Jason Mraz Goes to School

Hip-hop-loving singer-songwriter brings "Mr. A-Z" to kids on study break

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Slated to open a few dates for the Rolling Stones on their mega-blockbuster tour, hip-hop-influenced singer-songwriter Jason Mraz is just as happy playing more intimate settings -- as he will do when his own headlining jaunt, a tour of colleges and theaters kicks off September 20th at Arizona State University.

"You end up working with college students, which I enjoy," says Mraz. "And there's an enthusiasm in the audience." Beside, he admits, it can be nice to play to a crowd that doesn't entirely know who you are. "There's a huge chunk of people who come because, well, they're at school and they just want a break from their studies and this is what's happening that weekend. They come to have a party for themselves, and we're kind of a house band for their party."

With his sophomore effort, Mr. A-Z, which recently debuted at Number Five, Mraz has developed a thicker skin in response to reviews of his songwriting as "self-referential" and "cutesy." He says that his songwriting is, first and foremost, a way through his insecurities. "They say it's too personal, but at the end of the day it's a song. [Writing songs] is no different than explaining to somebody what you dreamed last night: No one ever gives you crap for what you dreamed last night. 'I was laying in my bed, and all of a sudden a stallion jumped on my bed and the next thing I know I was in Mars but it looked like my kitchen' . . . That's kind of what I do with my songs, write them in a dream-like manner. It's up to people to swallow it however they want."

The single off Mr. A-Z, "Wordplay," and the funky track "Geek in the Pink" demonstrate Mraz's love of hip-hop. "I really began to appreciate it [hip-hop] when I started playing guitar," he says. "I was playing alone for the first couple of years, and by incorporating a hip-hop style vocal and melody arrangement it just adds something nice to your traditional, strummy acoustic guitar. Personally, I tend to think strummy acoustic music can get pretty boring pretty fast. That's why I just mix up the genres completely.

Mraz adds, "I've also been accused of being middle-of-the-road, genreless: 'He can't figure out where he wants to go.' I think it's a great thing."

Jason Mraz's North American tour dates:

9/20: Tempe, AZ, Arizona State University
9/21: Tucson, AZ, Centennial Hall
9/27: Tulsa, OK, Cain's Ballroom
9/28: St. Louis, The Pageant
9/30: Kansas City, MO, University of Missouri
10/1: Chicago, Congress Theatre
10/3: Marquette, MI, Northern Michigan University
10/4: Toronto, Kool Haus
10/5: Ottawa, Capital Music Hall
10/6: Montreal, Spectrum
10/8: Washington, DC, Georgetown University
10/9: Boston, Orpheum Theatre
10/11: Durham, NH, University of New Hampshire
10/12: Philadelphia, Electric Factory
10/16: New York, Avery Fisher Hall
10/17: New York, Avery Fisher Hall
10/19: Cleveland, OH, House of Blues
10/20: Cincinnati, OH, Xavier University
10/21: Milwaukee, WI, Eagles Ballroom
10/22: Minneapolis, MN, Northrop Auditorium
10/24: Denver, CO, Fillmore
10/26: San Diego, SOMA
10/29: Las Vegas, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

With the Rolling Stones:

11/18: Las Vegas, MGM Grand Garden Arena
11/20: Fresno, CA, Save Mart Center
11/22: Salt Lake City, UT, Delta Center
11/24: Denver, Pepsi Center
11/27: Glendale, AZ, Glendale Arena

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