Over the past few years, Mayer Hawthorne has been on the cusp of greatness. The Detroit-born, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist has put out two critically acclaimed albums and is about to embark on an extensive summer tour that sees him as both a headliner playing mid-sized venues while the other dates will be spent opening for Foster The People.
Born in Ann Arbor, Mich., as Andrew Cohen, he came up with his stage name by using the tried and true method that’s worked for porn stars: his middle name plus his street name, hence Mayer (middle) Hawthorne (street). Regardless of the method, it’s pretty wicked stage name. Having moved west in 2008, Hawthorne initially cut his teeth as a DJ before being signed by Peanut Butter Wolf himself to Stones Throw Records. Having released a number of singles and a full-length on the indie, Hawthorne signed to Universal Republic Records in 2011.
With influences ranging from legends like Smokey Robinson and famed songwriting trio Holland, Dozier, Holland to contemporaries like J-Dilla and Juan Atkins, Hawthorne has the musical chops and prowess to not be pigeonholed into a labeled strictly as a neo-soul musician, but rather someone who has pop sensibilities and just so happens to have influences that come from that genre. His latest album, On How Do You Do, his first on the aforementioned major, Hawthorne proves that he is not part of a trend, but rather potentially a trendsetter.
Having produced others and played instruments for much of his life, Hawthorne never intended to become a singer. What he became, however, was a new school soul sensation, touring globally and receiving accolades from publications as diverse as Playboy, NPR and Entertainment Weekly. “He’s an able singer...an arranger of astonishing precision,” wrote the New York Times when the multi-faceted musician first hit the scene.
But he’s out to prove that he’s more than just a critical fave. Though his profile has grown dramatically with the release of On How Do You Do, there’s still a bit to go before he crashes into the conscious and minds of the mainstream music listener. However, that doesn’t mean that Hawthorne’s music hasn’t slipped past fellow musicians and tastemakers.
On How Do You Do features a duet with Snoop Dogg – yes that Snoop Dogg – on “Can’t Stop.” The song is the quintessential example of how Hawthorne uses his influences in a flawless manner to create a modern sound, and is so challenging it that stretches debatably one of the most iconic rappers of the past 20 years out of his comfort zone. Listen to the song and you’ll hear.No matter how you cut it, Mayer Hawthorne is on the cusp of something big. Yes, it’s very difficult to comprehend that when you factor in the stupidity of the general music listening public. But the one thing that can’t be denied is his talent, and in the end, talent and catchy songs is what wins in the end. Don’t call him strictly a neo-soul artist, instead, call Mayer Hawthorne the guy who is going to make soul mainstream pop music.