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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 7/28/03 |   |

All it took Jason Mraz was six months. He met both his future agent and manager one summer night in Las Vegas and by that October, he was playing guitar at his agent's wedding reception.

Well, not exactly at the reception. Mraz was the busker; he entertained guests as they waited for the elevator to go to a Manhattan loft where Little Big Man's Marty Diamond was having a full-on entertainment reception, which included music by clients Sarah McLachlan and Richard Ashcroft.

"I was a 'formal' busker," said Mraz, who was not yet formally a LBM client. "You were entertained everywhere you went, and I had the role of busker."

The person who introduced him to Diamond in Las Vegas was Southern California promoter Bill Silva.

"I wasn't aware of who Bill was, but I did know I was going to go to a concert that Bill was promoting. ... (After meeting Marty), Bill whispered in my ear, 'Someday, that guy will probably be your agent,'" Mraz said. "I laughed. I didn't know anything about the business at the time."

It was the first time the theatre student from Virginia had been in Vegas; he had just moved to San Francisco from New York City.

Mraz couldn't recall for certain who the woman onstage that evening (he thought it was Alanis Morissette). It was up to Silva to fill in the details for POLLSTAR.

"Marty was out vacationing for the weekend with his wife because he liked to come to Vegas," the promoter said. "We happened to have Billy Joel one night and Alanis the other night. Jason's ex-girlfriend was dating one of my best friends who kept saying that I had to meet Jason. My friend's musical taste doesn't usually mesh with mine, so I did everything I could to avoid meeting this kid."

What Mraz does remember is that he and Silva later went to a hotel party where he learned who his future manager would be: Silva.

"I decided to play some songs and later that evening, Bill pulled me aside and said, 'What do you do for a living? What do you want to do?'" Mraz said.

"We talked a little bit about how I wanted to get into the music business and he talked a little bit about how he wanted to get into music management, having had some experience up to that point."

Silva's take: "This little guy with a guitar walked in and I thought, 'Oh God, he's going to want to play songs for us.' Sure enough, he asked if he could play a song or two and we all dutifully sat down to listen. I recall I had goosebumps by the end of the first song. By the end of the second song I called Marty and his wife to come down and check it out. Marty was, like, in tears by the second song he heard, turned around and said, 'If you let anyone else book this kid I'll break your legs!'"

"Jason has just an infectious personality," Diamond said. "He is somebody whom you can't help but fall in love with, and he's just an incredibly engaging performer. Once he has you, he won't let you go. ... It's something I saw from the very beginning when I first met him."

Diamond added that LBM's Jonathan Adelman, who handles the day-to-day booking responsibilities, shares those same feelings.

Although Mraz didn't technically sign with Bill Silva Management until last year and right before the drop date of his major label debut, Waiting For My Rocket To Come, he already had an informal team put together that night. He followed Silva's advice and checked out San Diego's music scene. Mraz, whose name rhymes with "has" and means "frost" in Czechoslovakian, moved down there, cut a demo and, at Silva's suggestion, honed his craft at the coffee houses.

It followed a path similar to Jack Johnson's. And, just as Johnson's gigs snowballed from playing solo to playing with a band of faithful musicians, Mraz was by Djembe-style percussionist Toca Rivera. Silva said former Album Network exec Jerry Lindahl helped a great deal in promoting Mraz.

"My first gig was playing a side stage at a Jewel show (at Coors Amphitheatre)," Mraz said. "That took my fan base from zero to about 800 people. I was able to basically carry that fan base through my coffee shop history for the three years I was in San Diego."

Things got easier after he landed a recurring Thursday evening at Java Joe's, selling it out for more than a year. That led to an independent radio station picking up his music, which led to "at least 10 or 12" record companies taking a good hard look at him.

There was something else occurring, too. It went by different names, Kazaa, Morpheus, CD-RW, and was instrumental in getting Mraz introduced to the college crowds. Much like O.A.R., younger promoters have been known to submit offers for Mraz not because of SoundScan numbers but because his songs are traded in great volume on the Internet.

"We were playing in Lawrence, Kan., which is a great little music town but I didn't expect there would be anyone there," he said. "This was the middle of the country, far away from anything; I'd never been there before, yet the show was sold out. Five hundred crazy kids not only singing songs from the album but singing songs from my old days, live albums and bootlegs. That's when I knew something had definitely hit here."

A live album and potential DVD might come out next February, with the follow-up studio album in the summer, while the current single, "The Remedy" is climbing into the Top 20.

"We encourage taping at the shows because we've seen how valuable it is to introducing us to new communities whether it's Jack Johnson's, Dave Matthews' or Ani DiFranco's," Silva said. "I don't know how else you explain a Monday night in Cincinnati, no radio play, we'd only [sold] 90 records, and we sold 500 tickets and turned 100 kids away."


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