Not long ago, Mayer Hawthorne was little more than the nom de porn of Andrew Cohen, the hip-hop producer turned soul singer formerly known as DJ Haircut. (Mayer is his middle name, Hawthorne the street he grew up on.) After moving to Los Angeles, Hawthorne began meddling with Motown in his bedroom.
"I recorded a couple tracks on the side for fun," he concedes. "It was really just an experiment to see if I could do it. I never intended for those songs to be released or heard by the public."
When Stones Throw label owner Peanut Butter Wolf caught wind of the off-kilter falsetto of "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," he requested an LP's worth of material. Save for an obscure cover of the New Holidays' "Maybe So, Maybe No," Hawthorne wrote and played every instrument on A Strange Arrangement himself. The set gives props to Dilla while cruisin' with Smokey Robinson.
"I wanted the album to give you that timeless, warm feeling you get when you listen to classic Motown and soul, but I wasn't even around during the heyday of Motown," Hawthorne muses. "I grew up as a hip-hop DJ and producer. I wasn't interested in creating a throwback or retro album. I'm trying to bring it forward. I'm trying to make music that when kids listen to it, it doesn't feel like it's their parents' music.
"I was never a singer until recently, so it's taken some getting used to, but I'm getting the hang of it now and starting to find the groove. It's incredibly surreal, the whole thing. I can't even wrap my brain around it. I just kind of have as much fun as I can and take it one day at a time."
(Also: Sat., 1am, Mohawk Patio.)
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