Ann Arbor, Michigan bred Mayer Hawthorne bringing the fundamentals of Hip Hop, Soul, and Doo Wop into the game at this time is the equivalent to bringing water to the desert. The immediate comparisons made to an already established music head such as Mayer have included Robin Thicke and the not so recent recording artist, Remy Shand are evidence as such. Yearning for fresh crops grown from scratch but using familiar ingredients, there is a hopeful nature surrounding the hype of the Mayer Hawthorne brand.
With his debut release "A Strange Arrangement", Hawthorne’s music is more accurately compared to that of Smokey Robinson, Frankie Lymon, and other greats of the Doo Wop and Motown era. Combining the elements of Hip Hop with the stamina and creativity of J-Dilla, Hawthorne has drafted blue prints reminiscent of Detroit days and vocal tricks not seen since, well since Motown.
Mayer Hawthorne sits down with brokencool.com writer Maxine Ross to discuss the manifestation of greatness, through music.
Mayer Hawthorne on future projects:
"I’m always trying to push the envelope and stay creative and try to experiment and try new things. I just did a track with Freeway, we just talked to Snoop Dogg about doing a song together."
Maxine Ross: Mayer Hawthorne, what’s good?
Mayer Hawthorne: Preparing for a little trip overseas. I’m going over to London, Paris and Amsterdam for a few DJ gigs and promotion for the new album.
MR: Let’s throw right to that, tell me about the new album "A Strange Arrangement."
MH: It’s my debut album and it’s going to be released on Stones Throw Records. It’s heavily Doo Wop and Motown inspired but it’s also for a new generation. There’s just as much J-Dilla in there as there is Smokey Robinson.
MR: Wow, Dilla and Smokey is a crazy equation. Heavy Hip Hop influence.
MH: Yeah, I definitely grew up on Hip Hop music. I’m an 80’s baby. I’ve been listening to Hip Hop for most of my life. I’m a Hip Hop DJ and it’s the music of my generation. I grew up right outside of Detroit in Ann Arbor, Michigan, listening to Motown and 50’s soul. The music that a lot of Hip Hop is based on now came out of that era.
MR: What was your writing process like for this album?
MH: For this album, it sounds sort of cliché but, I almost feel like I don’t even write these songs. They just sort of come to me at the most inconvenient times. I’ll have to stop what I’m doing and call myself and leave a voice mail of me singing a song. I never really sit down and try to write a song. The words just kind of come to me and I’ll hear the whole thing. From drums, to bass line to melodies to harmonies to everything. It usually just comes all together.
MR: And you play most of the instruments yourself?
MH: I play a majority of instruments on the album. I enjoy the challenge of it as far as trying to play it all myself. I’ve had a lot of help though, from members of my live band.
MR: You’ve mentioned your influences, should we expect to get the same feeling from your music as some of the greats?
MH: Hopefully it gives you that feeling you get when you listen to classic soul like Motown. It definitely is new though so, the goal is for you to get that good feeling when you listen to classic soul but for it to be progressive and new. The feeling is the same regardless of the era; I just put my spin on it to create a sound for our generation.
MR: Your music is looked at as the revival of real soul. What are your thoughts on the state of music?
MH: You know, I feel the music industry is, contrary to popular belief, it’s sort of the same as it’s always been. You know, the internet has changed a lot of things and the way that we go about getting our music these days. There’s always been good music out there and there’s always been crap out there. I think it’s the same way today. There’s a ton of great music out there. It may be a little tougher to find but now that we get most of our music from the internet anyway, you just gotta dig around a little bit. There’s some incredible music being put out right now. It might not be played on commercial radio but it’s still incredible. Even some of the stuff that’s played on the radio I like.
MR: What are you listening to?
MH: I’m listening to a lot of different things. I listen to all kinds of music, not just soul or Hip Hop. I listen to a lot of Jazz, Reggae, even Frank Sinatra. I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra lately. I just bought The Police box set! I’ve been listening to them a lot. I love this singer/song-writer out of Norway. I’ve been listening to her music. It’s sort of folksy, jazzy, I don’t know how to describe it. Her song writing is what gets me. It’s incredible. I just saw Jon Brion recently, he’s one of the cats out there that I really respect.
MR: Yes, Jon Brion is amazing.
MH: He’s made some incredible music.
MR: I like how you seem to balance all of your influences, from the DJ Haircut days until now.
MH: That’s where this all came from. I’ve been DJ-ing most of my life mostly Hip Hop music and it’s definitely where the whole Mayer Hawthorne thing came from, being a Hip Hop producer and listening to and digging for a lot of the staples that were used in some of my favorite Hip Hop records. That’s where this influence is built from, the foundation of Hip Hop.
MR: I’ve already heard some of the Robin Thicke comparisons, Thicke wasn’t spinning Dilla records though.
MH: I guess I don’t really think about it too much. I just try to do what comes naturally and what feels right. Right now it’s Mayer Hawthorne, Motown Doo Wop soul. Who knows what it could be down the road.
MR: What’s next after ushering in this new era?
MH: I don’t know just yet. I’m focused on Mayer Hawthorne. I’m working on Mayer Hawthorne material for a while. I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. I’m always working on new music though. Always. I’m always trying to push the envelope and stay creative and try to experiment and try new things. I just did a track with Freeway, we just talked to Snoop Dogg about doing a song together.
MR: Are you deep in your records still?
MH: Oh yeah. I still dig for records as much as humanly possible. My records are my most prized possession. I play records everyday. I’m still DJ-ing all the time. Yeah, we’re doing a full US tour in September followed by a full European tour in the fall. I’m gonna be on the road for the rest of the year supporting this album.
MR: Anytime someone puts out new music that everyone is feeling, there’s a lot of hype that surrounds it. Does the chatter make you nervous?
MH: You know what, I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t get nervous anymore. I’m having so much fun with this project that I just let go and try to embrace the character and the music. It’s a blast. I try not to pay too much attention to what’s going on in the media. I just do what I’ve always done and that’s have as much fun as I can with it. Be creative and put out good music.
MR: Any collaboration in the works we should know about?
MH: Not on the album. This album is strictly me and 100% me. Just in general to work with though, we’ve been talking to Snoop Dogg about these tracks and that would be a dream comes true for sure. Jon Brion would be another one that I would love to work with.
MR: Where can we stay updated with your haps? There’s obviously a twitter account right?
MH: Yeah, follow me on twitter for sure; Mayer Hawthorne. I love twitter. I’m on there everyday so that’s the best way to keep in touch with me.
MR: Excellent. What else?
MH: "A Strange Arrangement" drops on 09-09-09 on Stones Throw Records, my other home on the web is stonesthrowrecords.com, you can always check in there too.