Mraz sees love in letters, sounds, in all things
Korea's favorite pop star in Busan, Nami Island June 8-9
By Kwaak Je-yup
His rhymes and breezy love songs may not be to everyone’s liking, but most Koreans cannot seem to get enough of the American singer-songwriter Jason Mraz.
His 2009 hit “Lucky,” a duet with Colbie Caillat is still on the Gaon Chart’s official tally, with other tracks from his latest studio album “Love is a Four Letter Word” peppering the table as well. The most notable on the list is his biggest hit to date ’m Yours,” released more than four years ago and still a crowd favorite.
He reveals in the following interview that the decision to include this last track on his third studio album “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things” began from a performance in Korea.
Mraz is returning next week for two dates, June 8 in Busan, the southeastern port city and June 9 on Nami Island, Gyeonggi Province to perform his newest material as well as his hits.
One can expect a lot of love at the venues: his new album oozes it. In one new track, he begins with the line, “When there is love, I can’t wait to talk about it.” Given Mraz’s and the adoring fans’ mutual admiration, there should be an overflow.
Q: Could you briefly explain the philosophy behind “Love is a Four Letter Word?”
A: I really wanted to make an album about love; that was my starting point. So I really set out to make a love-based album about the fact that love is a choice, it’s a choice that we make to see it or not, to have it or not and I’m obviously not a master of it in anyway but I really wanted to learn more about it.
Every song I write is about love or comes from love, inspired by love, the loss of love. And this album was more of an in-depth look at that; I really wanted to find out what is it about love that is so compelling for me to keep my eyes on and believe in it. I hope that it will give the audience yet another look at love and the music will land itself and create its own magic with the listeners.
Q: I absolutely loved “Living in the Moment” (the second track from his new album produced by Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Rick Nowels and Mraz himself). What inspired the song?
A: “Living in the Moment” — this song can be described as the best lesson I’ve learned from my classes. At the end of a class, some teachers will tell you something so simple yet so profound that it sticks with you throughout your day. So, this song is kind of a collection of all that I’ve been learning for the last couple of years that I thought might empower the listeners if one should choose to sing it.
Q: You may already be familiar with the Korean audience avidly singing along with the artists at a live show. What are your thoughts about this? Aside from the fact that you’re looking at thousands of people singing in a foreign language, what do you feel when you hear that as you sing?
A: I experienced so much love and support from my Korean fans even from the earlier stages of my career, which makes me want to come back again and again. In fact, Korea was one of the very first places where I started to perform “I’m Yours” and since then the song received so much love from the Internet, the YouTube videos (of me singing it in Korea) that I eventually decided to put it into my third album, “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.”
Every time I played in Korea, I was always blown away by this amazing fan reaction; the epic audience bouncing and sing-along which made me feel like I was (hallowed ‘90s rock band) Rage Against the Machine! There are definitely something special about the Korean audience and as a performer you can’t ask more for this kind of passionate fans. I’m really thankful and it’s always a pleasure going back to those places where the audience truly enjoy and appreciate your music.
Q: A fan asks: you seem to be rapping at least a little on every album. Can we expect a full-length rap album in the future?
A: That might be an interesting album. I’ll have to think about that.
Q: What are your thoughts on the current trends of popular music? There are the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna vs. those in the vein of Adele and Lana del Rey. You seem to be completely independent, doing your own thing and still being loved by fans.
A: It does sadden me when you see a lot of these guys tampering with the vocals. Although I do like it when a DJ manipulates the vocals, when a singer from the get-go allows their vocals to be constantly manipulated by a computer it’s kind of a letdown. Even if it’s a great singer it still disappoints me.
I will say that the technology that turns out the new sounds and synths and beats, all the herky-jerky, turning this way and that way, I actually do kind of like it. I’m not upset by the evolution and the progress that music is making through this time and it will only continue to evolve and expand.
I imagine soon enough it’ll get back to acoustic music blended with this kind of edginess. When (British singer-songwriter) David Gray did “White Ladder” (in 1998, which catapulted him to worldwide fame), when it was computer generated beats with his guitar and his pristine voice that was a foreshadowing of where music may very well end up. Nowadays you’re getting all computer generated sounds, so I think it’s good to keep a little bit of human element in it.
Q: What could be a piece of advice for the people who want to become professional singers themselves?
A: For those who’re trying out to become musicians — I’ve been there so I know what it’s like. One thing I want to tell you is that make music from your heart and love it unconditionally!