After years as a solo artist, Jason Mraz 's new album YES! , out Tuesday, sees him sharing the spotlight with a group of other musicians: an all-female quartet called Raining Jane . Jason and the Janes, as he calls them, have been working together for a while now, but this is their first album together -- and Jason says their collaboration was part of why he chose YES! for the album's title.
"It's called YES! because I saw these girls play at a college and I was like, 'Yes! These girls are rad,'" Jason recalls. "And I went up to them and I said, 'Hey, do you guys ever wanna come over and be in my band and try out some of my demos?' And they were like 'Yes!' And then, last year we went to my manager and said, 'Hey, we wanna make an album together,' and he said, 'Yes!' and then Atlantic Records said, 'Yes!'"
"We realized that 'yes' is what propels creativity," Jason adds. "It's what gets you to the next level."
Usually, adding more musicians to the mix results in a more beefed-up sound, but Jason says in the case of the new album, it had the opposite effect.
"The new album is stripped down -- it's just the five of us, mostly acoustic," he says. "And having the ability to scale down shows growth because...I think we found the songs that can hold up with less production as well as the musicians that can help deliver it."
Jason and the Janes are taking their new songs -- and a cover of Boyz II Men 's 1991 smash "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," which is also on the record -- on the road, starting August 21 in San Diego. "We're going to be all across the U.S. and Europe and Asia and Australia," says Jason. "And I have asked that we play in theaters, because I really want this album to be performed intimately and I want us to have a conversation with fans."
While Jason may be all about "yes" these days, being a musician involves hearing "no" a lot. So what's his advice to aspiring performers who are hearing that word more than they're hearing "yes"?
"Well, no just means 'not right now,'" he explains. "When a little kid says, 'Can I have a cookie?' you say, "No" and then the kid says, "Well, how about now?" You know, we all have to...remember that 'no' means 'not right now.'"
By the way, Jason doesn't appear on the cover of his new album: it's just a picture of a sky with five birds flying in a "V" formation. That image is symbolic both of the Roman numeral "V," which means "five" -- because YES! is his fifth album -- as well as the fact that he and Raining Jane make five together.
In a statement, he says, "Even though I'm in front of this group, we're all doing this together. I'm there to help them fly, just as much as they're there to help me fly."