Music critics say Ann Arbor native Mayer Hawthorne is someone to listen for next year. Hawthorne is a Doo Wop artist who recently signed with Stones Throw Records in Los Angeles. But before he was Mayer Hawthorne, he was, and still is, a Hip-Hop DJ by the name of Haircut. But a chance encounter with record executive Peanut Butter Wolf landed him a Soul record deal.
I caught up with the Soul singer from Ann Arbor, in L.A.
"The name Haircut comes from when I was mad little," said Hawthorne. "My parents took me to get my first haircut, I had a temper tantrum, and the only way they could get me to shut up was they bought me a record. And I like just totally fell in love with records.
"Soul music, for whatever reason, has just always been my favorite. I don't know, maybe it's just growing up around Detroit and, you know, I'm a super big vinyl record nerd, junkie. And usually when I dig, I'm digging for soul records.
"I was making rap, and this Mayer Hawthorne stuff was just some fun stuff on the side. The first song just kind of popped in my head one day when I was driving to a friend's house, and I don't even know where it even came from – I was driving. Most of my songs come while I'm driving or flying on a plane or when I'm shopping at a grocery store. You know, just at the weirdest times. A whole song will just pop in my head. A lot of times it's annoying and I'll have to stop everything that I'm doing and go call myself and sing it in my voicemail so I don't forget it. And then they just come. It's crazy. They just shoot out of the sky, into my head, and I have to record them.
"You know, the first demos I did all the vocals through a pair of headphones instead of a microphone. It started out essentially as kind of a joke. I never had any intention of recording a whole album. Maybe not anything else ever. I did two songs and they were really just for fun. And they got in the hands of Peanut Butter Wolf.
"I had met Wolf a couple times here and there, but when I gave him the songs we were at this party called The Do Over, that goes on every Sunday out here in L.A. during the summer. I was there with the homegirl and I didn't know Peanut Butter Wolf but she did and she had heard the Mayer Hawthorne songs. She introduced me to Wolf and was like 'Yo, Wolf, you've got to hear this Mayer Hawthorne stuff.' And Wolf was like 'Yeah, whatever,' because he didn't know who the hell I was. And I'm sure he gets a thousand demo CDs every day. So he was like, 'Send me some tracks.' So I sent him some tracks and I didn't even get a response from him for, probably over a month went by. And then randomly, he must have finally got around to listening to them and he wrote me back and said 'Hey, I like the songs. Who is this?' Beause he didn't even remember who I was. And then the next time we met up, he didn't believe it was me that had made those songs."
"Who did he think it was?" I asked.
"I don't know," he laughed. "Somebody else. Somebody who doesn't look like me."