Universal If you're a musician from the outskirts of Detroit, tapping into…
- Posted on Oct 1st 2012 4:00PM by Chris Epting
Hawthorne, a dapper troubadour in Buddy Holly specs is hard to peg. A rapper from Ann Arbor, Mich., he did not set out to be a classic soul singer, yet here he finds himself, fronting one of the hottest bands (The County) -- and hottest tours -- of the year.
Spinner had a chance to speak with the ever cool, laid back Hawthorne to talk Daryl Hall, his vinyl collection and the best live show he ever saw. We also had a chance to catch him live in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, at the historic Wiltern Theater -- and it was remarkable. Blending all the elements of a classic, '60s-styled soul revue, he spiked the evening with a healthy dose of influences -- Stax, Motown, funky Philly soul, hip hop -- all filtered through his winning, engaging hipster persona. Moving and grooving for almost two hours with swagger and a goofy sort of confidence, somewhere the ghosts of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding had to be smiling.
Mayer, your shows harken back to soul revues -- what live shows inspired you growing up?
Man, I got to see James Brown in Ann Arbor where I grew up and even though he was older at that point, he had every single bit of fire and magic he'd always has. It was amazing. He had lost nothing. I was completely blown away. As for my band, we're like a football team. We do a show, we analyze the footage and the audio and figure out what works and what can be better and we really work as hard as we can to make sure every night is better than the night before and that NOBODY ever wants their money back [laughs]. Look, I'm still a kid, I like to have fun. I'm trying to do this for the rest of my life; I'm trying to creat a lasting impression. Music is timeless, so I want to give people shows they'll never forget so that I can do this forever.
And to think you almost did not end up as a soul singer.
I wanted to make hip-hop music. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in rap music. I met a guy named Peanut Butter Wolf who is the president of Stones Throw Records. I gave him a demo of mine, a hip-hop project I was working on. He was like, 'I'm not really feeling it' [laughs]. But he really liked the demos I did in my bedroom that I was making for sample material that I was creating for hip-hop beats so I wouldn't get sued by any artists. And Peanut Butter Wolf was like, 'I think you're doing this backward. I think you should make an album of soul music.' I was like, 'That's not what I want to do. I want to make hip-hop music, but if you'll put it out, then I'll try it.' And man, was he right. That's what makes Stones Throw Records so great -- Peanut butter really has that magic ear.
How was performing on 'Live at Daryl Hall's House?'
It was the most fun I ever had in my life, period. I got to sing "Private Eyes" with Daryl Hall and do the little "Private Eyes" dance ... it does not get any better than that.
When we spoke with Daryl, he could not stop singing your praises.
Wow. That's too much. You know, a lot of people do not realize that Daryl Hall was in this group called the Temptones back in the day, basically a doo-wop and soul group when he was a kid. He really gets it, more than a lot of people out there. Shout out to Daryl Hall. He is the best. One of my true musical heroes. He comes from the Philly area so when it comes to true soul, the guy obviously is the expert. Like I said, he just gets it.
You're a young guy Mayer, but you obviously are an older musical soul. What are the soul records from back in the day that really shaped your sense of the music?
Oh, man! [laughing]. Hold on, anything by Barbara Mason on Arctic Records. One song in particular called ... hang on ... let me look at my iPod ... okay the song 'Don't Ever Go Away,' that is an unbelievable jam. Another one ... hold on ... there's an ill 45 from Mike James Kirkland. He was in a group called Mike and the Censations. He had a joint called 'There's Nothing I can Do About It.' Absolutely incredible record.
You have such sense of the history of the genre -- rare for someone your age.
Well I've always loved records, even when I was a kid, my parents would buy me records instead a lot of the other toys kids got. That's what I wanted. I've been collecting records and DJing my whole life, and I thank my parents for that. They had a big record collection and really imparted the magic of it on me.