Mayer Hawthorne says his forthcoming third album, as yet untitled and due this summer, is “definitely different, way different from its two predecessors.”
Hawthorne came to Austin for South By Southwest to preview eight tracks slated for the set — culled from nearly 40 he said he worked on — during a playback session on the open-air terrace of the W Hotel.
“This is the first album where I didn’t produce the entire album by myself,” Hawthorne explained. “I worked with a lot of unbelievably talented people on it, and it really made me a better producer myself.” Among his collaborators at sessions in New York, Los Angeles and Miami were Pharrell Williams, Oak, Jack Splash, John Hill and Jake One, while another big-name producer unwittingly helped steer the direction of the album.
“One of the very first producer meetings that I had was with…Rodney Jerkins,” Hawthorne related. “I played him a few demos I had done and I explained to him my vision for the record, and he basically told me I would have to scrap everything and start over again because I couldn’t have any 7th chords in any of the songs ’cause it was too jazzy — ‘too soulful’ were his words, I believe. So after that I decided that every single song on this new record would have to have a seventh chord in it.”
The songs Hawthorne played — including “The Stars Are Out Tonight,” “Fool,” “Wine Glass Woman,” “Her Favorite Song,” “Crime” — displayed the classic soul-pop flavor that’s his stock in trade, mixed with more contemporary sonics and beat sensibilities. “The main focus of this record was about storytelling,” he said, while before the relaxed, reggae-tinged “The Only One,” Hawthorne commented that “going into this record I decided that I would want to make an entire album of songs that I would play on my yacht, when I was cruising on the yacht on the water.”
Hawthorne is currently off the road as well but eyeballing tour plans to support the album’s release.