Guitar Talk

Jason Mraz Talks About Playing Nylon-String Guitar, Songwriting Games, and the Importance of Wordplay

Jason Mraz is a certified international pop star these days, with multiplatinum sales and a string of hit singles, but his heart is in the coffeehouse. For proof, just spin his 2001 album Live at Java Joe’s, which captures Mraz with percussionist Toca Rivera at the storied Southern California venue that also helped launch the career of Jewel. On that small stage, Mraz is in his element—singing and scatting through jazzy pop songs, nimbly grooving on acoustic guitar, delivering rapid-fire lyrics full of verbal mischief, and riffing off the crowd like a stand-up comic. In the years since, his instrumental palette and his audience has grown immensely thanks to songs like “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry),” the reggae-tinged “I’m Yours,” and “Lucky” with Colbie Caillat (for a transcription, see page 54), but the basic elements are the same. Strip away the production, and you have a guy with an acoustic guitar who thrives on the no-frills live experience.