Despite the doo-wop sound of his ditties, his silky old-soul croon, and the fact that he hails from the state that birthed Motown, Mayer Hawthorne swears he's not retro.
The voice of Hawthorne may be golden, but it's untrained. In fact, the man born Andrew Cohen in Ann Arbor stumbled onto a career as a singer accidentally. He was a hip-hop DJ who decided to make soul records because he had easy access to them. Peanut Butter Wolf of the label Stones Throw heard a couple of songs, and signed him as a singer.
Even though everybody keeps trying to peg him as a soul revivalist, he insists he's all about progression. His new album How Do You Do just dropped on Universal Republic, and we talked to him ahead of his headlining show at the Roxy on Saturday and opening slot for Empire of the Sun at Club Nokia on Sunday.
Where did you shoot the video for your new song "The Walk"?
We shot that at Big Sky ranch, which is George Lucas' place. That was a real highlight of the whole thing for me. There have been so many incredible films that have been shot there.
Was he there?
Naw, he wasn't there.
Were you guys really shooting those guns?
I had to do some weapons' training for that. We trained for hours. I had to go learn how to shoot all these different kinds of real guns. We had professional armourers on set at all times. And explosive guys. It was real intense, real Hollywood. Official shit. We're actually gonna drop a behind-the-scenes video.
I'm assuming you're not a stuntman or anything.
No, no, but I did do all my own stunts. I had hella bruises the next day. We went through it. It was so much fun, though! I got to be Bruce Willis for a day.
I had to check the liner notes when I listened to the new album to make sure that was Snoop on "Can't Stop."
Yeah. He killed it. Anytime I'm working with another artist, especially someone as well known as Snoop, I'm always trying to get them to do something they've never done before. That was one of the greatest examples of that. It was Snoop in a way that nobody's ever heard him before.
Was he at all hesitant to sing without being Auto-Tuned?
No, not at all! He asked me, "What do I gotta do to get on a Mayer Hawthorne track?" I was like well, I don't really have rapping on it, so you'd have to sing. He was down! I was on set with him and DJ Quik filming that movie he put me in, Malice in Wonderland. All Snoop was doing all day was singing old soul music. So I knew he'd be able to do it.
Weirdest collaboration you want to do?
Gary Numan. I would love to do a track with Gary Numan. He's one of my favorite artists. I love doing things that people don't expect. Which is a big reason we did that video for "The Walk." I just don't think anybody hears that song and would imagine doing that sort of video.