Produced by: Dan Hwang
Written and Interviewed by: Jesse Carr
Mayer Hawthorne sounds and looks like an anachronism, and in today’s over-crowded instant-share, instant-listen, instant-forget music scene, that’s a rare quality. Hawthorne’s throwback arrangements are completed without samples and he sometimes uses recording techniques like crooning his lyrics through headphones to add some old time grit to the vocals. But, as scores of small labels can attest to, attention to detail insures neither success nor notoriety. So Hawthorne’s appeal must be a testament to something greater than geeky recording techniques or music lessons that help him strum the guitar and get the right tone on a rim shot. He’s got the swagger of an urban pop star without resembling anything remotely close to it. Instead of black Dior shades, he dons large, retro-inspired spectacles. Instead of a Louis Vuitton monogrammed scarf over a black leather coat, he keeps it classic with a houndstooth blazer and bird-in-hand knot on a tie. So, while making music reminiscent of another time and place, he’s also pulls off a look and feel to match.
The formula has been successful thus far, as Hawthorne is now pounding the pavement stateside on a one and a half month tour that began in Fort Lauderdale and culminates in his hometown, Los Angeles. This grueling tour follows another that brought him through Europe, all in an attempt to bring spread the Hawthorne brand. Mayer has certainly garnered alt-appeal already, and he is inching towards more mainstream notoriety, as he recently recorded a remix for Snoop Dogg’s “Gangsta Love,” which includes both his voice and production. Snoop, a soul fan himself, apparently plans for more collaborations with the young man from Ann Arbor, Michigan in the future.
Hawthorne didn’t begin his career in music with the goal of making retro-soul. Like many others who began as DJs, his discovery of the rich, multi-faceted sounds of yesteryear came from finding samples. But while mixing records and making music in Michigan, he also ventured out into writing and performing hip-hop tracks under the moniker Haircut. And while the Haircut project is on hold while he tours as Mayer Hawthorne, he still DJs gigs, like the famed LA Afternoon party, the Do Over, where flexes his skills as a music selector.
Hawthorne’s soul project began as a sort of side venture, and when Stones Throw Records’ Peanut Butter Wolf heard an early collection of tracks, he met with Hawthorne and eventually signed him. So, with the sensibility of a hip-hop producer, rapper, and DJ, Hawthorne makes music that is meant to sound like the original sample sources for the tracks he grew up listening to. Instead of mining for rare 45s by Syl Johnson, now he’s making original tracks that feature loud snares and heavy bass grooves in homage.
Freshness recently tracked down the busy artist during a stopover on his European tour, and we are excited to present an interview that explores his hip-hop and soul roots. We also get a look at some of the differences among audiences abroad, lean about his art direction for his unique videos, and much more. We also have a track for download that was recently released in conjunction with his domestic tour. Click after the jump for much more on Mayer and his neo-retro-soul sounds.