Mayer Hawthorne. Our summer was full of this man, one of the most played artists on our Ipods. Last week the man himself was in Amsterdam for a gig in the pop temple Paradiso and luckily for us, we had the chance to speak to him about love, Detroit, his clothing style and music of course. Before the interview started we watched Mayer and his band sound checking which was a private “Maybe So Maybe No” performance. Nice. Just as the show he gave later that night. Mayer Hawthorne is one of the most positive and nicest artist we have met so far. A real gentleman.
Your album “A Strange Arrangement” consists entirely of love songs. Where do you get all that inspiration from, has your heart been broken that many times?
I got my heart broken a few times, but I don’t think a lot more than the average person. It’s a part of life. Honestly, I feel bad for people who have never had their heart broken. You haven’t really lived until you’ve got your heart broken. It’s no fun, it sucks really, but it’s important to experience that side of life. It’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from and clearly a lot of people can relate to it. I think that’s one of the main reasons people have been listening to my music, because they can relate to my pain.
” I feel bad for people who have never had their heart broken”
You actually started as a hip-hop DJ. When did you find out you had this whole other talent of singing?
That’s a good question, because I don’t know. I don’t even know if I have really found this out yet. It’s a learning process for me, I’m still learning every day how to use my voice and optimize it to treat it like a real instrument and to take care of it. It takes a lot of discipline, rehearsal and practice, but I think I am getting better with every show I do. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’m working really hard for it, it takes a long time to develop. I actually still consider myself a much better DJ than a singer.
Are you comfortable on the stage then? You sound a little insecure about your singing talent.
Yeah I’m comfortable now, but it took me while. I had to get used to being the front man. I used to be the DJ in the back, the bass player or the drummer you know!? It’s so different being the singer and being in the spotlight on the stage. But don’t get me wrong it’s been a lot of fun and it allows me to embrace that side of my personality which has always been there but in hiding. Also, I now get to embrace that lover man/gentleman side of my personality and really have pushed myself out there, which is a positive thing.
Your sound reminds us of some of our old soul heroes. Do you write and produce all your music yourself?
Yes, there is one cover on the album, it’s a really obscure song; “Maybe So, Maybe No”. It’s one of my favorite Detroit soul songs. I wrote and produced the rest of the album myself.
“I still consider myself a much better DJ than a singer”
You grew up near Detroit, how did growing up there influence your music?
Detroit has a very rich musical history, you can’t grow up there without being heavily influenced by mowtown and Detroit techno. Music is so powerful there, everyone is so proud about their musical heritage. People from Detroit are very proud in general, everywhere they go they wear that Detroit hat but of course Detroit is also a very messed up place. It has always been a tough place and now with the auto industry being collapsed it’s even tougher. It probably has the highest rate of unemployment anywhere in the 1st world right now.
Does that emotionally affects you?
Yeah, absolutely, it’s really sad, I know a lot of people who are personally affected by it. My father used to own an auto parts store which went out of business because of the crisis. Luckily he found something else to do and he’s all right, but it’s though times for people in Detroit right now. We need some help, we need something new, we need new industries. It is going to take a long time for the city of Detroit to rebound. It’s at the bottom of the dip but at least there’s only one way to go from there…
So how do you like living in LA?
I love living in the city of angels, it’s great. It doesn’t have a lot of the problems Detroit has. It has other problems though, like traffic and phoniness.
“LA has other problems, like phoniness”
You are always dressed quite classy. Is it a coincidence or on purpose that your style matches your music?
I never consciously made a decision to dress this way to match my music. Back when I was a hip hop DJ I always wore ties and stuff as well. I always try to stay classy. Plus I’m color-blind, so I keep it basic with the colors; black white gray. I can’t afford a stylist, so my clothing is what I find at vintage shops. I always make sure to incorporate some new things though, I don’t feel the need to live in the past.
So you don’t want to live in the past, let’s talk about the future then. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully I’m still making music for a living, a comfortable living. Yes, I’m trying to get that money, don’t get it twisted, I’m trying to get that paper. In the next ten years I want to release as much music as possible. I’ve got so much music ready to release! All types of music, hip hop, new wave, boogie funk, electro. Everything.
” It’s future vintage, like me”
Is there music you would never want to make?
Actually no, I would never limit myself in that way. You never know what happens, I listen to every kind of music across the board, even heavy metal. I like a lot of heavy metal stuff, the energy of that music is crazy.
What other music do you listen to a lot right now?
A lot of soul and mostly indie rock. Singer/songwriter stuff like Hanna Hukkelberg, she is one of my biggest influences right now.
Everything is going quite well for you lately. Are there any things you would like to change in your life at the moment?
I miss my family. I forget where I am and what day it is, because I’m constantly moving. One of the main things that sucks is that we get to travel to all of these amazing places but we never get to see the city. You never have enough time, it’s one big rush. I do realize these are slightly winy complaints I mean life is great at the moment, I’m loving the touring and traveling.
What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
Lausanne – Switzerland. Not necessary my favorite place as in I want to live there, it is just an incredible city. The structure the city is build on fascinates me. It has different levels and stuff, there are elevators in the middle of the street that take you up to the next level. Crazy. It’s kind of future vintage, a lot like me.
Well, thank you for talking to us Mayer. It’s a wrap!