“Whatever it is, it gots to be funky.”
That’s the credo of one Andrew Mayer Cohen, better known to music fans in the U.S. and around the world as soul singer Mayer Hawthorne. The Grammy-nominated performer told On Tap of his guiding principle in a recent interview, when asked what ties his various musical projects together.
His name comes from a combo of his actual middle name (Mayer) and the name of the street he grew up on, Hawthorne Road in Ann Arbor, Mich. His dad taught him to play bass at age five, and exposed him to music that would influence his later creations.
Hawthorne became a DJ in Michigan before eventually moving to LA in 2005. In 2009, he released his debut album, A Strange Arrangement, and followed it with three more in the next few years, culminating in his newest, this year’s Man About Town. He said this newest record has some important distinctions from some of his others.
“I produced the new record myself,” he said. “I also mixed and mastered it, and played the majority of the instruments. It’s a little more laid back. The lyrics are a bit more melancholy. It’s definitely my most personal record. Sonically, I incorporated these vintage, electronic drum machines that I’m currently obsessed with. They have this amazing sound that is futuristic but very retro at the same time.”
In addition to doing his own thing, Hawthorne has two collaborative side projects, Tuxedo and Jaded Incorporated, which he said make up an important part of his creative life.
“Soul music is important,” he said, “but it’s only one side of me. I listen to so many different kinds of music, from Brazilian bossa nova to post-punk new wave to ghetto house. I love it all and I draw inspiration from all of it. These alternative creative outlets are crucial for my sanity.”
Hawthorne has also had a chance to collaborate with some music legends in recent years. As part of Daryl Hall’s show Live from Daryl’s House, he performed songs with Hall and also Booker T. Jones from Booker T. & the M.G.’s.
“That was totally surreal,” Hawthorne said. “I don’t think I even realized how much I’ve been influenced by both of them until I was in the same room with them and really felt it.”
When he makes his stop in DC, Hawthorne might just swing by his favorite restaurant in the area, where he gets to eat as well as visit an artist whose work he admires enough to use on his newest promo materials.
“When I think of DC,” he said, “I think of Florida Avenue Grill. Best pancakes in the world and the owner, Imar Hutchins, is an incredible artist who designed the Man About Town tour poster for me.”
9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com