San Diego’s Folkster

    Though San Diego’s own acoustic guitar-toting hero may be too big to play at Java Joe’s these days, it doesn’t mean he’s flown the coop entirely. Two San Diego shows in two months is probably as good as we’ll get for a while from Jason Mraz, who is currently touring the country in support of his second major label album, the almost-self-titled Mr. A-Z. We talked on the phone with Mraz in Wisconsin, a week before his return to SD to play SOMA Oct. 26.

    Guardian: You do still live in San Diego, right?

    Mraz: Sure do, [in] North County.

    G: Do you still get a chance to surf around here?

    M: When I’m home, yeah.

    G: Long board or short board?

    M: It’s getting smaller, but I’m still on the long board. I’m on a seven-and-a-half [-foot board] right now. I really enjoy it ‘cause I can ride it in lots of different conditions.

    G: Was it a weird experience to see yourself on TV in those Gap ads this summer?

    M: You know, I never saw it on TV. I saw it on the Internet because I wanted to see what it looked like, the final product. After you do something like that, it doesn’t surprise you anymore if it does come on TV. It’s the same with hearing your song on the radio — maybe the first time you hear it you’re like “Oh my God, it’s on the radio,” but the last thing I want to do is listen to the radio.

    G: Is “One Love” actually your favorite song, or is it your favorite song-that-would-fit-well-with-a-Gap-compilation-CD?

    M: That is a darn good question. Yeah, it’s the favorite song that would fit well on a Gap compilation CD — basically everyone who did that commercial had to submit 10 tunes, so that it could make “quality programming.”

    G: When you were first signing with Atlantic Records, is this how you pictured success?

    M: What I didn’t expect to happen was for everything to turn into such a huge pop brand. I tried to fight that for a couple weeks, but then I thought, “Why?” This is just how it’s turning out, and people are reacting to it.

    G: Before your last record was released, you said the one song you hated was “The Remedy.” After all its success, has the song grown on you, or did you just get really, really sick of it?

    M: Funny enough, it grew on us. It’s probably one of the more fun songs to play and it’s still the one that gets the biggest reaction at shows. I did that interview [when I said I hated the song] the day I finished the record, and I walked away from that studio nervous as hell; I was afraid everybody at Java Joe’s was gonna hate me, because my album wasn’t sounding anything like the Java Joe era in San Diego. At the time “The Remedy” scared the shit out of me — it was Jason Mraz and Toca Rivera at the time, so how are these two goons from a coffee shop gonna pull off “The Remedy” on tour? But we eventually figured it out.

    G: You used to seem a little freaked out by the idea of being a sex symbol. But your new single “Geek in the Pink” makes it seem like you’re at least a little comfortable with that now.

    M: It’s fun. It’s all a show, everything we do on stage. No matter how much I throw in sexual innuendos and try to do these goofy dance moves, I always feel like the biggest dork, so finally “Geek in the Pink” is a song that can make me feel comfortable in my own skin.

    G: Since your success, have you been hearing from the assholes from high school?

    M: I hear about it. I’m just in contact with my best friends from my hometown and I hear through them that they’re always running into people, the assholes from my high school, [saying things] like “Oh yeah, J and I were friends in high school.” Fuck that guy. We weren’t.

    G: Some fans would still argue that your best songwriting has been on some of the simple acoustic songs from the Java Joe’s days, i.e. “Zero Percent Interest” and “Unfold.” Do you have any desire to do studio recordings of some of this older bank of work?

    M: I’m always thinking about shit like that. I never properly recorded “Unfold” and I’ve tried “Zero Percent Interest” a million times, and I never found a good recording of it. I’ve always been tempted, but when I do finally sit down in front of a mic in a proper studio to record those songs, I just can’t help but think, “God, these songs are five years old!” I don’t know yet, it’s tricky; my heart has to be in it. But what it has made me think is that I do want my next record to be of that vein, and of that style: mostly acoustic, go back to that old kind of songwriting and free-flowing structure.

    G: How do you want to be remembered?

    M: The luckiest dude in the world. You remember that song about the luckiest guy in the world? (sings) What made him lucky? I don’t know; he was a nothin’ nobody from a little town and now he dates the hot surfer chick from San Diego and his life is grand and he never washes his hair but he’s yet to have dandruff and he’s been blessed with decent skin and he’s STD-free. What a lucky guy.

    If you’re kicking yourself for missing the gig on Oct. 26, catch the luckiest guy in the world Nov. 26 at the Copley Symphony Hall.

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