Jason Mraz has accomplished quite a bit since the release of his debut album in 2002, and he’s adding another unique credit in the form of the upcoming Five Boroughs tour, which will hit Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and culminate with two shows at Radio City Music Hall. The dates are part of a larger tour in support of his latest album, Yes! The only other artists who did a similar New York trek are David Bowie and the Beastie Boys.
“Well, this whole tour is about small theaters, smaller venues, and having a conversation each night with the crowd, and a commitment to sound quality,” Jason explains. “And we were looking at venues inNew York, and I just kind of threw the idea out there ofRadioCity, which is a theater, although not really small. A week later my manager fired back, ‘There’s some great venues, and we can get a large audience over a week instead of just one night’.”
New Yorkis a unique place, but to Jason the audiences are pretty consistent. “Yeah, I think everybody’s got pride,” he relates. “I’m inDallastoday, and people inDallasthink they’re different, but they’re not. Everybody comes with the same amount of enthusiasm. Once the music comes on we’re all united, we’re all just human beings.”
The tour, as well as the new album, is a collaboration with a group Jason first saw a few years back. They are called Raining Jane, and they consist of four girls who do an eclectic blend of folk and rock, which caught Jason’s ear. “I saw them at a college; we were both on the bill at a college festival in 2006,” he recalls. “I loved them, and how they connected with the audience. I asked them if they wanted to get together and jam, so they came over and played some music. That was a long time ago, but it wasn’t until last summer that I looked at the body of work we had created and I figured we could put a record out. We didn’t really know we were writing a record.”
The cover of the album is a group of five birds flying, which Jason sees as representative of himself and Raining Jane. They are flying in “V” formation, but although when birds fly this way it is typically the male who is out front, he is not necessarily leading the way. His position merely makes it easier for the women and children to fly. The women, in fact, are setting the pace. Jason sees it as emblematic of the band, in that even though his name is on the cover, it’s truly a group effort, and Raining Jane definitely set the pace with their unique sound.
There is also a cover song on the album, a song that was originally an R&B hit in the ‘70s, but was made famous by Boyz II Men in the early ‘90s. “The cover song was a happy accident,” Jason says. “We wanted to put an a cappella song on it. ‘It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday’ we recorded kind of as a research project. We let some friends hear it, and we kind of liked also that it had a throwback kind of thing. The voice of an era, high school graduation. That song was in our blood.”
Yes! is the fifth studio album Jason has released, along with a live album and an EP. The album debuted at number two on the charts, keeping his string of successful commercial and critically acclaimed releases intact. He first burst on the scene with the semi-funky song “Remedy (I Won’t Worry),” which was a fresh sound that’s he’s managed to keep over the years. His single “I’m Yours,” at the time of its release in 2008, set the record for longest run on the Billboard singles chart.
With the Yes! album and tour, Jason hopes to continue the positive vibes he has always exuded through his music, and the shows will have that same vibe. The positive vibe is what made the collaboration of Jason and Raining Jane work so well, and the reason he added an exclamation point to the name.
“We added the exclamation point so people would think it was an album by a band,” Jason says. “’Yes’ is how we got here. ‘Yes’ is what Raining Jane said when I asked if they wanted to jam. ‘Yes’ is what the record company said when I said we wanted to make the album. ‘Yes’ is what Mike Mogis, the producer, said. So it was series of ‘yes’s.’ ‘Yes’ is also a tribute to our friendship and how we got here. It’s the mother of all positive words.”
You can catch Jason and Raining Jane on Sept. 17 in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Center For The Performing Arts; in the Bronx on Sept. 18 at the Lehman Center For The Performing Arts; on Sept. 19 in Queens at the Colden Auditorium At Kupferberg Center For The Performing Arts, Queens College; on Sept. 20 in Staten Island at St. George Theatre; and on Sept. 22 and 23 at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. His new album, Yes! is available now. For more information, go to jasonmraz.com.