Blue-eyed soulja Mayer Hawthorne recently hit the road in support of his new joint, How Do You Do. The former DJ-turned crooner (turned Vince Vaughn look-a-like) has worked with random acts while doing all sorts of TV spots after his 2008 single “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” pushed him toward stardom. He’s since worked with Snoop Dogg, collaborated with Ed Banger Records, and was name checked by ?uestlove. His career is in full swing— his new project has the markings of old Motown but touches of modern slang and even some boogie. His vintage suits, nerdy glasses and compositions have made him a darling within the industry as well as with fans who flock to catch him live with his band, The County.
URB quickly caught up with Mayer in early December while he and his posse were (literally) on Broadway, celebrating news of their upcoming gig on Letterman. Given his hectic schedule, Mayer made time for a quick Q&A with URB.
How was playing the Conan O’Brien Show?
It was amazing man, totally surreal. As a kid, everyone wants to be on TV singing and doing what they love and that’s what I’ve been fortunate enough to do recently. He’s tall as hell dude, like 8-feet tall! Conan’s a musician too and plays guitar so we actually chopped it up about music a bit. Sorry, we’re just going nuts right now since we just found we’re gonna do David Letterman next week! Everyone’s real hype!
Congrats man. What do y’all listen to while on tour; either partying or just relaxing?
I’ve been bumping the shit out of this Off! box set—it’s a bunch of awesome old punk rock joints. We also love the new Metronomy record, which is great! I’ve also been bumping nonstop the Ferrari Boys.
Talk about working with someone like Snoop on the new album. How’d that whole thing come about?
Snoop’s the shit! He really knows how to have fun with the band and keep it lively in the studio. And people don’t know this, but Snoop’s a huge fan of soul music. Every time we kick it, he’s always singing some classic soul to himself under his breath—some Curtis [Mayfield] or the Stylistics or something. So I knew that if he did do the album, he’d be able to get down with what I was into. I mean, he asked me what he needed to do to get on the album! I was like you’ll have to sing to be on it, man. And he was like “I ain’t scared!” [laughs]. So that’s just happened like that.
How’s working with all these other rappers and singers? You started out rapping and DJing a bit before the Mayer stuff came around. How’s that going?
Well, I make soul music, straight up—but I’ve always had one foot in hip-hop. Like with Snoop, it’s always gotta be different and unexpected. I did a joint recently with The Cool Kids and that was like a straight beat they ripped and I just added vocals to it. I just did a joint for Ed Banger which I love called “Love In Motion” for the SebastiAn record. I’m proud of that one because it’s something different that people don’t expect from me. Overall, I just try to stay different. A lot of what I make is soul music but it’s listened to by hip-hop heads, so I think it all fits.
Now that you put out the second album and your career is quickly moving, tell us what you remember before making it as “Mayer Hawthorne”.
Haha! Right before I put out A Strange Arrangement, I was on a Stones Throw tour with James Pants and Dam Funk. My job on the tour was be the DJ and just basically come out right before the headliner and do a couple live songs with the band. I mean, essentially, I was the opening DJ for the entire tour.
At the time it was like ’08 and “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” was released as a single. Cats liked the track but no one knew who I was. Kids would come up to me every single night asking when Mayer Hawthorne was gonna go on [laughs]. No one cares about the opening DJ anyways so I’d say yeah, he’ll be out later and just not say anything.
With the magazine coverage and all the recent TV exposure, you’re more recognized now though right?
Naw, it’s like every once in a while now, people will recognize me but they won’t know exactly who I am. They’ll know I’m an entertainer and they’ve seen me somewhere before. Some are like “Hey, you’re that one underground rapper, huh?” I guess I used to be one but people just have no clue. I was in a record store the other day and this guy comes up to me and asks for an autograph. I was stoked and right before I’m about to sign the paper he handed me, he’s like “You’re Vince Vaughn right?” [laughs]. So yeah, people recognize me but they still don’t know who the fuck I am [laughs].