Jason Mraz gets agreeable with new album 'Yes!'

Jason Mraz. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)

Jason Mraz. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)

Jane Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:06 PM ET

San Diego-based singer-songwriter Jason Mraz of I’m Yours fame decided to say Yes! with his fifth CD of the same name that brings him to Canada for a string of dates in October.

That affirmative declaration meant hooking up with longtime musician pals Raining Jane, the L.A.-based all-female indie pop-folk-rock foursome, to create his first ever entirely acoustic release, which debuted at No. 2 on the album charts in Canada and the U.S. following its mid-July release.

“We were both booked at a college eight years ago,” said Mraz, 37. “I watched them, they were one of the many bands playing that day, and I said, ‘Yes! These girls are killing it... And so after their set I said, ‘Hi, I’m Jason, would you ever like to get together and write or jam or anything?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ ”

Fast forward to a few months later and they starting writing songs together and, as Mraz puts it: “A new sound was born.”

One of their first collaborative tunes, A Beautiful Mess, ended up on Mraz’s third album, 2008’s We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. — which spawned I’m Yours — but they kept on working together a couple of times a year on weekends until Yes! finally came to fruition.

“It was the best and it’s still the best,” he said of working with an all-girl band.

We caught up with Mraz in Toronto recently to talk the power of saying yes, working with women, and his longtime social activism.

Why call the album Yes!?

Well, it goes all the way back to me saying ‘yes’ when I first saw the girls perform. Like ‘yes!’ and inviting them and them saying, ‘yes.’ The years of saying ‘yes’ to the idea that we can write great songs and they matter and they make a difference. And to our manager and our label saying ‘yes’ to the idea. To our producer Mike Mogis for getting on board and saying ‘yes.’ It was a dream come true. So looking back, after the record was done, even in our collaborative experience, saying ‘yes’ always got us to the next verse. That we decided to celebrate our first record together, or my first acoustic album, or the quality of this record. It was a victory for us and I just felt that ‘Yes!’ was a perfect fit. It’s the mother of all positive words. When you say yes, something’s going to be born into the world.

And you’ve seen the Jim Carrey comedy Yes Man and know it can go horribly wrong?

It can go wrong and I’ve said yes many times to things that, months later, it’s coming up and you’re like, ‘Oh, man I wish I hadn’t said yes to that. I so don’t want to go.’ I do say yes a lot.

How would you describe the slow build-up to releasing an album with Raining Jane?

They’ve inspired me through their work ethic and through their musicianship so we thought, ‘One of these days we’ll put an album out together so fans can hear what we’re doing.’ I didn’t expect it to become a main event and have my name on it. I thought it would be like a side project we’d do together, sneak it in. But once we made it and we had the support of the label we realized I’ve got this opportunity with my previous successes to really get it out there.

You sound like a man in great relationship on Yes! Am I reading that correctly?

It’s a good one. It’s been about three years.

Are you happy that your previous hit, I’m Yours, has becoming a wedding anthem — i.e. a favourite first dance song?

Absolutely. I’m glad if any song takes on a life of its own. Although we have been pretty good about not letting certain brands use (my songs). Like I’ve never done an alcoholic beverage ad. If it’s a car or a product, they have to have a very high level of sort of green initiative so I have been a little choosy. But when it’s love — no problem.

When did your social activism first come into play?

It probably started with my best friend in high school. He came out in my senior year. And to me, I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s brave.’ He had just started college but I was still in high school. But still, we were in our small town that wasn’t the thing that you did in Mechanicsville, Va., so that was the first time I ever thought, ‘Okay, you need to do something in the world that makes it easier for my friend.’ There’ll be some sort of social responsibility that just levels the playing field for all mankind. And then through the years, my music taking me around the world and having my eyes opened to homelessness or modern day slavery to the extreme and then to just general consumption, pollution, that sort of thing, well I thought, ‘Okay, here I am. I’ve got this microphone. I’ve got these cameras. Maybe I can ad a little bit of social responsibility to my work.’

Do you have a sense of your Canadian fanbase?

You definitely can feel the gratitude for having crossed the border. Yeah, you can. You still get some people that are like, ‘Please come to Saskatchewan.’ Or ‘Please come to Edmonton.’ And unfortunately, we’re not playing every city. There’s still some talk about covering some more markets in 2015 because we think the record will still be likeable next year and people may want to see it and because I’ve asked to play smaller venues that does leave a lot of people still wanting to see the show.

So the new music suits smaller venues?

(I decided) that we commit to the quality. I want to have a conversation. And I want to take risks and I want to be real quiet at times ... We’re going to bring Raining Jane along because that’s who helped write it and record it and I couldn’t go and play this album with anybody else.

Jason Mraz Canadian 2014 tour dates

Oct. 7 Montreal Salle Wilfrid-Pellietier

Oct. 8-9 Toronto Massey Hall

Oct. 23 Vancouver Queen Elizabeth Theatre

 


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