An A-Mraz-ing Night!

August 26, 2012  

My love and appreciation for all things Jason Mraz is well known. He’s a very talented songwriter, a great guitarist, an incredible vocalist, an amazing entertainer, and most importantly, I think he’s an awesome human being. And I obviously don’t put him on a pedestal. Ha.

Mike and Eric with Jason Mraz

Mike and Eric with Jason Mraz

Jason first hit the music scene around the same time as John Mayer. I’ll admit that initially, I was more drawn to John Mayer’s music, as I thought him to be the more serious songwriter, the more sensitive artist – and person. But several years, and several interviews later, John Mayer has displayed an amazing lack of sensitivity in his day to day life that his songwriting is somehow able to tap into.

On the other hand, Jason Mraz has not only managed to grow as a musician, I believe he continues to show his growth as a person. It takes a certain amount of ego to be a musician and a performer. After all, you’re inviting people to see and hear your real thoughts. You believe that you’re offering something that people will want to hear and can relate to. But from everything I’ve seen he has done a great job of staying grounded and humble while his career continues to rise.
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There aren’t a lot of artists that I’ve truly wanted to meet, but Jason is one of them. So when his tour was announced this spring, I knew that I would buy tickets. But I also discovered that 20 VIP tickets were being sold per show. I determined then that I HAD to get two of those tickets. Through a bit of luck and savvy internet searching (it’s a long story), I was able to purchase two VIP packages which included a pre-show meet and greet, front row tickets, and a gift bag. The purchase benefited the Jason Mraz Foundation, which he created to help fund social, environmental, arts, and other causes that he believes in.

Christina Perri

Christina Perri

So the day of the concert finally arrived last Saturday, August 18th. We got to Aaron Rents Amphitheater well before the agreed meeting time. There was absolutely NO WAY I was going to let Atlanta traffic stop me from meeting him. Getting there early ended up being a good thing because, as can be typical with a hot Atlanta summer day, the rain came. We had been directed to a specific entrance for the meet and greet that had a bit of an overhang. So we were able to escape getting wet while the folks already lined up at the other gate got soaked.

At the appointed time, Jason’s assistant came to get the group of us who had the VIP tickets. She couldn’t have been nicer, even though she had to deal with the unorganized ticket office staff. We were taken to a backstage area where we would meet Jason. There were no warnings about what we could/couldn’t do, except this one: “Guys, girls, it’s okay to give Jason a hug. He’s cool with it. Just don’t make it creepy. And we’ve seen it get creepy. Each of you will have the opportunity to get your pictures taken with Jason. We’ll take a few to make sure we get a good one. He’ll sign something for you. We recommend the book because the poster will end up looking like a mess after you try to repack it.”

Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz

Once we got into the room, we were given the gift bags that contained a poster, a packet of basil seeds, a water bottle, and a book called A Thousand Things that Jason published a few years ago, which is a book of Polaroid images he took.

When it was our turn to meet him, he said, “Hey, I’m Jason.” I shook his hand. I wish I had hugged him. I introduced myself and Eric, then we chatted for a minute and he signed our books. The dedication in his book says, “This book is dedicated to those who stood still. And this book is dedicated to those who don’t.” Below that, Jason wrote, “and to Mike, Much love to you. Jason Mraz.”

Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz

We left the room after our time with him and made our way to the merchandise and concessions area. I bought a few T-shirts while Eric bought us a few beers and some food. Then we made our way to our seats – our FRONT ROW seats. And not only were we on the front row, they were in the center. Perfect!

Jason came out briefly to introduce Christina Perri and thanked the crowd for braving the rain. I had never heard her music, but Eric and I both enjoyed her set. The way she sang reminded me a bit of Alanis Morisette. I liked a number of her songs, including Black & Blue, as well as the song A Thousand Years. Jason brought her back on stage to perform a duet of the song Distance, which was great.

Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz

Jason started his set with the song that launched his career, The Remedy. Throughout the night, he did songs from his catalog, but I was most surprised to hear him perform the song Plane from Mr. A-Z. It’s a vocal tour de-force, and his live performance was amazing.

Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz

He performed quite a few songs from his latest release, Love is a Four Letter Word, including: The Freedom Song, Living In The Moment, The Woman I Love, 93 Million Miles, Frank D. Fixer, I’m Coming Over, and during the encore, I Won’t Give Up. He also performed several songs from We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things, including: I’m Yours (which segued into Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds), Lucky, Butterfly, Only Human, and one of his best songs, A Beautiful Mess (more on that later). He also did a funky cover of Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

The highlight of the show for me was A Beautiful Mess. It’s a great song, and Jason did a great job in the studio. But his live performance is nothing short of a revelation. This video is from another show, but you’ll see what I mean.

Jason Mraz Guitar Pick

Jason Mraz Guitar Pick


Earlier in the night, I made the comment that I hoped I could catch one of his guitar picks. Luckily, I got one, so that was another highlight of the night. One side says “This is for you,” with his name on the other side.

Jason had a terrific band, complete with horns. But there’s one person in particular that I have to mention, his percussionist Mona Tavakoli, who is a star in her own right. She has amazing energy and she never stopped moving the entire night. I know a lot of fans miss Toca, but I think she’s amazing.

Mona Tavakoli

Mona Tavakoli

This was my second time seeing Jason, the first being at the Tabernacle in 2009. So I already knew what a great show he puts on. I would have enjoyed this show no matter where we sat, but sitting in the front row was definitely a terrific experience. At the end of the show, Jason brought his band to the front of the stage and bowed to the audience, repeatedly offering his thanks. As we were leaving our seats, I told Eric that it was one of the best nights of my life.

It wasn’t until later that I fully realized why. Jason used music to not only entertain, but to create a shared moment with his audience, to create a happy place and to connect with them. It reminded me that while his style is certainly different, he shares that same ability with another of my favorites, Sade.

Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz

One day, I’d love to sit down with Jason and talk about music and life. And maybe I could ask him for that hug. I know that’s improbable, but one can dream, right? After all, I never thought I’d actually get to meet him and have front row seats. So here’s to hoping. And here’s to an amazing evening. Thank you, Jason Mraz!

To close out this extremely long blog post, here is I’m Yours and Three Little Birds, which I recorded that night.

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Talk To Me Tuesday 2012 #5

August 14, 2012  

The latest edition of Talk To Me Tuesday is ready. It’s a short one, but you’ll find out more about the release date of Dance Til You Sweat, plus you can hear a sample of the remix of Sweat. Thanks for watching!

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Talk To Me Tuesday 2012 #4

August 7, 2012  

It’s time for the latest Talk To Me Tuesday, where you’ll learn more about Dance Til You Sweat and hear a snippet of the remix of Stupid Stuff Like That. I hope you enjoy it. And please leave a question/comment below!

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Talk To Me Tuesday 2012 #3

July 31, 2012  

Welcome to the latest edition of Talk To Me Tuesday, where you’ll find out more details on the new remix music project. Plus I answer the question, “What would you do if you were out with a group of friends who want to eat at Chick-Fil-A?” Please post a comment/question below or on YouTube.

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Talk To Me Tuesday 2012 – #2

July 24, 2012  

So here’s the latest version of Talk To Me Tuesday 2012. You can learn more about my upcoming project, as well as hear answers to several listener-submitted questions. While most focused on my music, one question was very serious and asked what would I do or say to a friend I just found out may die from cancer. I hope you’ll check out the video, share it with your friends, and then leave a question for next week. I love hearing from you!

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The First Talk To Me Tuesday of 2012

July 17, 2012  

I’m excited to announce that I have a new project coming up…so I’ve revived the weekly Talk To Me Tuesdays that I did with the SWEAT release, but it’s a video this time around. So without further ado, please check out the first official Talk To Me Tuesday. And send me your questions. I love to hear from you.
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I love British singers!

June 27, 2011  

I love music – all kinds of music.  And I still buy a lot of it.  And I love to see live music.  And lately, it’s all about the British (female) singers.

This Friday night, we’re going to see Florence and the Machine.  I loved her disc ‘Lungs,’ so I’m really looking forward to seeing her live.  She’s just the right mix of edgy, weird and ballsy that I like.  Should be a terrific show.

On Friday, July 12th, I’ll once again get to see the incomparable Sade.  I have every CD she’s released, have seen her in concert 2 or 3 times before, and look forward to another spectacular show.  I think many people will agree – a Sade concert is practically a religious experience.  She is one of the most classy, talented artists I can think of.  While I love all of her music, her CD ‘Love Deluxe’ is a soundtrack album in my life.  Songs like No Ordinary Love, Kiss of Life, Pearls, and (my all time favorite) Cherish the Day show a woman/artist of true depth.

Of all the music I’ve bought in the last year, none of it has resonated with me like Adele’s ‘21.’  I was a fan from the first time I saw the “Chasing Pavements” video from her ‘19′ album.  So I bought ‘19′ and while there were songs I liked, I thought the disc was a bit uneven.  ‘21′ is a flat out classic – every song is terrific and her voice is a true gift.  Adele is a true artist and I love everything about her.  I love the fact that she’s low profile, that she’s not another “Amy Winehouse,” that she’s not rail thin.  She’s just a normal girl who happens to be exceptionally talented.  We were supposed to see her live a few weeks ago, but she had to postpone the last part of her tour due to laryngitis.  She’s rescheduled Atlanta for October 7th and I can’t WAIT!

So who are you really into right now?  And who are you going to see live in the next few months?

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Roadtrip 2010

August 24, 2010  

Last year, Eric and I didn’t take a vacation because I was in the studio recording SWEAT.  This year we originally planned to go to the Pacific Northwest for vacation but decided not to, so we decided to take a road trip.  I know it may sound strange in today’s world of plane travel, but we like road trips.  So we hit the road for 9 days of fun.

Saturday/Sunday. Our first stop was Charleston, WV.  Neither of us had ever been there and it wasn’t really a “destination” but part way to our next stop.  We arrived on Saturday evening and asked two different hotel employees for their restaurant recommendations.  They were Outback (right next door to the hotel), Chili’s and Wendy’s!  Wendy’s!!  Instead, we found a local restaurant called Blossom.  It was set in an old diner/soda fountain that still had the original menu posted on the wall.

The next morning we got up and walked through downtown – frankly, there wasn’t a lot to see or do.  We debated about checking out of the hotel early to drive to Pittsburgh.  I wish we would have because there’s more to do there, and it would have given us time to see Mike Ofca, Producer extraordinaire of SWEAT.  But we decided to stay and spent time at the Clay Center, which housed a planetarium/IMAX theater (we did both), and a museum containing art, sculpture and physics exhibits.

Monday/Tuesday. Cleveland was our next stop – we got there Monday afternoon.  After checking into our hotel, we ventured out to have a drink.  We stopped at a bar in a VERY sketchy part of town, and after having one drink, headed back to the hotel.  Then we ended up going to a bar around the corner from the hotel and had a GREAT time.  The place was pretty empty but the bartender (Glenn) kept us entertained.    After cocktails and appetizers, we walked to an Irish pub a few blocks away from the hotel.

The next day was the real reason for the stop in Cleveland – the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I had a GREAT time and could have spent another day there.  In addition to the exhibits, we watched a 3D movie of U2 in concert.  I’ve always liked some of their songs but became a fan after seeing that concert.  They are a terrific band, Bono is a great frontman, and I loved how they structured the show to take a political, yet positive, vibe.  We finished the evening by visiting Glenn again (the bar was much more crowded that day), eating dinner at a local rib shack, and walking downtown to take pictures.

Wednesday/Thursday. Cedar Point – what more needs to be said? We had lots of ride time (despite a few hours of rain on Wednesday).  I was actually successful in getting Eric to ride Top Thrill Dragster – TWICE.  That ride is nothing short of adrenaline on speed.  We also rode Skyscraper, a ride located in the Challenge Park.  We had seen a version of it in Seattle and both chickened out on riding it – that is the FIRST and ONLY time I’ve ever chickened out on a ride.  Although I was tempted to bail again, we didn’t.  And it wasn’t QUITE as scary as we thought it would be.

We stayed at one of the hotels at Cedar Point.  When we first checked in and went to our room in Sandcastle Suites, it was a handicap accessible room. I’ve stayed in an accessible room once or twice, but pretty much refuse to do it again.  (I guess I can be a diva!) I don’t need an accessible room and it’s kind of depressing.  In addition, this room was about as utilitarian as possible to allow room for a wheelchair.  The girl at the front desk wasn’t helpful (said they were full), so Eric called the reservation line and explained that we would not have booked the room if they had told us it was an accessible room.  They upgraded us to a suite in the Breaker’s Hotel with a hot tub (didn’t use) and a huge screened in balcony overlooking Lake Erie.  So thank you, Cedar Point, for fixing it.  I can’t wait to see you again!

We left the park for dinner every night.  We went to one of my old favorites (which isn’t in the south), and now one of Eric’s – Friendly’s.  We have gone to Friendly during everyone of our CP visits.

Friday/Saturday. When we decided to take a roadtrip, I asked Eric if he would be willing to go through Evansville, IN to see some of my family that I haven’t seen in years, but who I’ve been in touch with over the last several months.  We had dinner with my cousin Karla, her husband John, and my cousin Julie.  We had a great meal and time to catch up.  Then we went downstairs (at the casino) to listen to an 80’s cover band.  The band was good, but the crowd was even more entertaining.  The standouts: an old, very thin, and seemingly frail man who danced at the foot of the stage (when he wasn’t conducting the band), and a COUGAR who only knew one way to dance – very provocatively.  She felt VERY good about herself.

The next morning, we went to Karla and John’s house and spent time talking and loving on the dog, cats and horses.  We then went to Amber and Chris’s (their daughter and son in law) new house to spend time at the pool.  The pool was very welcomed because it was HOT HOT HOT!  Aunt Doraine, Julie, and Julie’s son Jordan were also there.  We drank wine, ate cheese and crackers and spent several hours floating in the pool.

Jordan had to go to work, but the rest of us went back to John and Karla’s for a cookout.  I ended the evening by performing a mini concert with songs from Stirred Not Shaken and SWEAT.

The stop in Evansville was the HIGHLIGHT of the trip because I had a great opportunity to catch up with Karla, Julie and Aunt Doraine.  I also got to meet John, Jordan, Chris and Amber for the first time.  Even though I haven’t seen this side of the family in years, I felt a strong and wonderful bond.  I can’t really explain how great it felt – and how important it as to me.  It was a wonderful time that ended much too soon, but with the promise of more time together in the future.

Sunday. Drove home to Atlanta.  It was great to see my mom and the dogs and cats.  And it was even better to be home again and sleep in our own bed.

I think we drove close to 2,000 miles.  Overall, it was a very fun trip.  As I wrap up, I have to say THANK YOU to my Evansville family for welcoming me after such a long absence, for your hospitality, and for being so good to Eric.  And best of luck to Jordan as he starts his freshman year of college.

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“So What?”

May 6, 2010  

I’m sorry that I haven’t updated my blog in such a long time.  Things have been very good – and busy – which has been an excuse not to write.  But I’ve had several things on my mind lately, and I think the overall theme ties back to the title of this blog, “So What?”

I live my life as an openly gay man.  But it took a long time to get to that point, mostly because I grew up in church and often heard how sinful man – and by reasoning, I - was.  Knowing what my inner struggles were, I equated myself with the most sinful of people.  But after years of striving and a bit of self loathing, I finally accepted and embraced who I was all along.  I felt freedom and peace for the first time.  While my struggle helped make me who I am today, I have to admit admiring - and somewhat envying – young people who embrace their true selves and come out at a young age.  What strength they must have!  I wasted time that I can’t get back.  But I accept that because it led me to where I am today.

I’ve not only been encouraged by these brave kids, but also by the “so what” attitude that so many of the kids in high school and college have, particularly when it comes to accepting their friends who are gay.  So being an optimist, I believe that it will be even better, even easier, for the kids who come after them.

But I’ve been a bit disheartened by a few recent events.  The first is the story of Constance McMillen, a Mississippi girl who asked for permission to attend the prom with her girlfriend.  To avoid having to let her attend, the school cancelled the prom, which essentially vilified her with her classmates.  So what did her classmates do?  They coordinated and attended another prom, while sending Constance, her date and a few special education students to the “rejects” prom.  I was so disappointed because these kids blew a perfect opportunity to send a powerful message of unity.

The other story is practically in my back yard.  It’s the story of Derrick Martin, an 18 year old from Cochran, GA who asked if he could attend the prom with his boyfriend.  The school made what I consider to be the right decision and said he could.  His parents, however, found out he is gay and kicked him out of the house. 

I’ve spent a bit of time, probably more than I should, wondering why these stories matter so much to me. 

First, I can relate to the feeling of not fitting in.  In junior high and high school, I was taunted for being gay long before I knew I was gay, often by kids who were nice to me privately.

Second, while I certainly understand the reality in any situation, I am also an eternally hopeful person, always hoping for the best in people.  These examples show the worst. 

Third, I think it ties back to my own struggle – and what I view as wasted years – in my own journey toward self realization and acceptance.  I was never as brave as Constance and Derrick.  And while I hurt for them, I also acknowledge the reality that progress often has a price. 

Finally, I think it has to do with my desire to understand and relate to others; to see the value of diverse thoughts, backgrounds and cultures; and the certain knoweldge that my life has been, and will be, enriched by the relationships I build with others, particularly those who are different from me.  I may not always live that, but it’s my goal.

In the last few years, I have come to realize that my decision to live as an openly gay man, and to name myself as an out gay musician, isn’t just about me.  It’s also about the folks who live in small towns where there are no gay bars or social outlets, who have no gay friends, who live lonely lives, or even those who may have a partner but still pause when asked, “What did you do this weekend?” by a boss or co-worker.  More simply, it’s also about people who just feel “different.”  (Maybe that’s why I love Glee so much.)  It is my hope that I can, in some small way, help pave the way, make it a bit easier, for those who follow behind me – just as the ones before me did.

If I ever have the opportunity to meet Constance or Derrick, I would simply want to hug them and thank them for their courage.  They are certainly braver than I’ve ever been.

As frustrating as those individual stories may be, there are many shining examples of “so what” people out there.  I am thankful for all of the “so what” people, particularly those in my life.  My hope is that there will one day be more kindness than meanness, more openess than fear, more ”Blind Sides” (I loved that movie - and the true story behind it) than bigots, more straight friends than fag haters, more appreciation for difference, for diversity. 

I commit to being the change I want to see.  Join me!

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Adam Lambert – The Ego Has Landed

November 23, 2009  

Adam Lambert has gotten exactly what he wanted today – countless people all over the country have been talking about his AMA performance.  I didn’t watch the AMA’s, but I watched three performances today on YouTube – his, Lady Gaga’s, and Kelly Clarkson’s.  Much to my chagrin, I’m going to give Adam what he wants and give my thoughts on his show closing performance.

As a musician, I have always avoided participating in music competitions.  To me, that’s not what music is about.  So I didn’t initially jump on the American Idol bandwagon.  But there have been a few seasons that I paid at least some attention:

  • I watched the last part of the inaugural season and rooted for Kelly Clarkson
  • I watched several elimination episodes until Sanjaya was voted off (yes, he annoyed me that much)
  • I happened to watch Adam Lambert’s audition episode, and I watched the last half of this season

Unlike the rest of the judges, Simon was very critical of Adam at his audition, calling him too Broadway.  While I would normally have agreed, I thought Adam was THAT good of a vocalist that he could tone it down and sing basically anything he wanted to.   I was blown away.  I didn’t watch any episodes after that – for a while, at least.

But the Bert Show on Q100 gave recaps of the performance episodes each Wednesday and played song samples of the top contestants.  One song stood out to me, and it was Adam’s reading of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire.”  I am not overly familiar with  Johnny Cash’s catalog, but I thought Adam’s version was incredibly self indulgent and contrived.  It so turned me off, I wanted him voted off.  (If you want to talk about an amazing remake, watch Johnny Cash’s video to his cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt,” which is easily one of the most moving and haunting videos ever made.)

At the same time, another performer began to gain notice due to his deft song selection and interpretive skills – Kris Allen.  So I began to watch the show to actively cheer for Kris.  The fact that Kris plays acoustic guitar appealed to me – not to mention that he’s cute as hell.  I loved his versions of songs such as Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard For The Money” and Kanye West’s “Heartless”  because he made them his own while still honoring them.

Each week I wondered what song Kris would choose and how he would arrange it, and I always knew that no matter what style of song Adam chose, no matter how soft a ballad, he would find a way to stick his tongue out and yell. I was thrilled when Kris won (and yes, I bought his CD last week).  But I will also sadly acknowledge that there were probably a lot of people who voted for Kris simply to vote AGAINST Adam because he was the GAY American Idol contestant.

So the fact that I’m a gay man – and an out gay artist – leaves me feeling a bit conflicted as to why I have such strong negative feelings about Adam Lambert.  Part of me wants to cheer him for being out there and pushing boundaries.  But his performance last night, and his recent handling of the media, typifies exactly why I don’t.

Let me just say that I am not a prude.  I am not opposed to two men kissing – quite the opposite.  I am all for pushing boundaries, for creating dialogue, for promoting change and acceptance.  There are ways to do that, while still promoting art.  Adam Lambert’s AMA performance was none of that – it was simply a hot mess.  It lacked any redeeming value, the song was mediocre, his vocals were atrocious, and most predictably, he screeched through half of the song.

For weeks leading up to the release of his CD For Your Entertainment, Adam has posed for provocative photoshoots (kissing girls – oh my!), done provocative interviews (”girls are hot.”), talked about his chubby, bad skinned past, and revealed one of the worst CD covers in recent history.  He has basically done everything possible to generate column inches that will hopefully translate to CD sales. And he’s done it very well.

Entertainment Weekly has given Adam a lot of press coverage lately, first for his supposedly unfair treatment by OUT Magazine’s editor, who wrote an open letter to Adam about his publicist’s request to present him “not too gay.”  Adam said OUT had gone too far, that every gay man is different – that we’re not all the same.  EW seemed to side with Adam.  Regarding Adam’s AMA performance, EW’s resident Idol expert Michael Slezak didn’t like it, while Ken Tucker (who I often agree with) said, “As a TV event, he was splendid.”  Ken even went as far to say that the music was beside the point, that it was Adam’s chance to break free from American Idol.  Hello, Ken?  It was the American MUSIC Awards, not the American TV Awards.

So Adam, last night you asked, “Do you like what you see?”  Well, no I don’t.  And to quote you, all gay men aren’t the same.  Sometimes I prefer someone who doesn’t hide behind a contrived image, who still has depth and “realness” even when the image takes center stage, who can pick up an acoustic guitar and reveal the true song by stripping it down, who doesn’t scream just because he can, who respects the music enough to let a song simply breathe.  Kelly Clarkson’s AMA performance of “Already Gone” is a perfect example of that.  What is most sad to me is that you will probably sell more CD’s than Kris Allen BECAUSE of the things that bug me the most, while never showing the boy behind the makeup and screaming voice. While Kris Allen may not have the pipes you do, he has an honesty and quiet confidence that you don’t.  Maybe you are being honest and I’m simply out of touch.  Perhaps you are what music – and pop culture – has become.  So while you may be here for my entertainment, I will say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

So what do you think?  Did you love his performance?  Hate it?  Think I’m crazy?  Post your comments and let’s discuss.

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