I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mayer Hawthorne right before his show in Washington, DC at the Rock and Roll Hotel. He walked into the room wearing a red suit with a black button up and to top it off a black bow tie. His shoes beautiful not surprisingly the limited edition DJ AM Nikes that came out recently, a perfect blend of a black and red ensemble. Mayer is a gem in our generation and further more beyond our years. Get to know him.
KB: You just got off a tour through Australia, how was it?
Mayer: Australia was unbelievable! I’m always blown away that people on the other side of the earth know my music.
KB: Do you find the Aussie crowd different from the North American crowd?
Mayer: Australians are a lot less reserved. They’re not too cool to really wild out which makes it more fun. It was my first time there.
KB: Do you have a ritual before you perform?
Mayer: Rigorous warm up. When I first started shows, I didn’t know anything about singing. I’ve only been singing for a little over a year. Have spent the last 6 months learning my voice. I’ve taken a few voice lessons now.
KB: What do you do when you’re not making music?
Mayer: Recording, digging for records, or searching for food. I’m definitely a food lover.
KB: Have you been to any good spots in DC?
Mayer: Bens Chili Bowl, we went on the last tour right before Ben passed. RIP Ben Ali.
Were actually doing a video blog segment called Mayer vs. Food that will be airing soon. It’s all about my food experiences on tour. We actually shot a really dope segment at Ben’s Chili Bowl.
KB: What are you working on now, can you talk about some future projects?
Mayer: I’m working on a whole gang of different projects. Remix for Snoop Dogg dropped on March 23rd on his new album More Malice. Some tracks with Nottz hip hop producer, working on a new wave album well we call it “new new wave,” Denny Drewtron with 14KT, the producer out of Detroit. Its on some different shit, its strange. I’ll be singing and playing. KT is handling most of the production. Were using predominately vintage synthesizers for this project.
Also working on another album pop vocal standards, Sinatra, Tony Bennett.
KB: So, you’re always in the studio?
Mayer: I’m a maniac in the studio. I’m always working on new music. Now that I have the opportunity to get my music out to larger audiences. I’m definitely not sleepin. I’m taking advantage. I’m going to see how far I can go and what I can get away with.
KB: How is it touring with the County vs. Solo?
Mayer: I have a lot more flexibility with the band. The band is great, because they are quite literally all my favorite musicians that are out there. If I had a billion dollars and I could pick any musicians in the world to be in my band these are the musicians I would pick. I grew up with most of them, that’s really a lucky coincidence that I happen to grow up with them. They are truly all the greatest at their particular instrument.
KB: Why the album name A Strange Arrangement?
Mayer: I was at a house party with my homie DJ House Shoes, we were at a party in LA. They had a bootleg bar setup, some underground shit. We went up to the bar and were like whatcha all got. Well we have some vodka, Jack Daniels, some beer. And he pointed to this punch bowl, this mystery jungle juice and said “or we have this strange arrangement right here.”
(DJ House Shoes who is in the room says, “that’s right, I was trying to remember how it happened”) And I looked right at Shoes and said this is going to be the name of my album.
It just so happened to fit really well with everything I was doing. You know the type of music I get down with is left of center. I like that stuff that is really catchy but is still a little strange.
KB: What’s the story behind the song “Shiny & New” and is it talking about anybody specifically?
Mayer: It was about somebody, people and experiences. Some of them are entirely personal and some of them are about things I’ve witnessed.
KB: I recently heard Thin Moon, the cover you did by James Pants who is also on Stones Throw. How did that come about?
Mayer: I’m the biggest James Pants fan! I think he’s brilliant. As a human being I’m a big fan.
As soon as he played me that song, I was like man you have to let me do the cover. I went home and did the cover immediately. I actually finished my cover before his album came out. The anticipation was killing me. I was like hurry up and put the album out so I can put my cover out! Shout out to James Pants for writing an incredible tune.
KB: How is moving to LA compare to Detroit?
Mayer: LA is very different from Detroit. The weather is extremely motivating. LA doesn’t have soul not like Detroit. Nowhere in the world has soul like Detroit.
KB: If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you’d be doing?
Mayer: I would be some type of handyman. I love to repair things and take them apart and put them back together. I’m very mechanical and I love working with my hands. Or a Carpenter.
KB: What instrument do you feel most comfortable playing, do you have favorite?
Mayer: Drums are far the most fun. But as far as proficiency in playing an instrument Bass guitar I learned it from my father when I was younger.
KB: Since I know you have a wide selection of vinyl, if you had to choose one that would be most valuable to you, which one would be your most prized piece?
Mayer: Sade Love deluxe, which wasn’t pressed in the US and it’s difficult to find on Vinyl. And its one of my favorite albums of all time. I wouldn’t go for the most valuable but more sentimental.
KB: How can you improve as an artist?
Mayer: I have a long ways to go especially with singing. I mean I’m learning my voice, learning song-writing techniques.
KB: What is the song making process for you like, does it start with the lyrics or the composition of the music?
Mayer: It usually just gets beamed out the stars. It’s bizarre. I feel like I’m hearing a song on the radio but its in my head. The challenge for me getting it out of my head, Like what is that bass line playing in my head. My songs usually come out of nowhere, and usually at the most inconvenient time.
KB: How has all the success felt so far?
Mayer: It feels great. It’s incredibly overwhelming. If I were to sit around thinking about it I would go nuts. I try to be one track minded and be focused on the next show or the next song.
KB: If you could have a super power, what would it be? (DJ House Shoes had his laptop open and was looking at this video of a Jet Pack that was going for $86,000 and Mayer tells him to get his credit card. Jokingly of course.)
Mayer: Just seeing the human jet pack. Probably being able to fly around whenever.
KB: What kind of advice would you give someone that’s just starting out in the industry?
Mayer: Do your homework. Do your fuckin homework. Don’t’ just come in and think you know everything. Do your research find out who has come before you and what they did wrong. Learn from the past and be original. Have your own shit, it’s really difficult to find something that is original and is truly your own thing but you have to find it. Cause you know that’s what its all about. People want originality. You have to stand out. There are millions of people making music. If you not standing out, then your going to be another one of those million.
Interview by April