According to some music critics, clever lyrics often disguise a song's lack of real substance or genuine emotion. Jason Mraz, however, maintains that his facility with words only adds to what he really wants to say.
"Every song I write, I go through an emotional journey getting it done," he says. "I definitely put myself through hell, as far as my emotions go. I just have trouble being so darn simple about it.
"I just enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out other ways to convey my emotion. I enjoy being clever with things because if you take the music away, is it still going to still be interesting to read? Will it make a neat poem?"
Mraz's lyrical abilities have served him well during his young career. The tongue-twisting lines that populate "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)," which became the breakthrough single from his first album, Waiting for My Rocket to Come, make up a big part of that song's appeal. "The Remedy" lifted Mraz from the low-key life of a local performer to stardom.
A native of Mechanicsville, Va., Mraz began playing music during his college years, developing his skills by busking around New York City. But he never broke into the city's club scene, so he moved west in 1999, first to San Francisco before settling in San Diego. A weekly gig at coffee house Java Joe's helped him build a large local following. Word about Mraz began to spread, and he was signed by Elektra Records in 2002.
Waiting for My Rocket to Come was released in fall 2002, and by spring 2003, the disc was selling briskly behind "The Remedy." It eventually topped 1 million in sales and spawned another single, "You and I Both," that went to the top of Billboard magazine's Adult Top 40 chart.
Mraz toured nearly nonstop through 2003 before taking a break in January 2004 to start writing material for the new CD. The songs he selected for Mr. A-Z offer more variety than those on Waiting for My Rocket to Come.
The softer songs in particular, Mraz points out, highlight facets of his writing and personality that didn't come through on Waiting for My Rocket to Come.
"I think a huge part of who I am likes to be very quiet, like a cow in the meadow. I think I was able to find places in the album to be that cow," he says. "When I think of that (first) album, I think of that day on that photo shoot, sitting on the street, that strolling minstrel (character). There's always life moving about. To me, that time is very little peace."
Mraz is beginning to showcase some of his new material on tour, and feels he and his backing group have hit a stride musically.
"It's the same six-piece that we've been touring with the last six years, although I did get a new guitar player for this tour," he says. "It definitely sounds like a lot more mature show than anything we've ever done. It will still have a good element of the acoustic show in it, but the things we do as a band seem to have a little bit more control.
"We're allowing the songs to breathe and have a little more space. It doesn't seem as overpowering as it used to be. It's still full of energy. It's a lot of fun."
-- Alan Sculley
Jason Mraz with James Blunt
Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St., Denver
Monday, Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25, all ages; visit fillmoreauditorium.com.