It’s been a busy few months for bisexual singer-songwriter Jason Mraz. The artist known for his lyrical wordplay and guitar strumming is releasing a 15th-anniversary version of his hit album We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things next month. On top of that, Mraz is playing with the New York Pop Orchestra next week and is performing on tour, which will be livestreamed on Veeps on Friday, August 11, at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.
Mraz also released his latest album, Mystical Magical Rhythmical Radical Ride, in June on his 46th birthday.
The new album is a departure from the multi-Grammy Award winner’s previous acoustic sound, with a focus on a more danceable, disco-inspired vibe.
That sound is rooted in the pandemic. Mraz tells The Advocate that he found himself exposed to new music that he hadn’t really listened to before.
Through roller skating.
“In San Diego, we have a lot of places to roller skate outside,” Mraz says. “These are places people would gather and bring a boom box or set up a DJ and skate and dance and dance on wheels.”
The experience not only reconnected the Virginia native with his youth but it allowed him to connect to new music, specifically dance music. His video for “Feel Good Too” even takes place in a skating rink. When they play Mystical Magical Rhythmical Radical Ride, the “Lucky” singerwants listeners transported to the skating rinks of their youth, where you’d slip on some skates, hang out with your friends, and roll onto the hard surface of the rink to glide along and bounce to the latest tune.
That time on the rink and the beats you listen to as you skate on is the mystical, magical, rhythmical, radical ride Mraz is taking us on.
“[I wanted] to then create the kind of music that I could then skate to potentially,” Mraz explains. “I wanted to contribute to that the music that I was hearing — everything from Doja Cat to Dua Lipa. You know, those just those hot disco songs of the last two, three years that are coming from new artists.”
When Mraz and his collaborators started touring again as the pandemic lessened, they found that the audience was yearning for that same ride. He took the songs on the road when he toured last year. They found audience members getting out of their seats and dancing.
That was also the jumping-off point to really get the album out there.
“We had basically all of the dance numbers kind of in the forefront of our imaginations,” Mraz says. Something, he explains, like Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, which spawned hits like “Get Lucky” and “Instant Crush.”
Music, he says, “where it sounds like dance music, but you can tell it's played by humans. Just good old-fashioned disco drums and strings and horns and falsetto and fun lyrics."
“A party onstage,” Mraz says.
At the heart of the album is Mraz wanting to experience something new.
“I've made a lot of albums. I feel like I'm always kind of writing the same album — either writing songs that are meant to cheer me up or I'm songwriting songs that are stoking the fires of love,” Mraz shares. “You can dress those up a variety of ways, and one way I've never done it is sort of in the dance arena.”
The guitarist is best known for his songs “I’m Yours,” “I Won’t Give Up,” and “The Remedy.”
He adds, “It took us many years to really learn how to play dance music first of all because we're just such laid-back acoustic soul kids.”
It took some time before he learned to “drive a beat and find funky baselines.”
Along with experimenting and exploring new sounds on the album, Mraz tells The Advocate, he’s also coming into his own as a queer person.
“I will admit that I probably spent the first close to 20 years of my career just broadcasting as hetero,” he shares. “You know, saying 'girl' in my songs, and a lot of that is growing up on a conservative street. And growing up around homophobia and feeling like I needed to protect some secret.”
The music industry and the expression that it's allowed Mraz to tap into and try has allowed him to get “closer and closer to being myself,” he says.
Songwriting particularly has allowed him to find himself, but he says, it's also what any type of artistic practice can do.
“It helps you peel the layers off of yourself,” Mraz muses. “It helps you continue to express yourself and understand the lessons you're learning in life and understand why you have the loves and the interests you've had in your life.”
Mraz continues, “I was having these curiosities and experiences on the side that were starting to influence who I am and the kind of fun I wanted to have in the world and the kind of person I wanted to be in the world, which is more honest and more loving and more inclusive.”
He says his art now reflects that desire. Accepting his queer identity has also allowed him freedom and joy. The new music and new place in his life has also given him “a clean slate.”
“It’s why this album starts with 'Getting Started' and the album ends with 'If You Think You've Seen It All.' …It's why I put myself on the album cover, which I haven't done in 15 years,” Mraz says. “Because I feel brand-new. I feel like I'm not trying to hide anymore from who I maybe didn't want to be, and now I'm excited to be somebody that I could be.”
You can find Mraz's Atlanta’s Cadence Amphitheatre performance streaming at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT on Veeps.com for $14.99.
Originally posted at: Advocate