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A chat with Mayer Hawthorne

By Radna · February 15th, 2009, 22:22 · Interviews

mayer-dinerEerder dit jaar verraste Stones Throw ons met een nieuwe soul artiest, wiens stemgeluid deed denken aan Smokey Robinson, maar waarbij de productie toch anno 2009 klonk. Mayer Hawthorne, die opgroeide in Ann Arbor, was lokaal al bekend als DJ Haircut, maar heeft hiphop nu verruilt voor de soul waar zijn ouders naar luisterden. Gilles Peterson en Mark Ronson zijn al fan, en op 10 maart is Mayer Hawthorne in Amsterdam (Paradiso) als onderdeel van de Europese Stones Throw tour.

Beluister hier Maybe So, Maybe No van Mayer Hawthorne & The County (uit de show van Mark Ronson)

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Ter introductie een kort interview met Mayer over zijn muzikale verleden en toekomstplannen:

The first time we heard of you was through the single Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out, but you were already making music under the name Haircut. What are the main differences between Haircut and Mayer Hawthorne and in what way do your musical alter ego’s apply to different parts of your character?
“I was joking with some friends yesterday about how Haircut can curse, but Mayer Hawthorne cannot.  I think everyone has different characters that they play in life.  I’ve been making hip-hop music as Haircut for years and when I created the Mayer Hawthorne alter ego it was just for fun, for my close friends and family.  I never imagined I would be recording a full album or performing it live.  I didn’t put much thought behind it until I signed to Stones Throw.

”

In what way is the music you make inspired by music your parents maybe listened to? Or songs you heard as a child? “I was very fortunate to have such musical parents.  They would always be listening to records or playing and singing songs.  They exposed me to all kinds of music – rock, folk, country, jazz – but it was the soul music that hit me the most.  Growing up just West of Detroit, I definitely heard a lot of Motown, and then when I started digging for records I discovered so much incredible local soul.  I’m extremely proud of the musical history of Detroit. It’s had a major impact on the music I make and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to represent that, and to introduce a new generation of people to that sound.

”

If your music is called retro, do you consider that as a compliment or as criticism? “People will call it whatever they want.  You can’t get mad about it.  As long as I know I’m pushing the envelope and being creative and trying new things, that’s what matters to me.”

You are not a trained vocalist. The first time you recorded yourself singing, how did that feel? Did it come naturally or is singing something you have to train by yourself? “Anyone who knows me knows that I sing all the time, every day – so it’s always been a natural thing for me, but I would never consider myself a great singer.  I think that is part of the charm of Mayer Hawthorne.  Marvin Gaye once said “I still want to become a GREAT singer someday.”  Of course I’m always working to be a better singer, but ultimately, if people connect with the music, that’s all that matters.

”

Who are The County? “The County is basically anyone who plays an instrument or sings on my album.  It’s also my band when I perform live.”

Do you produce and record everything by yourself or with the band? Could you describe your studio?
“I record and produce everything in my bedroom.  I play as many instruments as I can myself, but sometimes I bring in other musicians for a particular part.  That’s how The County really came about.  It’s very lo-fi – you’d probably laugh if you saw my “studio”.  I’m sort of a “neat-freak” so I keep it very clean, except for the dusty records everywhere.

”

mayer-12-inch

Who are the first people you show your new music to and you take serious for their opinion? “I usually play it for my family first.  They’re brutally honest and will tell me if it sucks.

”

How does it feel to be part of Stones Throw? Did you follow the history of the label, do you have favorite Stones Throw records? “I found out about Stones Throw from the first Quasimoto record.  It’s still one of my favorite albums.  They’ve always been a great label and I’m definitely fortunate to be part of the family.  So far, so great.”

We only know 2 songs by you – what are your plans for the near future? “My new single “Maybe So, Maybe No” is coming in March, and the full length album is looking like Summer 09.  I’ve also just released a new album with my Hip-Hop group Now On called “Tomorrow Already”.  It’s weird and futuristic and quite different from the Mayer Hawthorne project – check it out.”

What kind of liveshow can we expect, in Amsterdam 10th of march? “I’ll be mostly DJing on this tour (I was a DJ long before I ever started singing) but if the crowd is live I may sing a few songs with James Pants’ band.”

Je weet dus wat je te doen staat de 10e. Download hier als toetje Hawthorne Radio, een podcast van Mayer Hawthorne vol soul uit de Motor City.

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