August 20, 2009 / 10:29 PM / 10 years ago

Q&A: Mraz humbled by success of "little hippie song"

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Jason Mraz entered the record books this week with his single “I’m Yours,” which notched an extraordinary 70th week on the Hot 100.

Singer Jason Mraz performs on NBC's 'Today' show in New York, August 7, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The track debuted on the May 3, 2008, chart and peaked at No. 6 nearly a year ago, on September 20, 2008. The song has resided within the top 40 of the list in all but the first 12 weeks of its chart life, dropping from No. 23 to No. 29 on the latest tally.

Multiformat airplay is one of the reasons for the staying power of “I’m Yours.” It’s the only track to reach No. 1 on each of the following four radio-based charts: Mainstream Top 40/Pop Songs, Adult Contemporary, Adult Top 40, and Triple A (adult alternative album). It also has appeared on the Latin Pop and Smooth Jazz lists, and debuted this week on Rhythmic. “I’m Yours” also ranks as the third-best-selling digital song (4.4 million downloads) since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking download sales in 2003.

The single surpassed the record held for nearly 11 years by LeAnn Rimes’ signature hit “How Do I Live,” which spent 69 weeks on the Hot 100, ending with the October 10, 1998, chart.

Billboard caught up with Mraz to chat about his record-breaking chart success, the inspiration behind “I’m Yours” and why Rimes should do a country remake of it.

Billboard: After enjoying multiformat success with “The Remedy” in 2003, did you feel that “I’m Yours” was the track that was going to not only equal that song’s chart performance six years later, but wildly surpass it in so many ways?

Jason Mraz: I had little expectations about “I’m Yours” on the radio. I knew it was going to be great for the album, and I’d watched the song evolve and capture audiences for years. But I honestly thought radio was going to kill the quiet momentum the song already had. I was wrong. People just kept getting on board at both ends of the radio dial. I’m still blown away — humbled by the success of my happy little hippie song.

Billboard: Were you aware that you were nearing the longevity record on the Hot 100 chart? And now that you’ve set it, what does it mean to you to hold a mark that no other artist has been able to achieve in the 51-year history of the chart?

Mraz: I found out about six weeks ago that the song was on its way to breaking this record. I was moved. At first I wanted to rally and launch a campaign to make sure people kept listening, but that would actually be different than the way the song has been rolling, so I just left it alone and said if it happens, it happens. And it happened!

Billboard: Take us to the origin of the song. Did it come to you quickly or did you labor over it for a long time?

Mraz: “I’m Yours” was written rather quickly, maybe 15 or 20 minutes. I was at home in my writing room, chugging along on my electric guitar, minding my reggae influences, grateful for another sunny afternoon in San Diego. The melody just appeared out of nowhere while the words flew over my head as my thoughts were focused on surrendering to the moment. That is ultimately what the song is about — giving yourself or your time to someone or something else. I thought it was cool and had a nice bounce, and I began playing it live almost immediately. That was five years ago. After it had lived on the road for a while I decided to put it on a record to give it a home.

Billboard: What have your fans told you about why the song is special to them?

Mraz: When I finally recorded it, my fans were relieved that we didn’t overproduce it. We kept the feel and arrangement true to how we play it live. And what I’ve noticed, the fans react in a way that shows the song isn’t about me. This is a song that people sing to each other, or to themselves. It can be a love song or a personal song of empowerment. Its melody is not unlike a nursery rhyme, and the message is like reading fortune cookie after fortune cookie.

Billboard: Outside of the Hot 100, “I’m Yours” has appeared on such diverse radio airplay charts as Top 40, Adult Contemporary, Latin Pop, Smooth Jazz, Triple A and now Rhythmic Top 40, an almost unheard-of combination. What is it about this song that has made it so appealing to such a wide audience?

Mraz: I think it’s because it borrows from every one of those formats. Or perhaps the song is genre-less. The first two and a half minutes have so little production you could almost classify it as spoken word. Yet it’s rhythmic and melodic at the same time. It’s easy to ingest compared to other radio tracks that hit you with way too many layers, in my opinion. But then the song ends with a playful sing-along, a big sound that enrolls the listener in the hook for another go around. But still, I think it’s the right message at the right time. People sing this song to each other. It’s a message of generosity — a song to go along with the world waking up to love in a time when kindness has a much higher value than the dollar.

Billboard: The one major genre “I’m Yours” has yet to reach is country. Would you want to tackle that version? Or who do you think might do it justice as a cover?

Mraz: I don’t think I would do the song justice going country. Maybe Kenny Chesney could put a clever spin on it. Or LeAnn Rimes! Who knows? If she did it right, she might get her title back. Ha!

(Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters)

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