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TB: You came to San Diego almost by accident, while road-tripping through California in the late ’90s. What made you decide to stay? Was it that sense of community you’ve talked about that you miss on the road?
JM: Yeah. I left Virginia two months before I found San Diego, because I had this feeling something on the West Coast was calling me. I packed up all my things and drove to California. And I was crying while I was driving, because I was so scared. I didn’t know what I was doing. But I knew I would find it. And when I got to San Diego, I met so many people so quickly. The first were Mike Andrews and his band, Elgin Park. He gave me a place on his couch and let me be a roadie with his band. From there, I went down to Java Joe’s, and in one night I met Gregory Paige and Toca Rivera and a lot of great writers——people who were putting out this great music. I found the community of Java Joe’s; they gave me a home almost instantly.
TB: You found family.
JM: Family. Exactly. That was exactly what I was looking for——a place where I could participate. I just wanted to sit in a corner of a coffee shop and play music. At the time, there was Java Joe’s and Twiggs, Lestat’s, even a place around the corner from Java Joe’s called New Break that didn’t have music, but they gave me a chance to play music every Saturday night for the entire summer. And I was immediately involved.
TB: You have a home in Fallbrook.
JM: It’s up there in North County.
TB: That’s sort of back-country San Diego. Pretty far removed from what lots of folks think of as the glamorous world of pop music. Are you an unlikely pop star?
JM: I am. Indeed. I have a great home, but I brought my grandma out to visit the place, and I think she was a bit confused by all the paintings and the colors and people and things that I bring into my world. There’s a kind of pop element to the home——a creative space where we encourage you to cook, or paint or create music——something that contributes to the energy. But I don’t want anybody living there who’s just going to sit around and make the couch heavy. When I say “we,” I’ve always shared my home; there’s always been at least three or four artists living there.
TB: I hear you’re a surfer. Something you probably didn’t pick up in Virginia.
JM: That’s something I picked up about three years ago, thanks to Tristan Prettyman and her family. She’s another great artist from San Diego, and her dad is a phenomenal surf instructor. He got me right in. It changed my whole philosophy about life, man. I started paying more attention to my health and my fitness and my attitudes.
TB: What were you doing before that?
JM: Smoking cigarettes. That’s something a Virginian does. You grow up watching NASCAR and smoking cigarettes. Surfing got me healthy. When I’m going on the road, I’m afraid I’m going to lose my strength, so I found myself running, jogging, working out, so that when I got home I’d still be strong enough to surf. Every season brings new shapes on the water, and I’d want to be able to tackle the winter waves and big swells.
TB: When we were shooting cover photos for this month’s magazine, there was a fine-looking young lady who accompanied you. The daughter, I happen to know, of local baseball legend Kurt Bevacqua and former San Diego Magazine cover model Carrie Bevacqua. Is Tawney Bevacqua “just a friend,” as they say, or is something more going on there?
JM: Tawney’s been a close friend for two years. Because I travel so much, we’re not making any serious commitments. But if I were to settle down, she’s one of the first places I would look.
TB: Not to suggest you’re going to retire anytime soon, but is the house in Fallbrook going to be a part of your exit strategy some day? Are you going to become a gentleman avocado grower?
JM: I definitely think it would have something to do with the land. I love being out there, sitting among the trees. There’s a purpose to it all. It’s peaceful and quiet. Whether you’re looking for the coyotes or the owls, it’s just hard to believe you’re in San Diego. And it only takes me 15 minutes to get to the beach.
TB: I have to ask about the name Mraz. Where does that come from? Seems like you’re missing a vowel or two.
JM: It’s Czech. My grandfather came over from Czechoslovakia in 1915, during the First World War. Unfortunately, when he got to the U.S., the family sort of split up, and the language was lost. Mraz means “frost.” But I like to think of it as meaning “cool”!