"I would love to put out a rap album. ... I think there needs to be a geek rapper out there."

Jason Mraz, Singer


Riding his

A coffeehouse singer
soars to success

JASON MRAZ has finally discovered the importance of eating breakfast. It's shortly after noon in San Diego when he picks up the phone to do this interview. But for someone known as a night owl who loves to sleep in, Mraz speaks with surprisingly energy.

Jason Mraz

With special guest Tristan Prettyman and local opener Makana

Where: Hawaii Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow

Tickets: $20 to $27.50

Info: 528-0506 or hawaiitheatre.com

"Having breakfast every morning (has) kind of transformed me into a morning person," he explains. "I'm not getting up at 8, but if I get up at 10 and start making breakfast, that works."

Instead of a New Year's resolution, the morning meal is his new ritual for 2005 while he's still got some downtime in Southern California.

"We had a bunch of friends spend the night after New Year's," he says. "We all got up and had the biggest breakfast we've ever made by ourselves.

"This tradition has kind of continued every morning now. It's just been a great thing."

THE SUCCESS of Mraz's debut album, "Waiting for My Rocket to Come," and last year's follow-up, "Tonight Not Again: Live at the Eagles Ballroom," have also been great things in the 27-year-old's burgeoning career.

Born in Mechanicsville, Va., Mraz got his big break through the coffeehouse scene in San Diego after dropping out of New York's American Musical and Dramatic Academy in 1996.

"I decided that I didn't want to compete in the musical theater world," says Mraz. "That was the only place where I knew that I could sing ... (but) when you went out for a job, you were auditioning against 300 other people singing the exact same song."

Discouraged by the prospects of such intense competition, he decided to move back home and work on writing his own material. Part of the inspiration to do that came from his roommate in New York, who taught him the basics of playing guitar.

"He started teaching me chords and I started making up songs," he says. "I decided to do it that way because I felt like I wouldn't be competing with anyone."

For the next three years, Mraz focused on improving his playing and songwriting skills. In late 1999, boredom began to set in.

With the rest of his family pressuring him to give up his rock-star dreams, Mraz decided to take a chance and go on an adventure to the West Coast.

"I hadn't planned on living here," he says. "I just kept meeting all the right people."

Jason Mraz dropped out of New York's American Musical and Dramatic Academy in 1996 and moved back home to write his own songs.

AS IT turned out, all the right people ended up being part of the coffeehouse scene that was (and continues to be) big in San Diego.

"I tried the Bay Area first, and then I kind of went down to L.A. and kept going south," says Mraz. "I hadn't done much live performing at the time, and San Diego six years ago was this perfect acoustic music community that I could immediately participate in and learn from all these great musicians."

With a number of venues offering performance time and a large audience following for up-and-coming artists, the singer was able to meet and collaborate with others who shared his passion for creating music.

About a month after he arrived, Mraz had already managed to score opening gigs for other coffee-shop acts. Within a year he was performing regularly on his own.

"The coffee-shop scene was definitely my college years," says Mraz. "I learned so much from that, and I was able to play so regularly."

On the cover: Jason Mraz

JUST TWO years later, the record labels started to call. Mraz signed with Elektra in May 2002, with "Waiting for My Rocket to Come" being released the following year.

"I didn't expect it to happen so soon," he admits. "We made (the first album) so quickly, I can hardly remember making it."

The recording process changed a bit for Mraz's next studio release, tentatively titled "Mr. A-Z" and scheduled for release toward the end of this summer. Instead of recording with studio musicians and songwriters that he didn't know very well, with the new album he follows in the footsteps of "Tonight Not Again" and the collaborative efforts of his current band.

"We had more time on this one," says Mraz of the recording process this time around. Instead of pumping it out in a month, as was the case with "Waiting for My Rocket to Come," he took almost six months to write and record all the new material.

"It was easier," he says. "There was more trial and error."

FANS WILL recognize the same "happy love songs" that made Mraz popular, but the new album also allows the singer to stretch his creative wings a bit. With musical interests that range from folk and rock to soul and hip-hop, he's more willing than ever to explore new ways of expressing himself.

"I always wanted to be someone who was a little more interesting," he says. "I even worked with one hip-hop guy down in Miami, Scott Storch."

Does that mean an MC Mraz album is also in the mix?

"I would love to put out a rap album," says Mraz, who cites one-hit wonder Young MC as one of his favorite hip-hop artists. "I think there needs to be a geek rapper out there."

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