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Born June 23, 1977 in Mechanicsville, VA, Jason Thomas Mraz grew up a fan of the improvisational, feel-good jam sessions of the Dave Matthews Band, which heavily influenced him. After a year at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, Mraz dropped out to focus on writing and performing his own songs, ending up in San Diego, CA. Developing a local reputation on the same coffeehouse circuit that had given Jewel her start, Mraz became a regular at Java Joe's and started a musical partnership with percussionist Toca Rivera. Together, the two perfected a live show that highlighted not only Mraz's music but also their comedic banter and Mraz's lightning-fast wordplay, adding quips and improvisations to his already tongue-twistingly clever lyrics. As Mraz's reputation grew, he self-released a string of albums and EPs, including 2001's Live at Java Joe's, but the following year landed a major label deal with Elektra Records. His first studio album, 2002's Waiting for My Rocket to Come, paired him with Dave Matthews Band producer John Alagia and became a modest success, spinning off the hit "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" as well as minor hits "Curbside Prophet" and "You and I Both."
The singer-songwriter's exuberant live performances and boyish good looks - usually topped with a sideways-cocked baseball hat or fedora - helped his career gain momentum, leading to opening gigs for Tracy Chapman and Alanis Morissette. On a definite role, Mraz played golden era rocker Dion in a 2004 episode of the nostalgia series "American Dreams" (NBC, 2002-05), and the following year released his second studio album, Mr. A-Z. Debuting at No. 5 on the charts, the LP earned a Grammy nomination but owed its moderate success to Mraz's exhaustive, immensely popular touring schedule, which included opening for The Rolling Stones and Rob Thomas and appearing in an ad campaign for The Gap. Around this time, he also began dating singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman, and the two collaborated on several songs together before breaking off their engagement in 2011. In 2007, Mraz reworked his track "Plain Jane" into "The Beauty in Ugly" for the show "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006-2010), which received considerable promotion. That same year, he also saw the Mr. A-Z track "Geek in the Pink" become an iTunes hit after "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ) contestant Chris Richardson performed it.
Mraz's follow-up album, 2008's We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things., debuted at No. 3 and launched his biggest hit, the international smash "I'm Yours." An often a-cappella ode to romantic fidelity, the track featured Mraz's signature scatting and clever wordplay, reaching No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and becoming a No. 1 or Top Ten hit in multiple countries around the world. So popular and ubiquitous was the song that it went six-times platinum, set a record for the longest number of weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and became the go-to wedding song for countless couples. "I'm Yours" earned two Grammy nominations and the album earned an additional nomination, but Mraz would win two Grammys for two additional singles on the album: "Make It Mine" and his duet with Colbie Caillat, "Lucky."
A bona fide music star, Mraz served as the musical guest in an episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), earned the Hal David Starlight Award from the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and continued to tour and record around the world. Poking fun at his iconic hat, Mraz lent his voice to an episode of "Family Guy" (Fox, 1999-2002, 2005- ), and released the No. 1 iTunes single "I Won't Give Up" in anticipation of his fourth album, 2012's Love Is a Four Letter Word. Staying true to his musical philosophy of peace, love and sustainability, Mraz maintained a mostly raw vegan diet and owned avocado and organic strawberry farms as well as serving as a highly visible supporter of multiple charities.
By Jonathan Riggs