Mayer Hawthorne, aka Andrew Cohen
What are you up to? I'm having the greatest day of my life.
Why is it the greatest day of your life? Every day is the greatest day of my life. (My days) have been getting a lot busier, that's for sure.
You grew up in Detroit listening to soul on vinyl. What were your other musical influences? I listened to all kinds of music. My record collection spans every single genre under the sun. I have Brazilian music, jazz . . . funk, reggae, house, electro, heavy metal, punk (and) rock. I listen to everything, and I love it all. I've been a hip-hop DJ and producer for the past 10 or more years.
Was the transition from Detroit to the Los Angeles scene hard? I love Los Angeles. It was an easy transition for me. I think Los Angeles is very similar to Detroit in a lot of regards. That sort of hustler mentality is there. Everybody is trying to get ahead. The sort of laidback attitude in Detroit is similar to (Los Angeles).
You had been DJing and playing instruments for a while. When did you discover that you could sing? I don't know that I've even discovered that yet. It's still very much a work in progress. I'm still learning everyday. Every show that I do, I learn a little but more. Every song I record, I learn a little but more about my voice and, you know, how to take care of it and how to use it to the best (of my) ability.
How did you end up getting signed to Stones Throw Records? I moved out to Los Angeles to pursue music full time. I was trying to make hip-hop music, and I really didn't have any plans to record an album of soul music. I had done a couple of demos in my bedroom as an experiment on the side. It was really more for sampling purposes for making hip-hop. I met Peanut Butter Wolf (Chris Manak) at a party in Los Angeles. He's the president of Stones Throw Records. He was really looking to expand his label because he was really well known for hip-hop releases like J Dilla, Madlib and MF Doom. He really just fell in love with these soul demos I had done . . . and he asked me to record a whole album of that material. It was such a good opportunity to work with a label that I loved and respected that I couldn't turn it down. I said, "sure, I guess I'll record a whole album of soul music and I'll just go back to making hip-hop music after that." Nobody had any idea that this album would receive so much attention.
How did your backing band The County come together? (They are) my live band when I perform live. I play a majority of the instruments on the album myself, but I found out really quickly that I couldn't play them all at the same time live. Fortunately, I grew up in Detroit with a group of unbelievable musicians, and fortunately for me, they were all down to come on the road with me.It's just like an unbelievable . . . stroke of luck. If I had a million, billion dollars and I could go around the world and hand pick the best musicians out there, these are the guys I would pick anyway.
You're opening for Passion Pit at the Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center. Do you know the band well? We haven't started that leg of the tour yet, but I've gotten a chance to meet them a few times and see their show. They're good guys, and I'm looking forward to (touring with them).
You're part of Snoop Dogg's "Malice N Wonderland." What was that like? It was incredible. Snoop is a legend. He's one of the people that, you know, I've always looked up to, and (I) never imagined that I would actually get the chance to work with him. It's a dream come true for sure. I had a part in the "Malice N Wonderland" film and I also remixed . . . a song on his new album and it's going to come out on his CD "More Malice" that (was released Tuesday).
Any other artists you want to collaborate with? I would love to work with anybody who is doing creative things, anyone who is . . . doing something new and innovative. I would love to work with Justin Timberlake. I would love to work with Alicia Keys. I've been talking to Ghostface Killah about doing some stuff. I'm working with 14KT, another producer from Detroit, right now (on) a new wave album. I'm not just a soul guy.
How did you choose your stage name? Mayer Hawthorne is my porn star name. Mayer is my real middle name. (Hawthorne) is the street I grew up on in Michigan. It just shows you, like, how seriously I was taking my music in the beginning. It was really just something I was doing on the side for fun . . . so I just gave it a funny name.
How do you keep your sanity with your busy schedule? I do a lot of digging for records. I'm also a really big food guy. Food is my weakness . . . and my passion. I love trying all different kinds of food and finding all the best restaurants in all the cities we go to. I just had a cheesesteak from Tony Luke's in Philadelphia that was off the hook.
- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF
If you go
Retro soul man Mayer Hawthorne opens for electro pop group Passion Pit Monday at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave. in Spring Garden Township.
The music starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28 to $45. For details and tickets, visit pullocenter.yk.psu.edu.
On the Web
For details about Mayer Hawthorne, visit www.myspace.com/mayerhawthorne.
To listen to the interview, visit www.flipsidepa.com.
To read more meet-the-artist interviews, visit www.flipsidepa.com/musicdirectory.