Mars has moved outdoors, to his palm-tree-laden backyard, where a swimming pool glitters under the bluest of blue skies. Today, as on most mornings, he woke up around 10 and swam with his Rottweiler. He's dressed down, in a Dolce & Gabbana black sweatshirt with Tyson's face on it, long faux-acid-washed shorts and leather sandals.
At the bottom of the pool, a little cleaning robot putters away. Mars is sitting on a deck chair, looking out to the mountains in the distance. He's idly strumming a blond Guild acoustic (when I admire it, he tries to give it to me as a gift). A moment ago, he was playing Santana's "Europa"; now he's strumming through fun.'s "We Are Young," which he kind of thinks he should have written: "Those are doo-wop chords I've known my whole life. I heard that right off the bat and was like, 'Shit, they did it.'" He's trying to pull back on the reins of his ambition, though. "I'm already jonesing to get into a studio," he says, letting out a sigh. "But I'm trying to enjoy the moment more – I used to be really caught up in, like, envisioning my life backward – like, this is where I wanna take the music" He lights a cigarette – he hopes to quit soon, even though he's not overly concerned about the effect on his voice ("I could stand to lose a couple notes from the pixie range – the gnome range").
Lately, he's found himself missing Hawaii. "Everyone's so content out there," he says. 'You're out here to be somebody. No one's just living. In Hawaii, the mentality is more like, 'Yo, we're in paradise right now, and we're, you know, living.'"
He's gotten back everything he lost and then some, and the truth is, he hadn't planned much beyond this point. "I don't know where I'm gonna end up," he says. "But I want to keep writing songs, man. There's a feeling you get from writing a good song that you don't get from anything else. You forever want that feeling, the same way you forever want to eat good food, you forever want to be in love."
He's never even imagined life without the crowds and the applause. "It's been with me for so long," he says. 'You know, it's always been, All right, see you later, I'm gonna go do the show'" But there's no show tonight, no rehearsals this afternoon – for once, there's nowhere he needs to be. Mars leans back in his chair, strumming his guitar by his precisely arranged palm trees under the vast, cloudless sky. Everything's pretty much perfect, and for a moment, he's just living.
This story is from the May 9th, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone.
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