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A quick interview with Jason Mraz

It just keep getting better for singer/songwriter Jason Mraz.

Each of his three albums has charted higher and sold more copies than the one before it. "I'm Yours," the first single from his latest album, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, is still on the Billboard Hot 100 chart -- 66 weeks after its release.

Only one song has spent more time on the chart: "How Do I Live" by LeAnn Rimes, which stayed on the chart for 69 weeks.

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Earlier today, I checked in with Mraz, who performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion tomorrow.

Congrats on this Billboard 100 thing, Jason. You're four weeks away from toppling LeAnn Rimes. That's gotta be big.

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Yeah, I understand that that is happening. It's very exciting. I can't believe the world has taken to that song the way they have. I'm really, really stoked.

You think she'll call you and congratulate you if you break her record?

Jewel did. So maybe LeAnn will. Jewel was last week -- I tied with her last week. LeAnn shows up in two weeks. We'll see what happens.

What did Jewel say when she called you?

It was through texting, but we're supposed to speak this weekend. At first she was funny -- she was like, 'Oooh, it seems we're at war.' But now it's like, 'Congrats for doing it.' She was with me right when my career began. She gave me a couple of gigs and was really a big support. It was almost as if she was checking in. ...

You took some time off to write We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things, right? Are you going to do that again before the next one?

Yeah, a little bit. I probably won't take as much time. I took a full year last time. I traveled, I got into all kinds of new stuff. This time I'll probably only take a few months. It really isn't about taking time off and laying around on the couch. I still play music on a regular basis. But I just do so away from the big guise of touring in this capacity.

I certainly don't do interviews during that period, because it's a gestation period. It's a period where I'm hunting and gathering and I'm a student and a seeker and I don't have all the answers -- that's why I'm out there and taking time off. I think it's important for not only artists in the music career, but any field. A lot of other countries give employees months off, like, 'OK, it's summer holiday, here's your month off.' The U.S. has this strange way of saying, 'OK, you have 10 days of vacation a year, use it wisely.' That's not very liberating.

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You're from Mechanicsville, Virginia. Do you ever go back there?

I do. My whole family's still there. I go back two or three times a year to see my family. I go to the dentist there -- still go to my family dentist. It's my home. It's where I grew up.

Has it changed that much since you left?

Yeah, it has. It's become more homogenized. Instead of celebrating the mom and pop restaurants and hardware stores, we now have T.G.I. Fridays and Lowes and Target and Best Buys. It makes it look like another bland truck stop in America. But it still has down-home people, still has good vibes, still has my grandmom.

Way back when you got started you told the bank that you needed money for studies, but you took that money and used it to move out west and start playing music instead. So basically, your whole career was built on a fib?

Yeah, I basically lied to the bank saying I needed the extra money so that I could not have a day job while I was at school. The loan I first received was only for tuition. I was like, 'Oh God, that's not going to help. I need more.' I kept applying and applying and finally got some more dough. By the time I did, I dropped out of school. So initially, I still had a huge loan I had to pay off. I put $6,000 into college and then I dropped out immediately so I could have the exrta.

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It was a good scam, and it worked. It was a great way to get a little cash so I could move to California. But I believed in myself too, though. I honestly didn't feel like I was creating more trouble for myself. I felt like that was what was necessary. It was a unique opportunity and I took it.

Is it true that you don't mind it when people tape your shows?

I do not mind. I encourage it. In fact, I kind of feel sad if I look out and see there's no tapers, because then I realize my shows aren't that interesting anymore.

Do you change up your sets that much?

Yeah, we do. There's always a core amount of songs per tour that get played every night. But we change where those songs will appear and how we play them. And there's a fair amount of songs in the show that are always mixed up -- covers, old songs, random bits and improv. I feel like those are the parts that are worth taping. Anything can happen in those moments.

I think taping is a tradition in music that needs to stick around. I fell in love with certain bands through their bootlegs. I think it's a cool thing to have a show taped and generations to come can listen to that tape and feel like they were at that show.

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Do you still have an avocado farm?

Heck yeah, man. Growing, eating -- all of it. Mixing, selling, sharing, slicing, spreading, juggling. Avocados are a big part of our lives.

Why avocados?

If I had to choose these days, I would certainly choose avocados. But at the time, they chose me. Where I wanted to move, it just so happened that all the trees in the mountain and valley were avocados. So I moved in and just took it on. I let them keep growing. I let the growers and farmers march through the area and pick them and sell them and share them.

It's a really cool thing to be a part of -- to invest in a piece of the earth that actually gives back and provides for families -- those who pick the avocados -- and then provides nourishment for those who eat 'em. It's pretty awesome.

(Photos by Getty Images)


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