R13: In the States you're enormous, you can't find people who haven't heard of Jason Mraz. Where as here in the UK it's hard to find people that have actually heard your name. You've just released your second album Mr A-Z over here, do you think now is the time you're going to branch out and make it over here too?
JM: Yeah it's my third or fourth time here now, we came a couple of times with the first record playing smaller places, did a lot of supporting acts. I don't really know, we get invited to come over here every so often, I enjoy it because it's different and I get to break it down with just Toca. We get to do that about once a year on somebody's tour just acoustic.

R13: Is it just yourself and Toca on this tour?
JM: Yeah the others are back in Seattle working with another band at the moment, but we're coming back in May for seven or eight dates and we'll have the whole band for that.

R13: You're also doing a mini tour in March?
JM: Yeah at the end of this tour we're gonna hang out for another four days and do a couple of shows, just Toca and I.

R13: In your last tour in America you had James Blunt support you and now the roles are reversed, how's that working out for you guys?
JM: Um you know, it's good, I'm just happy to play! Depending on where we are in the world determines how we play. It determines who we play with and who we bring, who shows up in our crew.

R13: So when do you decide to take the full band or the trio?
JM: It all just depends on availability, it also costs a shit load of money to bring ten guys over here and figure out how we're gonna get around and where we're gonna stay.

R13: Do you prefer it one way or the other?
JM: No I like it both because just when I get sick of the band I can go and do this, just when I get sick of doing this we're back with the band again, you know? Now it's the best of all worlds really, we can pretty much do what we want it feels like! I got to meet James sometime last summer. They [the record company] introduced us in the hopes that we'd want to tour together pretty much like we're doing now and you know, the politics involved seemed like a great opportunity for both of us. Normally when Toca and I come it could be at some pretty small pub, so this is cool because we get to play infront of about 3,000 people per night, it's quite goofy.

R13: You've got a real passion for live shows. You've got a lot of songs which you don't want to set in stone in recordings as you play them differently live in so many styles. When you've got so many ways of playing a song how do you decide how it's going to sound on the album?
JM: It's very hard, we usually record a variety of versions. Some that I'm doing just now, I've been working on it today actually; I'm doing a new series of podcast sessions explaining all the songs on the new album, then I'm going to go through and play all the various demos. For example something like Mr Curiosity where you hear the funky version then you hear my original bedroom demo, all these different things. It's hard to explain maybe how and why it ends up being the way it is on the record because there are a million different ways a song can be produced. I think whatever ends up on the record is whatever gets recorded during the album making period. You do all these demos leading up to the album making process, then you get into that process and all you really end up doing is creating yet another version. But this is the one that's going on the master tape. So it's hard to say that's the final version, but that's the version that's gonna get exploited. As soon as that goes out we're gonna keep playing it and it's gonna keep changing. Really an album is more like a photograph, that's the image we capture at the time.

R13: I guess it must be dull to play the same songs the same way on tours all the time?
JM: Yeah, we tend to mix it up pretty good, it's getting to the point now where we're discovering there's all this old material that we can just throw into the set.

R13: There seems to be two different parts to your songs, there's the recorded stuff that goes on the albums and then there's a whole load of rarer songs that you only play live. How do you go about choosing which songs to play? Tonight you're playing a support slot so will you be playing more of the hits?
JM: Um, that's kinda how it starts, on this Blunt tour yeah it was just a variety of the more popular tunes that have had more success. Honestly though that's all gone, the last couple of nights we haven't gone out with a setlist or anything. We just look at each other and say 'What do you wanna play? That sounds good yeah'. It's just a variety of some old and obscure songs. I mean last night there were a couple of girls at the front shouting song after song, [he laughs] they wrote the set!

R13: So with all the different versions of your songs, does your label have any input as to which one makes it onto the album or is that all down to you?
JM: Erm, no there is usually a liason for the label, you're A&R representative. It's their job to know all your songs and so on. I've never had an A&R guy though so I've pretty much done my own thing. When we got signed to Electra the guy that signed me got fired shortly after we made the first record. So then I kinda got left hanging, there was no-one behind me saying 'What have you been working on?'. They're supposed to be like a coach you know? Someone to say 'Let's hear your songs', find the place to make your next record, stuff like that. So for this record I went back and hired the guy that they fired. I just hired him to help us, he was the one out of all the people in the industry who knew where I came from. The new label I was with were fine with it, they thought he did a great job on my first record. But again I'm in the same boat right now. I don't have anyone from the label wondering what we're up to right now, but we've also gotten to a point right now where it's not really required. I mean the amount of success we've had with the first two albums they're kind of like 'alright you know what you're doing it's fine.'

R13: You're coming back to do some headline dates over here as you mentioned earlier, what are the main differences going to be for you doing those shows?
JM: Um, no difference really other than we'll be playing for longer than we have been tonight!

R13: You've just played three days in the same city, is it nice to get a break from the travelling?
JM: Yeah it's nice, but yesterday it rained so I haven't got to do much!
R13: How's the surfing been going then?
JM: Ha! I don't know, we ran into Jack Johnson actually in the hotel and I'm going to go see him tonight after the show, I was going to ask him the same thing! [Jack is also playing that night in Manchester]

R13: When you supported Gary Jules last time you were here a lot of people left half way through his set as you played such an amazing show, has that happened at all with this tour?
JM: No not really, James is pretty big over here. When he came to the States he was just acoustic with a keyboard player. You heard a lot of the voice and it was hard to differentiate between songs, but with his band it really does make sense. I think the success of James has a lot to do with the production of the album and they do a pretty fantastic job on stage. [We laugh]. It is what it is.

R13: With your journal on your website and the personal nature of some of your songs you seem to live your life infront of the whole world. Is that intentional? Has it become difficult?
JM: It's just a hobby more than anything I guess, some days it's just to validate my existence I guess. When you float around the world and you see the same people every day sometimes it's like you don't really exist. You're never in the same time zone and so on, it's quite weird. This is a way for me, just like song writing, it's a way for me to go inward or outward into my own head. Also writing blogs is something to do in a hotel room, I've started podcasting which is another fun activity. I'd rather not watch TV you know? So I've taken to writing and podcasting and things.

R13: The internet has obviously been useful to your success, how do you feel about file sharing and illegal downloading and so on?
JM: I do it. I let all the live stuff just go you know? It's live! Technology makes it really easy to share CDs and mp3s, sometimes you just can't escape it. You know you're like 'Let me have that' and you pop it in and so on. But I do my best, there are certain artists where I'll always buy their shit. You've gotta have the sleeve you know?

R13: Anyone in particular?
JM: Belle and Sebastian. Always, always load up on Belle and Sebastian everywhere I go. Bjork's the same too.

R13: What did you think of the last Bjork record?
JM: The one with just vocals? It was a little over the top, a little artsy, it seemed to lack melody and some of the songs seem to lack particular structure for my ears.
R13: What do you think of Jack Johnson?
JM: Incredibly soulful, and just chill. I love that Jack has remained chill. I love that he's gotten incredibly popular. It just goes to show that people love music that's not always just in your face with all these different colours and concepts. He's always just been Jack, that's his style, this is what I do, you know? I think it's great.

R13: I read somewhere you were told there was going to be a big change in your life next August, how are you feeling about that? Did you start writing a lot?
JM: Yeah I did, but you know I got quite depressed and though why bother? But then something just started to ignite. I started to write as much as a I could, even if the idea was only a minute long I'd still just record it and get it down. I know that in a couple of months from now I can just look back at this wealth of material, all little seeds and so on.

R13: Do do you have something with you to record on tour?
JM: Yeah I just use my laptop, that's something I can do in hotel rooms.

R13: Is there anything else you take with you on tour that you couldn't live without?
JM: No, I actually think I have too much now, in May I'm gonna come back with nothing. I can fit my entire recording gear in my backpack.

R13: So when you get the inspiration you just go and record it? But do you ever sit down and think: Now I have to write a song!
JM: Sometimes, I do this songwriting game with nine other guys in the US. We all agree on a phrase, right now the phrase is 'Change the subject'. We usually have about forty-eight hours to take that phrase and turn it into a song. All you have to do is use the phrase once in the song for it to be valid. You can take it anywhere you want. Some people make it the chorus, some people maybe hide it in a verse. Times like that you just have to sit down and say I have to do this. It's a great exercise because when I first started doing it I'd say 'Ah I can't do it right now' and the other guys in the group would say 'Fuck you, you can't do it right now!', the point is not to worry about it and just do it. You learn to draw these instincts a lot faster. It's quite cool. It helps with writing and freestyling, thinking and everything.

R13: How did you find out you could freestyle like that? Did you have to practice?
JM: Yeah, you just do it. I hung out with Bushwalla for about ten years now and it's something we like to do together. During our time apart we collect samples and breakbeats and things so when we do hookup we know we'll have like two nights together so we can just lock the doors and pile on all these instrumentals and just go. Just tell each other stories and so on, and then we record it so we can go back to that and make songs out of it.

As the tour manager tries to prise us from the sofa, Toca starts trading some lines with Jason reading from one of his emails and we head down the stairs to await a stunning live performance by a man gifted with a most extraordinary voice. Mraz will be back in the UK in May and tickets are selling fast, don't miss out!