When you hit rock bottom, Jason Mraz is the guy you want to pull you out of the murk.
The singer-songwriter makes it his mission to see the bright side of life. He pens upbeat pop numbers like The Remedy (I Won't Worry), You and I Both and this year's scat-infused I'm Yours, which has been sitting pretty in the Billboard top 10 for more than a month. Mraz says you'd be hard-pressed to find an angry song on any of his three studio albums, the latest of which is named We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.
When Mraz, 31, called tbt* from a tour stop in Richmond, Va., we tried our best to evoke his dark side.
I was doing my Thanksgiving shopping the other day. I was tired and stressed out, and then I'm Yours came on the loudspeaker. It changed my whole mood. A lot of your songs have that effect. Is that your intent?
It is the intent. ... I write because it makes me feel good. If I can turn that feel-good feeling into something that's shared, then of course.
So many songwriters use music to channel their rage. What do you do with yours?
I don't like to think that I have rage, but I've got moments — I'm human — where I can get frustrated or disappointed or sad, and I still use writing to channel that. I might have one or two songs in my catalog that are really angry with something, but that's not something I'm going to put on an album. It's certainly not something that I want to tour around the world and sing night after night, like, "Here, let me bring the audience into a moment where I was really depressed about something." I just don't think that's my job.
When's the last time you lost your temper?
It was maybe two or three weeks ago. I got a quick chance to visit my home (in San Diego) — just to go home, jump in the ocean, do some laundry, and I honestly didn't want to leave. ... I kind of went kicking and screaming.
The album is titled We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. What have we stolen?
It's not that I'm a klepto. I like that think that it's a throw to all the things that we take for granted. It's also a throw to all the ideas that we've borrowed from past generations, all the resources that we steal from the planet.
In the literal sense of stealing, have you ever shoplifted anything?
Certainly. It's not a regular thing. When I was about 13, I got busted for stealing a T-shirt from a surf shop. The bad part is, it was while we were all at Bible camp. (laughs) It was this Bible retreat at the beach. We're taking a lunch break, and we're running up and down the streets, and my friends and I get caught stealing this shirt. I don't know why we did it.
Christmas albums: Good idea or not so much?
Great idea. I will do one someday. Every year I write a few more tunes, so maybe in another year or two I'll have enough to create an album. Every year my friends and I do a Christmas pageant in San Diego. It's a little raunchy, it's a little absurd. It probably offends those who truly are devout Christians or anyone who really goes deep with Christmas.
But you're the guy who shoplifted at church camp.