Back in May, I ran a mini-feature on Mayer Hawthorne, whose “Maybe So, Maybe No” hit hard between my ears, forcing me to set the iPod and iTunes to repeat. Recently, just finishing up the Stones Throw U.S. and European tour, I was able to talk with Mayer about his musical path, his alter egos, that really aren’t alter egos but extensions of himself. One thing that is apparent, these guys (Mayer Hawthorne and DJ Haircut) aren’t going away. Seems weird referring to him as two people, but as you read in the interview below, you’ll understand the separation of characters.
Mayer’s album Strange Arrangement is set to release on September 8. Sorry folks, no sample tune to listen to here; they’ve got the album on “lock.” However, I have heard it and there are some baby-making worthy tunes on there — enough to make your soul smile. Mayer has a cool style, soft, yet raspy voice, that definitely extends beyond his years. Drew Cohen was born to be Mayer Hawthorne; there’s no pretense or contrite, just pure soul. Read what he told Muphoric Sounds and listen to the Astronote remix of “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out.”
Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out by Mayer Hawthorne (Astronote Remix)
Muphoric Sounds: How did you get started as an artist? How long have you been in the business?
Mayer Hawthorne: I have been playing in bands since high school. My parents are both musicians. My dad taught me how to play bass guitar when I was six years and he still plays in a band in Detroit to this day. My mom made me take piano lessons when I was a kid, which I hated, but now I’m so glad that she made me take those lessons.
MS: Was that because of the technical side of playing and reading music?
MH: It was mainly for the introduction to one of the key instruments of soul music, which is the piano, and music in general. Most of the greatest songwriters of all time, all play piano. Billy Joel, Elton John. It’s an important instrument.
MS: Your bio says you’ve taken from the Motown assembly-line production model and eliminated nearly every element. How would you describe this process to create what you do?
MH: [laughs] Usually, the song just comes to me and I’ll ear all the parts in my head very vividly and the challenge is to take the song and all the arrangements that I hear in my head and get them out of my head and onto a reel. So one by one, play the drums, bass, piano, or whatever the instrument is to get it to sound like it does in my head.
MS: You did a Prince with Strange Arrangement, by playing all the instruments and vocals, being like a one-man production, which is quite amazing.
MH: One of the main reasons I wanted to play all of the instruments myself, in fact I didn’t play them all myself, but I did play the majority them. I had a little help from The County, my live band. Playing the instruments myself, is really fun for me. It’s generally easier for me to get the sounds I hear in my head, if I just play it myself rather than trying to explain it to another musician. I’m extremely meticulous in the studio, I’m an extreme perfectionist and I’ll record a bass line a 100 times in a row until I get the perfect sound the way I hear it in my head. And a lot of times, its easier to play it myself than try to explain to another musician.