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Jason Mraz Talks His Biggest Hits, Dancing With the Stars , and Life on the Farm

You know Jason Mraz as a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and, more recently, a Dancing With the Stars runner-up. But you may not know about his years moonlighting as a farmer. (Yes, really.)

Mraz Family Farms in San Diego is home to avocados, passionfruit, and—most importantly—coffee, which is a big part of the musician’s life.

“I’ve learned a lot from planting trees. It affects how I operate and work in music,” Mraz tells Glamour. “I don’t just make an album overnight. Things take time, they take nurturing, and trees taught me that. Planting a tree and waiting years and years for an outcome is okay.”

Although he calls the work rewarding, he also acknowledges the ongoing challenges of farming. “Now that I’ve been in it for many, many years, I wonder why I got in it, because I was young and naive, and I thought, I’m going to plant thousands of coffee trees and grow coffee,” he says. “Basically what I planted 10 years ago were challenges. I was planting challenges for myself, and I was not aware of that.”

But in the end he doesn’t regret the endeavor, as it acts as a reminder to slow things down. “We live in a world where things are go, go, go. We work all the time,” says Mraz. “But in nature, most of the planet has a winter where it shuts down. And nature doesn’t work like that, so I find inspiration from nature to make sure I take care of myself so that I can also hopefully have a long productive life.”

Mraz took a moment to slow down and talk to Glamour while attending the Planet Oat Barista Lovers Coffee House in NYC to discuss his time on DWTS, how he finds new meaning in his biggest hits, and more.

<h1 class="title">Planet Oat's Barista Lovers Coffee House / Jason Mraz</h1><cite class="credit">Mike Coppola/Getty Images</cite>

Planet Oat's Barista Lovers Coffee House / Jason Mraz

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Glamour: I want to start with Dancing With the Stars. What went into your decision to go on the show?

Jason Mraz: I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about music. It’s almost like bringing music into a visible dimension because music is really invisible; it’s sound waves. We can close our eyes and feel music, but dance is a way to visually express music. That’s something I was always a little afraid to do, a little bit shy to do—but I also was curious and I wanted to know how to do it. I took a few dance classes growing up, but I always just felt a little embarrassed to be in that room.

Something about Dancing With the Stars just felt like this would be the ultimate challenge. And it worked. It woke me up big time. It shocked me. It scared me. It peeled off layers. It improved how I feel and view myself. I overcame certain fears. It improved my range of motion and my endurance, my flexibility. It was like boot camp for life. I hated it and I loved it. I hated the grind because I’ve been self-employed for so long. I can kind of pick and choose what I do, and in Dancing With the Stars I had no choice.

There’s this whole thing among the fans about how you were scored too low; they’re very up in arms about it. Do you agree with that sentiment?

No, no. I feel like a winner. I mean, I can’t believe I made it all the way to second place. And the scores, I feel great about it. I agree with what happened every week. I thought the judges did a great job in giving me great feedback and guidance to get as far as I did.

What friend of yours do you think would be great on Dancing With the Stars?

Oh, Sara Bareilles would be great, or Ingrid Michaelson. I work with both of them on the regular, and I’ve nudged them both. And they’re both a little shy about it. I don’t think they need to do it. But now that I’ve done it, I want to see more of my friends go on there and go through it.

Shifting gears to music, how do you feel about playing your biggest songs now? They have sort of taken on lives of their own.

I still play them. I love them. There are a few songs that I don’t play. I don’t play “Geek in the Pink” anymore, which was a song I released in 2005. And that is largely because I just don’t feel connected to that young person anymore, and that type of gloating that that character was who sang that song.

But “I’m Yours” is a song about generosity, about recognizing those around you and or giving yourself or your time to a higher power and saying, “Okay, I’m here. Make me an instrument. I’m yours. Let’s do this.” And to me, that’s a never-ending kind of universal feeling. And when a song like that, or “The Remedy” or “Lucky” or “I Won’t Give Up,” reaches an audience, they have a universal feeling. So I still feel like I’m connected to those narratives. So they’re easy to sing. And as I get older, sometimes I find completely new meaning for them.

“I Won’t Give Up” got me through Dancing With the Stars, believe it or not. I got to dance to that around week eight or nine, and I was literally feeling like quitting. I felt like, “My body hurts; it doesn’t matter if I win or not. Just let me go home.” And I wasn’t able to go home, contractually, and Daniella, my partner said, “I think we should dance to ‘I Won’t Give Up.’” And hearing that the entire week, learning how to dance to that song, it got in me again like a medicine that I needed. The same thing happens when I play live—the messages in those songs continue to lift and inspire me, so I don’t mind playing them.

What made you want to partner with Planet Oat? Obviously you love coffee.

I started my career in coffee shops as a musician, but I also worked as a barista many times. In fact, I still go to my local coffee shop and they let me barista behind the counter because I just love playing with the gadgets and gear, steaming milk and stuff. And my local coffee shop has used Planet Oat for years, so I was already familiar with the product. I use it at home.

You jump behind the counter at your coffee shop? What can you make? Can you do latte art?

Absolutely, yep. I’m still just making hearts really. I’ve got some friends that can do a unicorn and a swan and all kinds of things. But yeah, I make little beautiful hearts and I just love giving that gift of love on top of a latte. It’s so fun to me. And it’s something about coffee, because it’s a craft beverage. It always comes out a little different. It’s a very special routine to make it, and then it’s a special me time to sit and drink it with friends. So I love that about coffee. I love hanging out in coffee shops.

What’s your usual coffee order?

I typically get an oat milk latte. And I’m making the same thing at home, an oat milk latte with Planet Oat.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Lindy Segal is a freelance lifestyle writer and editor whose work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Fast Company, InStyle, and others. She also writes the Substack newsletter “Gatekeeping.”

Originally Appeared on Glamour