Music’s Mr. Everything: Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne WMC Photo
Mayer Hawthorne

Many of the people I speak to about music are around my age. Usually that means they have a nostalgic ear when listening to music on radio. Therefore, most of today’s young artists are eliminated when my counterparts make listening choices. However, a few months ago I found a young singer/songwriter who might change the music some of us “older” folks choose to buy. I found, listened to, and enjoyed the music of Mayer Hawthorne. I realize that a few of you reading might be very familiar with Hawthorne’s music, but there are many others who don’t know anything about him. Therefore, it’s time for an introduction. Especially for an artist who may have appeal for listeners young and old.

First, let’s start with identifying Mayer Hawthorne. Andrew Mayer Cohen (born February 2, 1979), better known by the stage name Mayer Hawthorne, is a Grammy-nominated American singer, producer, songwriter, arranger, audio engineer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist. As I labeled him in the title of this post, a musical Mr. Everything. Mayer Hawthorne started out as a DJ, and moved into music production, engineering and eventually multiple musical instruments. I understood why Hawthorne might wear so many musical hats. I’ve worn multiple musical hats at times out of necessity. Perhaps it was easier for Hawthorne to do the work himself, instead of investing the time and cost of hiring another musician. Nevertheless, Mayer Hawthorne developed into a multi-talented music maker.

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, Hawthorne grew up under the influence of his father who not only taught him to play the bass guitar at five years old, but also exposed him to timeless music. Mayer Hawthorne spoke about his father’s influence in his biography, “He would play records in the house all while I was growing up. He’d say, ‘You hear him singing there? That’s David Ruffin.’ Or, ‘You hear that guitar solo? That’s Stephen Stills.’ ” Hawthorne is influenced by some of the very best artists of all time.  Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Leroy Hutson, Mike Terry, Barry White, Smokey Robinson and the legendary songwriting and production trio of Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, and Edward Holland, Jr. just to name a few. Hip hop artists like J Dilla is among those listed as influences of Hawthorne’s music as he well. He got his start spinning records in Detroit under the name DJ Haircut.

Musically things really got moving when Hawthorne moved to Los Angeles in 2005. He was signed to Stones Throw Records by label head Peanut Butter Wolf. Originally the Mayer Hawthorne tracks were created for sampling purposes and for pleasure, but upon hearing them Peanut Butter Wolf insisted they be made into an album. For Hawthorne, everything moved forward from this point. His début single, “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”/”When I Said Goodbye”, was released on a red heart-shaped 7″ record on November 4, 2008. The second single “Maybe So, Maybe No”/”I Wish It Would Rain” was released on a 12″ record on April 19, 2009. Hawthorne’s début album, A Strange Arrangement was released on CD and LP on September 8, 2009. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press back in 2009, Hawthorne spoke favorably about his experience as a new artist signed to Stones Throw Records. “It’s incredible. Obviously, people know Peanut Butter Wolf and many of the artists on the roster. What a lot of people don’t know is they’re also some of the greatest people in the world. They’ve really given me a ton of freedom, and they’ve supported me in what I want to do.”

In the year 2011, Mayer Hawthorne gained critical acclaim from other musicians as well as a growing fan base. On July 15, 2011, Mayer Hawthorne was a guest, along with famed Memphis/Stax Records keyboardist Booker T. Jones, on Episode 43 of Daryl Hall’s Live From Daryl’s House webcast. Hawthorne, Hall, and Jones joined with Hall’s house band on “Strange Arrangement”, “Green Onions”, “No Strings”, “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”, and “Your Easy Lovin’ Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin'” and Hall’s “You Make My Dreams” and “Private Eyes”. Mayer Hawthorne was a musical guest on the Conan TV show on October 17, 2011, and the Late Show with David Letterman on October 25, 2011. On both shows, the group performed “The Walk”, his first single from the album How Do You Do.

What impresses most who hear Mayer Hawthorne for the first time is the sound of his music. Remember, Hawthorne started his musical journey in clubs of Detroit, Michigan. Therefore, it’s understandable why his sound might have a great deal of Motown influence. When asked in the Detroit Free Press interview about his musical development, he explained thoroughly how it all came together, “The Mayer Hawthorne character is kind of torn in time between 1965 and 2009. It’s a conscious thing. My music is definitely heavily influenced by Motown and ’60s soul. I’m not interested in being a throwback artist. I’m very conscious that everyone is going to try to label me as a throwback artist, so I’m always making sure that I’m moving the music forward and creating something new.”

I  listened a few times to Mayer Hawthorne’s fourth, and most recent studio album Man About Town. The album has very good songs that are filled with sounds of music from the past and present. I know that folks seeking a familiar musical sound would like Mayer Hawthorne music. The only thing needed was a proper introduction. Colin McGuire of PopMatters said, “Like it or not, there aren’t many people who can pull off what Mayer Hawthorne does best these days as well as Mayer Hawthorne does it. It fills a very real void in an increasingly crowded and grossly jaded pop music world. It is, in essence, important work.”

Please, just take a moment to listen and enjoy music from one of the most accomplished musicians of our day. Mayer Hawthorne can do it all musically – and he has. He is music’s Mr. Everything.

photo by: Jake Michaels

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