Jason Mraz On His Unexpected Journey To The 'Dancing With The Stars' Finale

The "I'm Yours" singer thought he'd join the reality dancing competition, learn a few routines and go home — but he soon started dominating the leaderboard.
Jason Mraz and Daniella Karagach dance to "Do You Love Me?" during Motown Week on "Dancing With the Stars."
Jason Mraz and Daniella Karagach dance to "Do You Love Me?" during Motown Week on "Dancing With the Stars."
Eric McCandless via Getty Images

After weeks of show-stopping choreography, powerful performances and heartbreaking eliminations, “Dancing With the Stars” is ready to hand out the mirrorball trophy for Season 32.

For singer Jason Mraz, getting to wow audiences with a paso doble is prize enough.

“It’s hard to remember who the winners are from the past seasons, but what you do remember are memorable dances,” he said. “I didn’t even know what an Argentine tango was. And now it’s one of my favorite things ever.”

The two-time Grammy winner, who is appearing along with fellow contestants Ariana Madix, Xochitl Gomez, Charity Lawson and Alyson Hannigan on Tuesday night’s finale, reflected on his journey to the reality dancing competition. He called his entry on the show “perfectly timed” just months after releasing his latest album, “Mystical Magical Rhythmical Radical Ride,” which features a prescient single: “I Feel Like Dancing.” Mraz got his wish, dancing a cha-cha in the premiere with partner Daniella Karagach to that very song.

“I was already revving myself up for about a year,” said Mraz, whose debut album, “Waiting for My Rocket to Come,” in 2002 made him a staple on any millennial’s mix CD. “But there’s nothing like this show out there. And it turned out to be a lot harder than I thought, but so much better than I thought as well.”

“I thought it would be easy. I was like, ‘I can learn a dance routine,’” he said. “I was in show choir when I was in high school, and I know how to, like, step touch and do some basic things. But I still went in with low expectations.”

His first performance earned him a score of 21 out of 30 and effusive praise from judge Bruno Tonioli: “Jason, what is going on here? Why did you keep this secret from us? He’s a dancer, come on!”

Mraz found a comfortable spot toward the top of the leaderboard for most of the season, achieving perfect 10s across the board with his Argentine tango to “Don’t Blame Me” in Week 9.

Karagach and Mraz dance to "Don't Blame Me" for the show's Taylor Swift-themed night.
Karagach and Mraz dance to "Don't Blame Me" for the show's Taylor Swift-themed night.
Eric McCandless/The Walt Disney Co.

“After the first night, and things went well, and then the second week, and the third week, things were going pretty well,” he said. “I started to realize that I could be here for the entire three months.”

“What’s equally hard about the show and nice about the show is that it covers a range of dances, a range of styles, a range of tempos — and they’re not just dance routines. It’s how to dance, in your whole being, from head to toe, from fingertip to fingertip,” he added.

Beyond the show’s fun costumes and flashy numbers, Mraz highlighted the hard work it takes to make it week after week — and how to give yourself some grace when you’re doing something for the first time.

“I went into this thinking, where I’m at in my life at 46, I’m still looking for new experiences. And that’s what this was, for me, a new experience,” said the singer, who has a tattoo on his arm that reads “Beginner.” “That kind of gives me permission to fail. It gives me permission to, like, not look like a professional if I don’t get it right in six days. We only have about six days to learn a new dance and perform it on television. And if it doesn’t go perfect, it’s OK, we’re all amateurs, we’re all beginners in this competition, and that allows me just to be a little more gentle with myself.”

He’s also had fun cheering on his fellow contestants, noting how they’re “really the only other people in the world that we can relate with right now because of the schedule and what your mind is having to take on, your body’s having to take on, all that.”

“And we understand the pain everyone is in,” he added with a laugh.

“The fact that we all get to go to the finale together, and celebrate our work, and celebrate our dances and dance for each other is also so much greater than a win,” he said.

Mraz, far right, and Karagach react with fellow contestants after making it through the show's semifinals.
Mraz, far right, and Karagach react with fellow contestants after making it through the show's semifinals.
Eric McCandless/The Walt Disney Co.

Being able to see Karagach at work as well as the effort from fellow contestants has inspired Mraz in unexpected ways.

“I get to be in the room for three months every day with a professional and learn why they’re a professional and really see how deep they go in their craft. It is a beautiful thing,” he said. “Already, when I pick up the guitar or play piano, I’m approaching it differently. I look at it differently. The way Daniella would break down the dance, I can now break down a section of the song and see how I can improve it.”

“Again, I just thought I was going to join the show and learn some dance routines,” said the singer, who is embarking on a tour supporting his latest album next summer. “And instead it’s affecting me in my work ethic, It’s affecting me in my communication and my relationships, my trust — ’cause dance is also about intimacy and trust — my confidence, my courageousness, so many things I leave here with. I definitely feel transformed by this experience.”

The Season 32 finale of “Dancing With the Stars” airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and Disney+.

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