Breaking: Mayer Hawthorne

October 21st, 2009 by Michael Endelman Leave a reply »

Who: Michigan singer/multi-instrumentalist/producer whose month-old debut of retro-soul gems, A Strange Arrangement, is earning him fans like Justin Timberlake, Mark Ronson and John Mayer, who ­Tweeted, “Record of the year goes to Mayer Hawthorne,” and then invited the rookie to open for him on New Year’s Eve.

Sounds Like: Hawthorne’s self-produced tunes are an eerily accurate homage to the Motown hit machine: Think Funk Brothers-style grooves, luxuriant harmonies, Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting chops and sweetly naive vocals that recall Smokey Robinson and the Chi-Lites. “I always tell people, ‘It’s not a soul revival, it’s a good-songwriting revival,’ ” says the 30-year-old. “I try to write timeless material, so hopefully kids will be digging my albums 30 years from now like I’m digging Lamont Dozier right now.”

Street Cred: Hawthorne got his start in the Nineties Michigan rap crew Athletic Mic League — he was known as DJ Haircut then — and played on a bill with a pre-Interscope Eminem. “I’m a much better DJ than I am a singer,” he says. “I’ve been DJ’ing for 12 years and singing for one.”

Back Story: After moving to L.A. with a hip-hop group, Hawthorne made two soul tracks in his apartment on a whim — playing nearly all of the instruments himself and recording the vocals through headphones (he didn’t own a good microphone). The songs had such a convincingly vintage feel, they fooled his rec­ord label. “They thought it was an old record I dug up,” recalls Hawthorne. “They were like, ‘What is this? Do you have permission to reissue it?’ ”

Style Points: To match the music’s clean-cut vibe — “No cussing,R...

Article Source: Rolling Stone : Rock and Roll Daily


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