BANGOR, Maine — Jason Mraz has been in Bangor since Tuesday night, and Alan Jackson rolled into town Friday morning to prepare for their back-to-back concerts over the next two days.
Jackson’s crew was busy unloading tractor trailer trucks Friday morning labeled “Alan Jackson Freight Train Tour,” but it’s Mraz who has been in the Queen City for most of the week.
Mraz and his band mates have been too busy rehearsing and checking equipment for their fall tour’s opening show in Bangor at 8 p.m. Saturday. That will change Friday, when he and his crew get a chance for some R&R.
“We have tomorrow off, so I’m going to play a little golf, maybe do some roller-skating,” said the 33-year-old singer-songwriter. “That is absolutely nothing like I would spend my normal day.
“I haven’t golfed in about four years, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. Now that I think about it, it would probably not be good to fall and break an ankle or wrist roller-skating and not be able to do the show, so maybe I’ll be at the movies instead.”
It’s that kind of moment-to-moment mode of everyday existence that defines Mraz’s approach to life.
“I have a tattoo of the word ‘beginner’ on my arm, and I choose to live each day as a beginner,” he said.
“Beginners always seem like they’re having fun or at least enjoying the experience.”
The Mechanicsville, Va., native has been enjoying the experience for a while now, since being exposed to music at an early age.
“We had a piano in my house growing up so I was banging on that, but I was 17 when I started playing guitar and 18 when I started writing music,” he said. “I can read music, but when I’m playing guitar I’m not, because I’m usually playing melody guitar.”
The self-proclaimed “DIY [do it yourself] guy” is a self-taught musician who incorporates indie and pop rock, jazz, folk, reggae, hip-hop and even bossa nova sounds into his music.
“I’m pretty sure I started playing music because of a girl,” Mraz said with a chuckle. “My whole career probably involves moves and places and ideas and songs that were all inspired by a girl or a relationship I was in. A lot of life for me is about trying to look good.”
His love life is looking good lately, too. The man who has been linked to models and musicians is in a serious relationship.
“Recently I’ve found a woman I’m going to marry, and plan topropose to her within a year,” he said. “We’ve been dating a year and known each other for nine years.”
The subject of many rumors and romantic stories, Mraz admits he likes the confusion and conjecture.
“Years ago, I asked my fans to periodically to go on Wikipedia and make up things,” he said with a big laugh.
Mraz does admit he has been married, sort of.
“In 2000, I had a fun Vegas wedding with a friend,” he said. “It lasted two months and then it was basically annulled, but it was fun. I recommend a Vegas wedding for anyone.”
Mraz said making money from turning personal journal entries and notes into music that people like listening to is a bonus.
“It’s a really great feeling, but I’d be performing anyway in my room or a coffee shop even if I wasn’t doing this,” he said. “The biggest reward for me is the creative process where you work and watch something unfold from nothing to something.”
While it can vary, his current favorite from among all his songs is “Who’s Thinking About You Now?” but only if he’s playing it solo.
“It really depends on the day and the guys I’m playing with, but it reminds me someone is thinking about you at that moment somewhere in the world,” he said.
Mraz has five albums (two studio) to his credit and has a few Billboard Top 40 hits to his credit including “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry),” “I’m Yours,” “Lucky” and “Wordplay.”
What he gets most out of music and being a musician is still an elusive concept for Mraz.
“I’m really not sure what it is I get out of music, but maybe when I do I’ll stop, so it’s probably better I don’t,” he said after thinking a few moments. “It’s everything and it’s nothing, and it’s the nothing that makes me keep going, but I’m still searching.”
Mraz is less nebulous when it comes to pegging one of the biggest rewards of being a musician: when hundreds or thousands of people sing your songs exactly word for word in unison.
“That’s pretty badass. It’s a pretty good feeling. I chuckle every time it happens,” he said. “Recently it happened in Ghana with a song called ‘Freedom Song’ written by a friend, which I shared with Free The Slaves organization. That moved me, hearing a bunch of kids singing it word for note while they were out playing.
“It’s mind-blowing to realize the power of song.”
Paddling through the city
So far, it has been a fairly uneventful stay in Bangor for Mraz, but he’s more than fine with that.
“I feel pretty good. I haven’t been noticed yet, or felt the sense of being stared at,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve been locked down with my band, and I’ve not been to the Deja’vu salon.”
Mraz was referring to the “Where’s Waldo” buzz he has created — especially on Facebook — by coming to Bangor four days before his show. Fans have reported through social media networks that they’ve spotted Mraz at all kinds of venues, from Dave’s Video to Marden’s.
Not so much.
“Today I was doing yoga, and I massaged the scalp of Maine by massaging the earth,” he said. “I was petting it like a cat and scratching it. It feels good. The air’s clean.”
This is Mraz’s second trip to the Pine Tree State. He first came in 1996 to the Portland area with a high school friend who’s a Maine native.
“It was in November. It was kind of cold and felt like the edge of the world,” he said. “I hadn’t been to Bangor. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s the farthest I can get away from San Diego and still be in the U.S.’ I admit I had doubts. I wasn’t sure people actually played here, but once I started hearing people, promoters and other artists talking about the venue, it seemed like my kind of place.”
Avocados to zucchini
A self-described “conscious eater,” Mraz limits his diet to whole, quality foods.
“I’m mostly a vegan because I don’t prefer dairy or cheeses, but I think of myself more as a qualitarian,” he said. “I don’t eat anything with more than three ingredients.”
“I just came up with that number,” he said with a laugh.
While on the road, it’s not too challenging for him to find the kind of foods he limits his diet to.
Usually, all it takes is a visit to a grocery store, most of which have a whole foods section.
“It’s easy now that whole quality foods are making a comeback,” he said.
Mraz owns a house in San Diego and an accompanying avocado (a favorite food) farm that he enlarged and intends to expand to a massive farm with all types of vegetables and fruits.
“I kind of just stumbled into it while looking to live in a rural area,” he said. “There were a lot of avocado trees, and I just decided to take it on and add to it. The goal is to have 365 days of food from the farm, from citrus and olive trees to avocados, summer squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, anything.”
Hats off to charity
Mraz is hardly ever seen without a hat, but rarely wears shoes.
His fondness for hats has become his trademark, and he gets plenty from fans either through the mail or a toss onstage during shows.
While he says he doesn’t have enough to be able to wear a different one every day for 365 days, he does have a lot.
“I get a lot of them at concerts. We started a thing where we autograph them and donate them to charities to raise money such as Locks of Love for cancer patients,” he said. “I’ve been really fortunate to use my music for fundraising tools.”
Mraz is doing something different as he starts his new tour.
“Quite frankly, this is the first tour where I’ve brought seven [hats] with me. I usually have one or two, but by the end of the tour they’re usually sweaty and stinky,” he said.
For information or to purchase tickets, visit www.waterfrontconcerts.com.