Jason Mraz is known for relentlessly upbeat songs like “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry),” “I’m Yours” and “I Won’t Give Up.” But the two-time Grammy winner was so bummed out at the result of the 2016 presidential election that his writing went dark.
“I write about whatever’s going on in my life, and certainly after that election I was very despondent,” says Mraz, 41. “I honestly didn’t know how to come out and sing these happy love songs. So I wrote songs about trying to figure out my own identity in the new administration.”
But Mraz’s label, Atlantic Records, wasn’t feeling the funk in his new tunes, “politely rejecting” that material. “Through their eyes, I’m an artist who’s written people’s wedding songs, engagement songs. I think it’s important to keep watering that bouquet of flowers and not just start pissing all over that.”
The result of that creative nourishment is “Know.,” the singer-songwriter’s sixth studio album, which drops Aug. 10. During the LP’s release week, Mraz will play two NYC shows on his Good Vibes summer tour: Prospect Park Bandshell on Tuesday and Central Park SummerStage on Thursday. There will also be a documentary featuring the album’s music, “Jason Mraz: Have It All — The Movie,” in theaters on Tuesday only.
‘I wrote songs about trying to figure out my own identity.’
“Know.” is the follow-up to 2014’s “YES!” But while playing off “No,” Mraz wanted “to celebrate positivity instead of negativity” in his new album’s title. “K-N-O-W is powerful, whereas N-O is a wall between us,” he says. “K-N-O-W propels us.”
Mraz is clearly back in the mood-elevation game on songs with such positive titles as “Have It All,” “Unlonely” and “Love Is Still the Answer.” The Virginia-born artist got some uplift from his three-month stint as the male romantic lead, Dr. Pomatter, in Sara Bareilles’ Broadway musical “Waitress.”
“I loved that I didn’t have to write a set list every day. I didn’t have to pick out my clothes. I knew exactly what I was going to do every day, every night,” Mraz says of his theater routine. “And it was a thrill. Where I was a little uptight in wondering who as an artist I am [before ‘Waitress’], I left there realizing that a lot of people choose entertainment because it’s like a little mini-vacation.”
Mraz credits “Waitress” with inspiring his direction for both “Know.” and his Good Vibes tour. “We’re all wearing costumes, and we’re bringing dance moves into the show because it’s good old-fashioned entertainment,” he says. “That’s something that I was never really comfortable with, but Broadway really opened my eyes to [not]forget to have fun.”
You can see Mraz having plenty of fun in the video for his new single “Might as Well Dance,” which features footage from his 2015 wedding to Christina Carano. One highlight of their big day was the chow: “The food was pretty darn good because my wife is a chef, so she made sure that the menu was off the charts — and it was a vegan meal.”
Jason Mraz performs opposite Sara Bareilles in “Waitress.”Bruce Glikas/WireImage
Mraz, who got his start playing coffeehouses in San Diego, ended up marrying a former coffee-shop owner in Carano. And he recently picked up some barista skills himself at Frisson Espresso.
“I was going in [to the East Village location]every day to get coffee, and I kept asking them questions,” he says, about how they make their drinks. They wound up teaching him the ropes. “By the end of ‘Waitress,’” Mraz says, “I was working shifts at Frisson” — the one on 47th Street, near the theater — “firing off a bunch of drinks.”
There was a more personal development in Mraz’s life in June when he wrote a poem to the LGBTQ community for Billboard. Was writing the line “I am bi your side” his way of coming out as bisexual?
“Well, yeah,” he says. “And I didn’t anticipate it. It kind of caught me by surprise, but I strive to continue to learn and grow and evolve and know myself.”
Still, coming out wasn’t easy for him. “It was tough, ’cause not even my mom knew it, you know?” says Mraz. “And I realized that’s the struggle that people in the LGBT community have. It can be a very stressful secret that we carry.”
But Mraz — whose wife helped him understand his bisexuality by likening it to the Native American term “two spirit” — says there hasn’t been any backlash or much reaction, period: “Absolutely zero. And I think that’s the cosmic joke. We carry around these secrets, and then once you say something, nobody cares.”