’s upbeat, groove-fueled work will appreciate the feel-good “Everything is Sound” which Mraz says was inspired by his love for Kirtan — a form of devotional call-and-response group singing in Sanskrit. “I had been going to several Kirtans around L.A. and wanted to write something with a bit of a chant in it so that people could just lose themselves a bit,” he says. “I like the idea of sneaking some of that Hallelujah into contemporary pop music.”
Other highlights include the breezy “Living In The Moment,” the earthy story-song “Frank D Fixer” (inspired by Mraz’s grandfather), and the album’s horn-driven opener “Freedom Song,” which was written by Seattle singer-songwriter Luc Reynaud. “Luc composed this song with some kids in a shelter in Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina and it was released on a CD called Harmonic Humanity and sold by homeless people as a way to raise money,” Mraz explains. “When I heard it, I wrote to him and asked him if I could sing it for everyone I knew because it’s important to keep the message going.” During Mraz’s 2010 trip to Ghana to work with anti-slavery organization Free the Slaves, he sang “Freedom Song” at a school whose many students are former child slaves. The group has adopted it as its theme song.
It’s that crossroads where music, love, hope, and giving back intersect that makes it all meaningful for Mraz a dedicated surfer, yogi and activist. Having worked with the Surfrider Foundation, Free the Slaves, and the True Colors Fund, as well as actively supporting VH1’s Save the Music, Free the Children, SPARC, (the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community), MusiCares, and Life Rolls On, Mraz recently established the Jason Mraz Foundation to help sustain organizations aligned with his pillars of service, including working to end human trafficking within the human rights arena and promoting human equality, fighting for environment preservation, advocating for the arts and education, and aiding with recovery and assistance.
“My mission is simple: it’s to shine a light through music, which can easily be applied to why I sing these songs,” Mraz says. “Often times that light is on the very obvious subject of love. This album represents my view of the world and the realization that I am an important part of it in how the choices I make affect other people. But a little bit of love goes a long way, especially on a planet crowded with individuals struggling with seven billion different versions of human triumph and human suffering. When I remember to simply enjoy being where I am, it makes a world of difference.”