Categories: Arts

New optimism for Jason Mraz

When you’re spoofed on Seth MacFarlane’s cartoon “Family Guy,” you’ve made it — as in the episode where Peter Griffin tells a hipster on the street, “Hey, you’re Jason Mraz!” and the guy says, “No, I’m not Jason Mraz. I’m just some guy in a hat.” To which Griffin responds, “Yeah, that’s who Jason Mraz is!”

“I don’t know how that happened, but I was happy to be a part of it,” says the Grammy winner, who taped his voiceover in eight minutes. “And that way, it became more lifelike than just animated cels!”

But Mraz, who appears today in San Francisco with the all-girl quartet Raining Jane, is fast outgrowing that caricature. His new album “Yes!,” written and recorded with Raining Jane, weaves his uplifting new beliefs into strummers such as “Shine,” “Quiet” and “3 Things.”

In the ukulele-plucked “Back To the Earth,” he warbles, “Whenever my head starts to hurt, before it goes from bad to feeling worse/ I turn off my phone, I get down low and put my hands in the dirt.” He’s serious. He has a five-acre garden in his back yard in San Diego, where he grows avocados he sells to Chipotle. It soon will be certified organic.

“I feel like with my last couple of records, I’ve just been saying the same thing,” says Mraz, 37. “So I’ve just been trying to get the message stated more simply.”

Since his own outlook is usually pessimistic, he worked hard to infuse the “Yes!” material with optimism.

“I use songwriting as an opportunity for me to transform,” he says. “I try and be a servant of music, rather than some jackass just getting paid to rap and scat and be cool.”

Mraz started in coffeehouses — his 2001 debut was “Live at Java Joe’s” — before arriving at laconic singles like “I’m Yours,” “Make It Mine” and his Colbie Caillat duet, “Lucky.”

To compose back then, he says, “I’d smoke a bunch of weed, tap into whatever, and think. ‘Wow, that’s deep.’ But as I’ve made a home, a family and taken care of my own health, these songs started to take shape. And my philosophy started to show up in the songs.”

Raining Jane — a group Mraz began jamming, then collaborating, with seven years ago — synched perfectly with his vision. So “Yes!” also taught him humility.

“The fact that I get to do this at all is very strange to me,” he says. “So I try to do it with gratitude and just share it with as many others as possible.”

IF YOU GO

Jason Mraz

With Raining Jane

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. today and Tuesday

Tickets: $35 to $89.75

Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

SF Examiner
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