Jason Mraz and Raining Jane have plenty to feel “Lucky” about. The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and the indie pop-rock band are joining forces for a new tour and new album. The collaboration comes to the Gallo Center for the Arts on March 20 for a sold-out show.
“I think we create a really beautiful foundation for (Mraz) to be able to share what he does best,” said Mona Tavakoli, drummer for Raining Jane. “I think our instrumentation and harmony really lends itself to him being able to improvise over it and shine.”
Mraz, whose radio-friendly hits like “Lucky,” “I’m Yours” and “The Remedy (I Don’t Worry)” made him a household name starting in 2003, first met Raining Jane four years later when they shared a bill at a University of Redlands show in Southern California. Mraz was the headliner, but caught Raining Jane’s opening set and approached the band members afterward.
“He said, ‘Hey, I want to work with you guys. Maybe you guys want to be my band?’ We laughed heartily and then he actually followed up,” Tavakoli said. “We actually hit it off right away. It was a very easy collaboration.”
Formed in 1999, Raising Jane features Tavakoli on percussion, Mai Bloomfield on guitar and cello, Becky Gebhardt on bass and sitar and Chaska Potter on guitar, mandolin, ukulele and (believe it or not) glockenspiel. The quartet of women met through their connections at UCLA, where most are alumni, and have been touring and recording together since.
Mraz said he was impressed right away by the group’s music, an eclectic folk-rock mix that goes heavy on the vocal harmonies.
“They blew me away, the way they traded instruments and each took leads,” Mraz told the Aspen Times last August. “It’s a band of accomplished musicians who happen to be women.”
Mraz and the group began writing music together shortly after meeting in 2007. Their partnership soon will become Mraz’s fifth studio album, composed entirely of numbers he co-wrote with the band members. Together, they’ve written more than 50 songs, 15 of which have been recorded. A dozen or so will be selected for the finished record, titled “Yes,” which should come out later this year.
The 36-year-old multiplatinum artist known for his sunny, catchy personal pop hits – as well as his love for porkpie hats and trucker caps – came up through the San Diego coffeehouse circuit before hitting it big. In 2010, he picked up two Grammy Awards, for best male pop vocal performance and best pop collaboration with vocals.
Tavakoli, who has played drums for Mraz on tour for the past two years, said working together has been a learning experience on both ends. She said Mraz has grown from experiencing Raining Jane’s 15 years of being a group, and the group has been given a shot at a wider audience thanks to his following.
“Jason is an incredible leader in this group,” Tavakoli said. “He sets great intention and energy. To be able to bring Jason to the fold, and trusting each other and challenging each other, is great. Everyone is working and wood-shedding and showing up so strong. For me, I am so impressed with the sisters in my band. We really care and are all excited to play together.”
Mraz and the band have played together at select shows and went on a four-city East Coast mini-tour last fall. Their upcoming West Coast acoustic tour, which begins Saturday, will have them playing a dozen dates together. The Gallo Center show March 20 sold out in an hour, a testament to Mraz’s enduring popularity.
Raining Jane will open the show with its own set, then join Mraz on stage for the remainder of the show.
“The audience should expect to sit back and relax and maybe laugh a little. Jason is a hilarious person,” Tavakoli said. “Expect new versions of their favorites.
“We’ve done new arrangements on songs like ‘Lucky’ and others. They should expect a really heartfelt, warm performance.”