Mayer Hawthorne Interviewed: "I'd Love To Work With Rihanna"

The sharp-suited soul man has dropped his newest album to widespread acclaim. Just before, he spoke to me about Pharrell, British teeth and who's on his list to get in the studio with...
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The sharp-suited soul man has dropped his newest album to widespread acclaim. Just before, he spoke to me about Pharrell, British teeth and who's on his list to get in the studio with...

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This is your third album - your second with Universal - and you've said that this is the album you should have always made. What exactly did you mean by that? How is it different from the first two?

Everything is different. For this album I threw out every rule I ever had and the only rule left was that it had to be fun. This is the most honest and confident record I've ever. I have yet to find someone who can tell me what genre it falls into, and that's really exciting for me.

‘Where Does This Door Go?’ is the first record that you haven't primarily produced yourself. Why did you decide to make such a drastic change to your record making process? Was that your idea or the record company's?

It's strange because this is the first album I didn't produce myself, yet it's the most Mayer Hawthorne album ever. I had done my first two albums on my own and it was just time to do something completely different; I had to evolve and expand as an artist. I think the record company was surprised by how open I was to working with other people, but I knew it was time for a change.

The producers you did work with have serious stripes in music, and they've worked with such a diverse, eclectic mix of artists, which I think really comes through on the album. Was that a conscious decision on your part to make sure you got a variety of ideas? And were there any difficulties working with them when it came to creative differences?

I met with probably 25 different producers and in the end I chose the ones that I felt best understood my vision, but also producers who I thought would push me out of my comfort zone. There were some pretty heated arguments in the studio. Sometimes we wanted to kill each other. But I think that's partly why it worked so well.

What was it like working so closely with Pharrell on the record? It seems like everything he touches turns to gold.

I was super excited to work with Pharrell, but at the time we first started recording there were a lot of doubters around me saying "he's out of touch" or "he hasn't had a hit in years". The reason Pharrell is so successful is because he's not trying to make hits; he's just trying to make great music, timeless music. And that's why he's still winning and everyone who counted him out ris feeling extra dumb right now.

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First Snoop Dogg, now Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell - your collaborations are getting  much more glamorous. Are there any artists out there that you'd really love to work with?

Rihanna and Donald Fagan. Maybe together.

You're well known for always looking incredibly dapper. How many suits do you usually take on tour with you? And how many do you own?

Ummm, a lot! Hahaha. Too many. I just moved into a new house in LA with a huge closet and it's already full.

You first started out as a hip-hop DJ/producer before you became Mayer Hawthorne, and you've featured on several tracks with other hip-hop artists. Are you planning on incorporating more of the hip-hop side of things in your solo work?

Well one of the really cool things about this new album is that it openly incorporates my hip-hop roots. I did record scratches on a few tracks, we used old drum machines, and I even had the first rap verse ever on a Mayer Hawthorne song with Kendrick Lamar on ‘Crime’ [Snoop Dogg featured on Hawthorne’s second album, ‘How Do You Do?’, but sung his part of the track]. I wouldn’t be here without hip-hop.

I've seen countless attempts in various articles and interviews to define your sound - andI don't think I've seen the same term used twice. How would you describe it?

Ukrainian Sissy Crunk-Step!

How do find the UK crowds compare to the crowds back home? And you’ve mostly stuck to doing shows in London when you’re on these shores, so do you have any plans for a full UK tour?

UK crowds are just as cool except the teeth are a bit more crooked! And yeah, I'll be doing several UK dates this fall and I'll be coming to party, so you guys better be ready.

Finally, your success has come in such a short space of time. Has there been a particular  moment or event when you've had to take a second and think ‘wow, I can't believe this is actually happening’?

The guy from Nickelback called me a douchebag on Canadian national television [in 2011, in  protest to Nickelback performing at the half-time show of the Green Bay Packers v Detroit  Lions game on Thanksgiving Day, Hawthorne performed his own half-time show from his  parent’s basement in Detroit]. That was definitely a career highlight.

Mayer is touring the UK in October.  You can get tickets for this and buy his new album here, and follow him on Twitter here