Unlike the rest of the stops on his current tour, Mayer Hawthorne's visit to Grand Central comes with a money-back guarantee. Not that anyone has ever asked for a refund. But Hawthorne stresses, "We put on shows. It's much more of a party than a concert. We definitely work harder than any band in the world. So we'll make sure nobody wants their money back."
He and a few stacks of crisp twenties will be joined in Miami by his backing band, the County, for a soul music rave-up experience that grew out of his days as a DJ playing all-night sets of obscure jams for small, sweaty Detroit clubs. The live show is, he says, not about him. It's about "getting people singing and dancing and having fun."
Before emerging as a sharp-dressed, lady-killing party starter, Hawthorne was Andrew Cohen, a reasonably well-attired, female-maiming hip-hop producer who recorded snippets of original soul music, instead of clearing costly samples, to use on his tracks. Eventually those snippets became songs, which became an album.
Now with his second major release, How Do You Do, Hawthorne has come full circle, doing a duet with Snoop Dogg. "Snoop asked me how he could get on my album because he just really liked what I was doing," Hawthorne says. The West Coast legend doesn't rap on the track, though. He sings. "Snoop's got a dope voice and has so much genuine passion for soul music.
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"I still make soul music for hip-hop heads, and I still make music I want to sample," Hawthorne insists. "But as we do more and more live touring, I think the focus is more toward, you know, songs that I know will get people going."
And over breakfast at a cold and rainy tour stop in Charlottesville, Virginia, Hawthorne and his band are dreaming about Miami. "We love the beaches, the food, the Cuban influence, the women. Everything. Miami is the place to be, the sort of place where you have to let it go," he admits.
He tells his band that the only requirement for their upcoming Miami visit is, "Don't make plans." Except maybe the Mayer Hawthorne concert? "No plans, man. You have to let the dice roll."