Jason Mraz gives PEOPLE an exclusive track-by-track walkthrough of his debut album Waiting for my Rocket to Come as well as behind-the-scenes video in honor of its 15th anniversary

By Dave Quinn
November 17, 2017 09:00 AM
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It’s been 15 years since Jason Mraz‘s debut album Waiting for My Rocket to Come debuted, launching the 40-year-old musician from the Southern California coffee house scene into global stardom and the forefront of contemporary American singer-songwriters.

Now four albums and series of accolades (including two Grammys) later, Mraz — who is currently making his Broadway debut in Sara Bareilles’ hit musical Waitress — is looking back at the career milestone with PEOPLE, going track by track on the album to reveal the secrets behind songs like “You and I Both,” “Curbside Prophet,” and his breakthrough single, “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry).”

It’s all in celebration of the Waiting for My Rocket to Come 15th Anniversary Vinyl, out now. The first-time-ever vinyl release of Mraz’s major label debut, the double LP features expanded artwork by Robert Fisher and Alison Dyer as well as lyrics and new liner notes by Mraz. It’s available on standard black vinyl at all music retailers. An orange vinyl edition is exclusively available via Barnes & Noble.

Jason Mraz
| Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

Additionally, Mraz is showing rare video of the recording of the album in his new behind-the-scenes documentary video series “Rocket Revisited” — and PEOPLE can exclusively offer the premiere of the first installment.

Directed by Peter Harding, the series splices video recorded before and around Waiting for My Rocket to Come‘s Oct. 15, 2002 release with new interviews of Mraz and producer John Alagia discussing the album’s genesis.

“This record was a gift,” Mraz says in the clip. “It was a gift that it got to happen. I got to get out of my little corner of the U.S. and tour pretty much every state in addition to England, Australia and Japan. When I look back on it now, it was more than just a stepping stone. It was the beginning of an entirely new life.”

Below, Mraz’s track-by-track walk-through Waiting for My Rock to Come‘s tunes.

Waiting for My Rocket to Come
| Credit: Atlantic Records

1. “You and I Both
“This was probably the first song written for that album. Before I was signed, I had a couple of songs that were gaining popularity by themselves in this coffee shop community and on local San Diego radio. ‘You and I Both’ was really my first coffee shop hit, so I wanted to start the album with it. I wrote the song as an ode to my first ever writing partner and writing coach, a girl I dated right after high school. She is a brilliant poet and taught me to write deeper and sing like myself and work really hard. ‘You and I both loved what we spoke of,’ ‘we’re all about the words’ — every lyric really played back to this person who taught me how to write.”

2. “I’ll Do Anything
“I co-wrote this with my buddy Billy Galewood. He and his homies have this sort of cool lingo, like, ‘Hey man, I’m chillin’ like ice cream fillin’ — that’s cool in the gang.’ And I wanted to create a song with all this lingo about this very spontaneous character. The highlight for me in the song is the line, ‘I can be lacubrious with you.’ ‘Lacubrious’ is a made up word, but it’s basically saying, ‘I’ll do anything, even say things I don’t know that they mean to try to land you,’ It’s a bit of an ego-driven song that I haven’t performed in many, many years. But I do love the bridge!”

3. “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)
“‘The Remedy’ was the first song of mine that had a mantra in it that felt like it shifted my perspective and transformed my DNA as a songwriter. I would travel the country for the first time on my first ever national tour and see people of all ages in all these different cities singing, ‘I won’t worry my life away.’ I saw what it was suddenly doing to the audience. It was like, ‘Wow this is like a magic trick.’ It was no longer about me, it was now about a song being bigger than me. I wanted to write more songs that could land in the hearts and minds and mouths of listeners. And since then, my hits have been, ‘I’m Yours,’ and ‘I Won’t Give Up.’ Anytime you can find a good affirmation for someone to sing, it soars. It just goes and goes and goes like a wave. ‘The Remedy’ taught me that.”

4. “Who Needs Shelter
“That was really where the rooster on the album cover comes from. ‘Curbside’ had a down-home Virginia feel but ‘Who Needs Shelter’ was about the rooster waking up the world with song. I was very conscious of that at that time in my life. I knew I was making this record and more demands were put on my and I needed to wake up, embrace this new opportunity I had, and get going. So it was a call to action and the rooster became my spirit animal for this record, which is why he ended up on the album artwork.”

5. “Curbside Prophet
“This song was really just a guitar riff more than anything, and I actually wrote ‘The Remedy’ over that riff. Once ‘The Remedy’ got developed, I realized that guitar riff was still available so I went back and decided to write a biography of my life from Virginia to San Diego because I used to have a coffee shop show and I constantly needed material. The original version, I don’t think it has any chorus — it was just a really long verse, like 5 minutes or something. The version that made it on the album has more of a pop song structure where I just cut that verse up into three other verses. Over the years I’ve continued to update the bio. It’s also the first time I really tried rapping.”

6. “Sleep All Day
“You remember the magnetic poetry kit that would be on the fridge? That’s how I wrote this song. I was living in a house with a lot of people, writing songs in the kitchen, and I looked over at the fridge and there was all this jumbled up stuff. The first thing I read was, ‘His after moan though cries oh no.’ It’s hard to really understand what that means but in poetry you can kind of imagine punctuation wherever you mark it and highlight different emotions or thoughts or exclamations. So most of the song was developed from the magnetic poetry kit. Even the words, ‘Sleep all day’ — they were there.”

Jason Mraz in 2003 on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
| Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

7. “Too Much Food
“One of the recurring themes that appears throughout my catalog, as well as songs that never made it on my albums, is about the pressures of writing. When you’re writing for records, there’s a lot of rejection and there’s a lot of requests and a lot of moving parts. So ‘Too Much Food’ was my musical response to all of that pressure to creating a debut record.”

8. “Absolutely Zero
“Ahh, one of my favorite songs on the record! It’s about falling in love with a friend and then going a little deeper before realizing, ‘We’re better off as friends.’ Which is a really hard dance — to open your heart, fall in love, and then have to go back being friends. I think the melody, the mood, it definitely echoed the true feeling of what that was like. It was awesome, it was adventurous, it was lustful, but it was also kind of sad.”

Jason Mraz at the 2003 American Music Awards
| Credit: KMazur/WireImage

9. “On Love, in Sadness
“‘On Love, in Sadness’ was a poem that was written by a young brilliant poet named Jenny Keene. Back in my coffee shop days, Jenny would share my poetry and allow me to adapt them into songs. ‘On Love, in Sadness’ and ’Tonight Not Again’ were two of those songs where she had books of poetry with those titles. The song is summed up by the line, ‘Love will never be lost on me.’ What I like about ‘On Love, in Sadness’ is that even in crazy chaos, it’s up to us to return to love. That again is another recurring theme that shows up in my work.”

10. “No Stopping Us
“I wanted an ode musically to the songs my dad listened to when I was growing up. Like ‘Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy’ by The Tams. That kind of beach music, Chicago rhythm and blues — a nice, swinging, Yacht Rock tune that was about optimism and hope. Musically I wanted it to be on a playlist that my dad could enjoy.”

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11. ‘The Boy’s Gone
“This came out of a love for Nick Drake and also a recurring theme in my work which is, ‘What’s life about and where do we go when it’s over and what should we do while we’re here?’ I constantly revisit that because we’re human and all humans suffer because we know it’s going to end. ‘The Boy Is Gone’ is one of the first songs I dove into that topic and allowed a little bit of my spirituality to come out.”

12. “Tonight Not Again
“Jenny Keene gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted whenever I was taking her poetry into a song. But I think lyrically, especially in the verses, there’s a lot of similarities to ‘On Love, in Sadness.’ You’re not sure what is being told but there’s a lot of different colors, emotions, and specifics in a short time which is really beautiful. I actually strayed from that after my first album, I didn’t do that anymore as far as adapt poetry. As a songwriter I’ve tried to write songs that sound more like a conversation rather than the abstractness of poetry.

But this continues to still be one of my favorite songs and I perform it quite often. What I love about it is how much it celebrates the world love. That has also become my main theme in all of my work. No matter what, love is at the core of it. I love singing, I love performing, love is what’s going to heal us and bring us together in a very divided world. Love is when we’re absolutely awake and in the moment and able to love. Songwriters, movies, artists, even speechwriters — they all do it. They all want to bring us back to love. ‘Tonight Not Again’ is that. It’s just love, love, love. We’re driving it all the way home ’til the end of the album.”