What better way to celebrate the social and economic accomplishments of American workers than with a song-filled night under the stars — all the while raising money for a good cause? Multiplatinum singer/songwriter Jason Mraz makes a pit stop at the Santa Barbara Bowl this Labor Day as part of his world-spanning Tour Is a Four Letter Word itinerary.
The show plays off of the title of his most recent album, Love Is a Four Letter Word, which was released in April 2012 and has sold more than nine million singles and a million-plus album copies since. In the process, Love has spawned a barrage of hit singles, including the ubiquitous “I Won’t Give Up,” which debuted at No. 8 on the U.S. Billboard charts and marked Mraz’s second Top 10 single.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Monday’s concert will benefit Life Rolls On (LRO), a nonprofit organization that supports spinal-cord-injury research and provides quality-of-life support to patients. On the phone from Poland last week, Mraz explained that he has a close relationship with the organization’s founder, Jesse Billauer, and has put on several concerts with him in recent years.
It’s been 17 years since a surfing accident put Billauer in a wheelchair at the age of 17, and he wanted to do something that acknowledged that, Mraz said.
“I particularly appreciate the organization for its quality of life that it offers. Life Rolls On motivates and inspires — they motivated and inspired me, and I’m not even in a chair,” Mraz said. “I’ve loved Jesse since I’ve met him, and I think that his organization is great. And so this is a continuation of our support.”
They Will Surf Again is just one of Life Rolls On’s popular events, which brings in a handful of volunteers and gives those with paralysis the chance to ride their own wave. While planning the tour, Mraz said, he wanted to perform at a location in Southern or Central California that played well into LRO’s mission. Being that Santa Barbara has a large surf community, he said he felt it was a good fit.
“What better place than the Santa Barbara Bowl? It’s such a beautiful and classic venue,” Mraz said. “Jesse and I also duck away to Hollister Ranch whenever we can to do some surfing, so it seems right that we actually pull over in Santa Barbara and sing some songs.”
LRO is one of the many organizations falling under the umbrella of the Jason Mraz Foundation, which Mraz founded in 2011 to promote human equality, arts and education, and environmental preservation. Various charities that benefit from the foundation include VH1 Save the Music, Free the Children, and the Surfrider Foundation.
Mraz calls this the foundation’s “incubation period” and hopes that, eventually, it will be able to support its own movements, as well as act as an intermediary for other causes.
Mraz spent the summer touring far-off locations ranging from Moscow and Russia to Thailand. As far as the concert in Santa Barbara goes, he says he plans on playing a little bit of old and new material, as well as bringing along a handful of special guests. And keeping in mind that Monday’s a school night at the end of a holiday weekend, Mraz said he purposely planned for an early show (the evening starts at 4pm) so that families could attend and still get the kids to bed early.
So, what’s next for the talented musician and philanthropist?
In between touring and running a nonprofit, Mraz is “in the developmental stages” of his fifth studio album, a collaboration with Los Angeles folk rockers Raining Jane that he says has been in the works for the past six years.
“It’s going to have a completely different sound than my previous albums,” he said. “Their involvement mirrors a lot of the message or the intention of the album, which is balance, and honoring the feminine side as much as my masculine side. Having women help me perform and help me write these songs is something that I think is, well, it’s just been an amazing experience, and I think that the listeners are really going to be moved by it.”
Jason Mraz plays the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.) on Monday, September 2, at 4 p.m. Call (805) 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com for tickets and info.