Take a closer look at Mayer Hawthorne, one of three artists headlining the Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour this summer & fall. See our full MB Evolution Tour hub here.
Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it was only natural that Mayer Hawthorne would fall in love with both soul and hip-hop. After starting his career as a rapper under the name DJ Haircut, he eventually transitioned to his unique brand of neo-soul, which he recorded with the intention of giving to some friends and family. Some of his demos found a powerful ally in Stones Throw's Peanut Butter Wolf: the label head signed the young, now Los Angeles-based singer.
Hawthorne's first single, "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out"/"When I Said Goodbye," came out in fall 2008 on a heart-shaped 7-inch, and made waves with its vintage sound and raw vocals. His second single, "Maybe So, Maybe No"/"I Wish It Would Rain" followed a few months later, with the A-side displaying a funkier edge in contrast to his ballads. The bespectacled crooner's debut album, "A Strange Arrangement," dropped in September 2009, and attracted enough attention for Hawthorne to ink a deal with Universal Republic for his second LP, 2011's "How Do You Do."
BILLBOARD CHART HIGHLIGHTS
|July 19, 2009: Hawthorne makes his Billboard album chart debut with "A Strange Arrangement," debuting at No. 5 on Heatseekers Albums and No. 160 on the Billboard 200.
Oct. 22, 2011: His second studio album, "How Do You Do," debuts and peaks at No. 8 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 52 on the Billboard 200.
Jan. 28, 2012: "No Strings" climbs to No. 29 on the Adult Alternative Songs chart.
Aug. 3, 2013: Third album, "Where Does This Door Go," arrives at No. 4 on the R&B Albums chart and No. 30 on the Billboard 200.
That album featured a much broader, refined sound with influences coming more from the '70s, with Snoop Dogg adding some falsetto singing to the track "Can't Stop." He even paid tribute to Detroit on the old-school "A Long Time," singing "Oh, people all around the world/Tunin' into radios/Welcome to the Motor Town/Buckle up 'cause here we go."
"How Do You Do" drew positive reviews and reached No. 8 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, while Hawthorne's revue-style live show continued to earn him new fans.
Faced with some uncertainty about the direction on his third LP, Hawthorne found inspiration in the form of Kanye West, who explained to the younger artist that there are no rules when it comes to making music. Invigorated, Hawthorne explored a number of different genres on 2013's aptly titled "Where Does This Door Go", including hip-hop, a dash of metal, and some Steely Dan-like prog. "Crime" featured a verse from Kendrick Lamar, "Her Favorite Song" got help from Jessie J, and Pharrell lent his production and motivational talents on three of the album's 15 tracks: "Wine Glass Woman," "Reach Out Richard," and "The Stars Are Ours." The album peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard 200.
Most recently, Hawthorne joined forces with his longtime Michigan friend 14KT to form the synth-pop group Jaded Incorporated. Tracks like "Coconut Sofa" echo late-'70s, early-'80s that has shades of Gary Numan and the Cars. Jaded Incorporated's debut album, "The Big Knock," is out now via Casablanca Records.