What went down at the Jason Mraz press con as told to us by Samuel C Wee & Jeanette Chin.
(Jean Danker): Hi Jason, I’m Jean, nice to meet you. We love it that you’re so at home. You can have a seat here, and relax. I love it, I feel like we should all take off our shoes.
Jason Mraz (JM): Cardboard bench here too, it’s beautiful!
Jean Danker: Recycled paper, so you’re gonna love it.
Welcome back to Singapore, Jason. You’re back for a sell-out concert again after your last one in 2009. This one’s even bigger now—15000 people, how do you feel about that?
Well, you know, I think Gardens By The Bay has a lot to do with that, because it’s such a beautiful setting here. I think a lot of people are really excited to just come and see what all the fuss is about, to see all the beauty, to actually see what’s growing on here, I’d like to say. And then also, I’ve got to credit our fans, you know, they’ve been very loyal from the beginning and it seems like after every show, they tell one or two people, and so it gets a little bit bigger each time. I’m not taking any of the credit, you know, this really is about others.
Your new album, Love is a Four Letter Word was released in April, and it’s already gone gold in Singapore! Congratulations for that, how do you feel about it?
JM: Grateful, and surprised… I’m always surprised, ‘cos I write songs in my bedroom, and I write them for myself, to fill any void that I may have, or to answer any question about my existence, and then I put it out in the world and trust that it’ll be heard by whoever needs that medicine at that time. So the fact that it’s being received so well here is a surprise, and it keeps me grateful and really excited.
(Divian) We have a phrase here in Singapore to express that feeling, it’s called “Si beh shiok!”
JM: Si beh shiok!
(Divian) So you could just go to the concert and say, “Si beh shiok” and then people would just go crazy.
You always write lyrics and words and songs that connect with people. Do you think you have a special formula, what is it?
No, I don’t have a special formula, because it’s not easy, what I do. If I did have a special formula, I’d have tons and tons of albums. But it’s a journey. Every album for me is a journey, and every song I write, that page is blank before me. And I do my best to not think, to just stay out of my way, and to just channel and emote, and then it’s in the editing process, where I do my best to not be boring. To not just deliver some familiar, simple, predictable message, but make sure that there’s a good amount of truth or vulnerability exposed in the song, because I think that’s when humans will see their own lives in the work. You know, we get it in great literature, we get it in films, when we connect to certain characters. So I think music, that’s what it always did for me. When I was a young man, I would listen to a song, and I’d feel not so alone, and I’d feel so much better about my life, because I could connect myself to that song. And so, as a writer, I strive to do that as well, to connect my life to the song, in order for listeners to have that same experience.
Your new look is really interesting, can you tell us more about it?
You know I saw a really cool picture the other day, it was of someone’s bathroom and they had removed the mirror from above their sink, so there was no medicine cabinet, there was no mirror in the bathroom, and in place of the mirror, it just said “You look fine.”
I really love that. It’s this act of not obsessing over what you look like, and just go about your day, you know, how do you feel inside? And honestly, I feel more complete and whole and excited about my life now than I ever have, and that’s probably why my outside appearance had started to change a bit.
It’s not final, I’m sure I’m gonna shave when I get home, and I’m sure next year I’ll cut my hair or something. And then people will say, what happened to your long hair. It’s none of my business what others think of me, that’s my new motto, because I feel great about where I am in my life.
Pat Monaghan from the band Train recently said he wished he had written the song “I’m Yours”. As a singer-songwriter, is there any song that you wish you had written?
“Imagine”, that’s a good one…Half of Bob Dylan’s collection. It would’ve been cool to have been in the Beatles, that would’ve been nice. You know, I actually don’t listen to too many singer-songwriters, because I have that problem. I listen to songs and I go “Oh my gosh, this is the best song ever written. I’m horrible. I should just quit now.”
I saw from Instagram that you’ve actually been to exotic places like Antarctica, so how was the experience there?
JM: Profound. Going to Antarctica is such an extraordinary feeling. I learned also that it’s the number 1 tourist destination that people go back to, so after you’ve been there once, you’re so moved by what you’ve seen and what you’ve experienced, most people do what they can to return.
…As a songwriter, I love being in nature, I love solitude. Antarctica is nothing but nature and solitude. But more importantly, I went with Al Gore and a team of scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, so that we could learn about the stark realities of climate change. We were on a scientific exploration ship, so onboard, we got to learn all the science that’s been done for the last 30 years, seeing exactly how humans are having an impact on the planet, and then it was a solution-based program, how we can then come back into our Western worlds and our civilized worlds, and use our microphones and our medias to do our best to encourage people to continue to live consciously, so that it’s not so much we, but that our kids and their kids can live here sustainably on this planet.
I feel we’re consuming more now than we ever have been. Even though our awareness is greater, it’s not stopping us from burning carbon fuels, carbon-based fuels and clearing land. I mean, the haze over Singapore is an example of land clearing that’s happening on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. That’s happening all over the world. And that has incredible economic and health costs. And it was going to Antarctica that made me more aware of our planet and what we can do about it.
I started a tree-planting project, so that I could do my best to offset my carbon, ‘cos here I am, I’m talking about being an eco-warrior and I fly every other day, and I’m not flying by myself, I’m flying with 23 other people, so my carbon footprint is probably bigger than anyone else in this room, so I feel I have a responsibility.
Being a bit of an environmentalist yourself, what do you think of the supertrees, and do you think it really raises environmental consciousness?
JM: I think so, because you can’t help but be in awe, because it’s art first of all, you’re looking at beautiful art, and art no matter what it is, gets a reaction out of people, people get drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Once you spend that time with that artwork, this vertical garden, you realize that’s exactly what it is in this world of limited space, we can still grow vertically. You know, we can grow air plants, we can grow tropical fruits and trees that only used a few inches of soil, ‘cos people often complain we don’t have enough room to grow things, When you look at the supertrees here and a lot of the projects that are being grown here though, you discover, “Oh, this could actually be done on my roof or in my kitchen or in my little 2 inches of side yard that I have beside my house.” So I think aside from the beauty and the artistic expression that this place is, it’s one heckuva learning experience for all of us, so I applaud Dr. Tan and all of his crew here.
What was the turning point where you decided to champion the environment, and how do you use music to create environmental awareness?
JM: Well, there were 2 things that happened almost simultaneously. One, I bought a home, and I realized that this is now my piece of earth that I’m responsible for, no one else is gonna come here and sort my trash, and do my recycling, and turn my lights off, and water my trees, etc. So this is my responsibility.
I also started surfing at that same time, and I would spend time in the ocean and love it, but be really disappointed when I went back to the sand, and it was broken glass bottles and cigarette butts and garbage in the sand, or trash floating along beside me in the water. Or even worse, after it rained, they’d put up signs all over the beach saying, please don’t swim, because after it rained, all the water becomes polluted, and I didn’t know that until I’d become a surfer.
And I started to think about all these families who’d bring their kids to allow them to swim in the water, and how polluted it’s become, and I felt then that I had a responsibility, for my own selfish reasons, because I want to keep surfing, and I want it to be clean until I’m an old man. And if I have kids, I’d wanted the water to be clean for them,. So thanks to my last album taking off, and given the opportunities to do press conferences and talk on camera, and obviously, create music, which I’d always known to be a powerful fundraising tool, I’d also knew that music was also a means to express yourself and draw attention to certain things.
I try not to preach in my music, but I do try to offer ways of being, in hopes that when you listen to the music, you want to take responsibility for whatever it is that you’re most passionate about. So in this most recent album, I sing a song about the world as I see it, it’s just about even though we have pollution and smoke stacks and consuming even more energy than ever, we can continue to create the world as a beautiful place. There’s a number of songs where I hope to empower a listener, just for them to follow through on whatever it is they’re passionate about, that’s how I choose to use music.
Thanks to Evelyn Woo/Warner Music for making this feature possible