Mayer Hawthorne: "Every Song Is Based on Real Life, Otherwise People Won't Connect to It"
Mayer Hawthorne, charming his fans' pants off at the Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour stop in Miami.
Photo by Ian Witlen
Mayer Hawthorne (real name Andrew Mayer Cohen) is a chill dude.
Backstage at Miami's Soho Studios, prepping for last night's Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour gig, his band, manager, and crew crowd around him, listening to every word that comes out of his mouth. With such a successful career, he could be a dick. But nope, not this middle-class Jewish guy.
As he sits down for an interview with Crossfade, he's wearing a silky zebra-print shirt. On anyone else, this would look stupid. On Mayer, it's cool.
Call him a rocker or a soul singer, he's just straight-up talented. Starting out in 2008, Hawthorne began with hope of being a hip-hop artist. After shockingly being told by his label handlers that they were looking for a soul album, he refined his signature style. Three albums later, he has worked with Pharrell Williams, been praised by Kanye West, and even asked by Snoop Dogg to be in a video.
We sat down with Mayer Hawthorne before the Evolution Tour set to chat about Miami, new music, and his dark side.
Crossfade: Welcome to Miami! Do you like it here?
I'll be honest -- I didn't think I would like it. I am not sure why. I guess I didn't have the right information. [Laughs] But I get here and it's the shit. This area is awesome too. Wynwood, right?
What's the best thing you have done so far?
Truthfully? Eaten a medianoche sandwich. I had my coconut water straight out of a coconut on the beach. I am fitting in nicely, I think.
See also: The Five People You Meet in Wynwood
How's the tour treating you?
This is how touring should be. Everyone on the tour is insanely talented. We have a few days off between shows to relax. It's not always like this.
Who's performing for the Evolution Tour: Mayer or Mayer Hawthorne and the County?
We got the whole band here tonight. I wouldn't have it any other way. I don't love performing solo. I am not about that kind of fame.
That's very Midwestern of you. It's good to be a good guy.
I think so. Being from the Midwest, my parents had high expectations of me.
What do your parents think now that their son is a big music star?
My parents always told me to get a real job. My dad is a musician and still performs in a band in Michigan. He knew how crazy it was to be in a band and be a musician. He was the one that warned me, "Music is the best career in the world, if you make it. Not many do. Get a back-up plan."
Having a parent who is a musician is either a blessing or a curse.
He was hard on me because he knew how difficult it was. I am his son, so he really didn't want me to get burned. Now he is my biggest fan. Always has been, but now more than ever.
"I Wish It Would Rain" is one of my boyfriend's favorite songs. It is also possibly the saddest song ever.
[Laughs] That was one of the first songs I ever wrote. At that point, it was a therapy song. Every song on that album is heavily classic soul inspired. It's Motown, The Whispers, but a little more dramatic. Those songs just have a sweetness to them that are different from anything I have ever done.
Does every song tell a story?
I write all of my own stuff. Everything is based on real life. I am the biggest believer that you have to write what you know. It has to sound authentic. Otherwise people won't connect to it. It won't feel real.
What's the best break up song to you?
"Love Stinks." Classic.
What has it been like to be on this tour?
It's been great to meet fans and gain some new ones too. One of the big reasons we are doing this is for people to come out, enjoy some great drinks and listen to some good music. Mercedes is a textbook flashy but classy brand, and that is my motto for life. When they asked me to do it, I knew it would be a great fit.
What does your 2014 look like?
I am always recording and I actually have stuff coming out on multiple albums. I am involved in Jaded Incorporated and we put out an album that I am really proud of earlier this year. It's the dark side of Mayer Hawthorne. It's a side of me I don't always get to express on my solo records. Mayer Hawthorne records are genuinely uplifting, good time records. That album was fun to table in the dark side.
Going solo or being with a band -- you do both so well.
That was my favorite part of the new project is that I get to be part of a group again. Two heads are always better than one. Like working with Pharrell Williams, Jack Splash, and so many more, because I got to bounce ideas off people and it wasn't just me, you know?
And to end it all, I want to thank you for wearing that zebra shirt with such swag.
I wore it for you.
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