Luke Skywalker had Darth Vader. Biggie had Tupac. Jack Black has Jack White. Jason Mraz, apparently, has John Mayer.
“Is that bad?” Mraz asks from across the table with a semi-guilty grimace. Mraz is quite a sight. His cigarette-fueled sensuality offsets the childish tackiness of his pink polyester shirt and ostentatious mesh baseball cap. Looking like an under-age trucker from disco's heyday, he explains the intricacies of his relationship with Mayer.
It seems singer-songwriter Mayer-after expressing interest in contributing some guitar lines to Mraz's Elektra Records debut (released this week)-bailed out on a specially booked recording session in New York that cost Mraz and company a bit of dough.
“All he had to do was show up for two hours and just jam,” Mraz explains. “He called us [the day before] and said he couldn't do it. One thing I would've liked was an explanation. And if it was, ‘Well, I had a date with Jennifer Love Hewitt,' then that would be fine. We never heard from him again.
“When I got back to L.A., the first person I run into at a pizza place was Jennifer Love Hewitt. So I introduced myself and said, ‘Yeah, just let him know that you ran into Mraz.' That's been my new goal-anywhere we go-to haunt John Mayer. I don't want to cut his hand off, like he cut off mine.”
To continue the Star Wars analogy of good versus evil-does Hewitt represent Princess Leah then?
“She's Jaba,” he scowls. “She works alongside of him in this wicked, evil way that no one can really understand. Seriously, this is a fictional galaxy far, far away kind of bitterness. If I saw him, I would kill his ass with kindness because I love everybody.”
And he does. Mraz is wholeheartedly in love with life-especially his own-and it's no wonder. Saying that Jason Mraz is lucky is a colossal understatement.
In 1998, Mraz dropped out of college (his second collegiate try) and headed west from Virginia to California to try his luck at music, despite having played guitar for only three years. On a stop in Las Vegas he pulled out his guitar in a hotel room of friends and strangers and strummed some tunes, oblivious that influential promoter/manager Bill Silva (Unwritten Law) was one of the strangers.
Silva, who was in the process of relocating to L.A., gave Mraz the keys to his empty Mission Hills house until it sold. The house didn't sell for two years, which was enough for Mraz to establish a regularly sold-out residency at Ocean Beach coffee haven Java Joe's.
“I got extremely lucky,” Mraz admits. “If I could, I'd tell somebody, ‘Hook up with a big promoter and live at his house for a few years and get your feet planted, find a home-be it a coffee house or a bar or a street corner where people can find you doing your thing and just do it and it'll catch on.”
On the opposite side of America from his “too humid, too hot, too small, too hometown, haunting, redneck” hometown of Mechanicsville, Virginia, Mraz says he leaves his “clothes and stuff” in L.A. He moved to L.A. a few months ago to be closer to the industry epicenter, though he says he hasn't been home for more than two months in the last year.
“L.A.'s not bad. I don't go out-all my shit's just there. I love my room. It's the first bedroom I've had since I lived [in California],” he says, examining his fingernails. “I've never been happier in my life. I've never worked harder in my life, either, that's for damn sure. I wouldn't change a thing about it.”
The 24-year-old's happiness has everything to do with his soaring voice, jangly guitar work and sexually-charged stage presence. His debut, Waiting for My Rocket to Come, is a rich mixture of lyrical skatting and sass layered over four-minute servings of rhythmic coitus. Despite his self-proclaimed “love of musical silence,” Mraz says his first reaction to his finished debut was: “Loud.”
“I had at my access some phenomenal musicians that could just jam [with] and write like I've never written before. The kind of songs that just throb,” he says, pausing as an insufficiently clad woman walks by.
“I'll have the rest of my life to make quiet music,” he continues after a lengthy pause. “This album is straight up, ‘Hey, check this out-I'm trying to get laid!'”
Mraz, a veteran of high school and college musical dramas, has typically connected with his fans on stage. He's much more comfortable in front of a throng of caffeinated coffee shoppers than in the studio, he says. Up until now, all of his recordings have been live junkets at Jave Joe's.
“It's hard to really connect with people when you [record] and you wonder how real music is,” he says. “I'm looking forward to the challenge of turning people around so that after we hit the town near them they're like, ‘Oh my god, you know that really crappy pop guy, Jason Mraz-he's actually really good!'”