Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Mraz mixes styles to create own

By Jason Bennett
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Singer/songwriter Jason Mraz hit the charts in November 2002 with his debut album Waiting For My Rocket To Come, an eclectic mix of country roots rock, hip-hop and jazz.

Since his debut, Mraz has shared stages with artists such as Dave Matthews, Bob Dylan and Jewel, and has released two hit singles with eye-catching videos: "You and I Both," a love ballad in honor of his ex-girlfriend, and "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)," an upbeat hip-hop folk song that makes you wanna dance.

Who: Jason Mraz
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Taft Theatre, 317 E. Fifth St., downtown
Cost: $30
Information: 721-8883 or
Mraz swings into town tonight for a show at the Taft Theatre. He is joined on the Acoustic Tour of the Curbside Prophets with Raúl Midón, Makana and DJ Bob Neck Snapp.

The boyish singer's music is an eclectic folky pop mix of clear, strong vocals and a great band - which includes longtime friend Toca Rivera on drums - helping to shape a musical style that subtly shifts from song to song while still paying homage to his early influences.

"I grew up listening to the '60s Motown/doo-wop with all those horn players," Mraz says. "I wanted my voice to be as unpredictable and clear and strong as Miles Davis and his horn."

Mraz says he was also a big fan of the Gap Band and Michael Jackson's Thriller. If there's one emotion Mraz wishes to convey through his music, he says, "Not to be cheesy, but love. The world needs more love. We don't have enough time in our lives to learn all of our lessons on our own. So if I've learned one myself, or through a relationship I have, I want to impart that."

Mraz hasn't forgotten his upbringing in the small Virginia town of Mechanicsville, population 30,000. Growing up in a town where everyone knows everyone else leaves a mark on you and his music still has that hometown feel, as if his songs were written as conversations with a pal.

In fact, some of his tunes were inspired by those heart-to-hearts and the strength of a close friend.

"My roommate had cancer," Mraz says. "Seeing him go through that, how brave he was, and after his cancer went into remission he continued to go back to the hospital and volunteer ... That just inspired me to do something myself."

Which explains why tickets to several of the Curbside Prophets shows are up for auction on eBay with all of the proceeds going to the Make A Wish Foundation. Mraz says he just likes to see kids smile.

In 2003, Mraz played Pepsi Jammin' on Main and said he had fond memories of the city.

"I remember you guys had one whole stage devoted to local bands, that was awesome," he says. "It's great to find a band you like on the pop charts and go see 'em, but people should really just get out there and support the local bands. Find one you like and follow them all the way to the top. Yeah for Cincinnati's local music scene!"

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