Mayer Hawthorne is "almost finished" with his sophomore album, telling Billboard.com that the set is "still very rooted in that essence of Detroit soul" that he comes from but also promising that "the sound is evolving."
"You're going to hear a lot more of my other influences coming out on this record," Hawthorne says of the follow-up to 2009's "A Strange Arrangement." "You're going to hear more of my affinity for Steely Dan and the Beatles and the Byrds and the Hollies and the Doobie Brothers -- probably some Public Enemy and N.W.A., too." But, he adds the synthesis of those sources "just happens kind of naturally. It's not something I kind of really have to plan or orchestrate. I was making rock music and hip-hop long before I was making soul music, so those influences automatically come out in everything I do."
Hawthorne (real name Andrew Mayer Cohen) says he has "a dozen or so" tracks ready, which he recorded at a bedroom studio in an apartment he rented in downtown Detroit, with arranging, mixing and overdubs done in Los Angeles. Guests on the album will include Snoop Dogg on a track called "I Can't Stop," and legendary Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey, who played on several songs while Hawthorne laid down a guest vocal for an album Coffey is working on. There may be some other surprises, Hawthorne adds, but "nobody else that I want to give away just yet. We've recorded stuff, but whether or not it makes the album, we'll have to see."
Hawthorne plans to preview some of the new material during a one-off show in Detroit on Dec. 23, and he acknowledges that after the success of "A Strange Arrangement" and the single "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," he's ready to face the expectations that will accompany a sophomore release.
"I played a couple of the songs for my close friends recently," he says, "and the reaction, which I thought was hysterical, was that, 'We didn't think you'd be able to beat 'A Strange Arrangement.' ' Even my closest friends didn't think I'd be able to top it. They were reluctant to admit they thought the new material was better. So I'm feeling good about it. It's definitely my favorite material I've recorded to date. If everybody likes it as much as 'A Strange Arrangement,' then fantastic. If not, that's OK, too."
Hawthorne is slated to open a trio of shows for Amy Winehouse during January in Brazil and will also be part of the grand opening of the Cosmopolitan casino and hotel in Las Vegas.