Universal Mayer Hawthorne's most recent release, How Do You Do, is hard to…
- Posted on Oct 25th 2011 3:30PM by Heather Cleland
"I honestly don't really know what that word means," he tells Spinner, about the term crooner. "I really don't care at all what people call me as long as they're listening to the music and talking about it. They can call me a space-jazz flautist. I don't care at all."
Don't care, eh? Permission accepted. The crooner label is a new one for the -- oh, let's go with "nu-ragtime maestro"? -- considering he hadn't really done much singing, at least not professionally, before recording his first album, 'A Strange Arrangement,' two years ago. He says he has a hard time listening to that album today because of the singing, which left a little to be desired if you ask the Hawthorne himself.
"When I recorded 'A Strange Arrangement' I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had no formal singing training of any kind," he says. "I never had any plans to be a singer, so I just kind of winged it and it's hard for me to even listen to that album anymore. I've come such a long way in the past two years since that album came out."
To get there, he took advantage of some training opportunities and even hunkered down with John Mayer's vocal coach in Los Angeles before recording his newest album and major-label debut, 'How Do You Do,' released earlier this month. Along with finely tuned singing skills, the album offers even more opportunities to align him with artists of bygone eras -- fans of Hall and Oates and Smokey Robinson will pick up on the influences. Still, he insists his sound is his own and it exists nowhere but in the present.
Even after tweeting post-show in Oxford, MS, last weekend that a "grown couple on the right was dancin so hard folks thought they were my parents," he maintains that even if older fans of the original soul movement are picking up what he's putting down, that's not the point.
"We get some older people for sure that come to the show," he says. "It's great, I love having them there, they get excited, but it's not about taking the music back, it's about moving the music forward and creating something new for my generation.
"I wasn't even alive in the '60s and '70s. I have no idea what it was like back then. I can only listen to that older music and get some kind of idea. I grew up in the '80s and '90s, listening mostly to Public Enemy and the Smashing Pumpkins and Slum Village. I think that what happens is that all of my modern influences blend together with the older soul influences and you get Mayer Hawthorne."
So you can tell your parents they might like him, and you can also tell them he's a space-jazz flautist. Mayer Hawthorne doesn't care.