Mayer Hawthorne grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, just outside of
Detroit, and vividly remembers, as a child, driving with his father and
tuning the car radio in to the rich soul and jazz history the region
provided. “Most of the best music ever made came out of Detroit,”
claims the singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, who counts
Isaac Hayes, Leroy Hutson, Mike Terry, and Barry White among his
influences, but draws the most inspiration from the music of Smokey
Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, and the legendary songwriting and production
trio of Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, and Eddie Holland Jr.
The “retro” tag is added to almost any contemporary work that sounds like it was originally recorded between 1966 and 1974, and Hawthorne, among the newest contributors to the genre, is aware of how trends come and go. After being introduced to Stones Throw label head Peanut Butter Wolf by mutual friend Noelle Scaggs of the Rebirth, even his current boss was skeptical. “He showed me two songs and I didn’t understand what I was listening to,” Wolf recalls. “I asked him if they were old songs that he did re-edits of – I couldn’t believe they were new songs and that he played all the instruments.”
And after meeting in person, it was even harder for Wolf to believe that Hawthorne was also the lead vocalist. Few expect such heartfelt sentiment to come from a 29-year-old white kid from Ann Arbor, but he has caught the ear of his family at Stones Throw, as well as BBC Radio 1 host Gilles Peterson and producer/DJ Mark Ronson.