Q&A: Mayer Hawthorne Regarding Jamie Lidell: "Different Is Good"

Photo by Micah Baird

Michigan crooner/producer

Mayer Hawthorne

got in R&B and soul fans' good graces a couple of years ago with

"Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," a throwback slice of heartbreak off his

debut, A Strange Arrangement. Choosy hip-hop imprint Stones Throw

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pairs well with a guy who isolates smoky cool from R&B of

yesteryear and makes everyone pretend that those beats always thudded

through the subwoofers.

A recent cover of Otis Leavill's "I Need You" shows Hawthorne is digging deeper than just Al Green and Curtis Mayfield

for inspiration, and on this new tour with the County, sponsored by a

major Japanese car retailer, Hawthorne is back with a fresh single.

Futuristic by his standards -- maybe 1989 instead of 1969 -- "No Strings"

does well by his falsetto, and the Classixx-produced track has a

late-night, Pharrell-is-in-the-building feel. Bring the one you love, or

maybe just the one you wanna love, to this one.

New Times caught up with Hawthorne for a few pointed questions about his attire, his TV watching, and a fateful meeting with Jamie Lidell ahead of Sunday's performance at Culture Room.

New Times: "No Strings" sounds like you've moved stylistically into the late '80s instead of the late '60s. Is this a one-off, stylistically? How does one follow up A Strange Arrangement?

Mayer Hawthorne: How do you do? My new song "No Strings" is an example of my love for all types of music. I grew up in the '80s, and I listen to so many different kinds of music -- rock, heavy metal, pop, reggae, jazz, new wave... I love to give people something unexpected. There were no rules for recording A Strange Arrangement, only fun. I'm gonna hold on to that strategy going forward.

Have you ever met Jamie Lidell, and what do you think of his version of old-school soul?

I met Mr. Lidell at a festival in Portugal that we played together. His version of soul is totally different than mine, which was great to see. Different is good.

It's one thing to re-create the bygone sounds in studio, but how do those sounds and performers of yesteryear inspire your stage show? Are the members of the County instructed to emulate any classic players from past eras?

I'm never trying to re-create anything from the past. I'm trying to take soul music and make it new again. The members of my live band, the County, all have their own unique flavor that adds to the overall show experience. We all do our own thing, and that's what makes it fun.

What does Mayer Hawthorne sing in a karaoke setting? And does he ever explore the bottom end of his singing register?

I always sing Sinatra for karaoke. And I sing it from the very bottom.

Demand for your hip-hop production skills has got to be on the rise. Any notable requests of late? Anything you did/turned down?

I've done some remixes for some amazing artists like Snoop Dogg and John Legend. I learn a lot every time I work with an another artist like that, so I'm hoping that the requests keep coming.

Mad Men and Mayer Hawthorne seem to be very much in step. What is your assessment of the show?

My sister has been trying to get me into that show for years, but honestly, I don't have much time for TV these days. I do love Dexter, though! South Florida, stand up!

Sure, Detroit has a few notables when it comes to R&B/soul, but we've got the "Masterpiece" master Clarence Reid (AKA Blowfly) down in South Florida. Do you like his style (as either persona), and does it inspire you?

Clarence is an absolute genius! He's written so many amazing songs. People don't realize he wrote "Rocking Chair" for Gwen McRae or "Clean Up Woman" for Betty Wright. I love all the Blowfly records too.

It's hot down in Florida -- even in October. Do you have some linen suits?

I do have a few linen suits, but we'll see... I may show up in a Borat slingshot swimsuit. See you there.

Mayer Hawthorne & County, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, October 3, at Culture

Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $16. Call

954-564-1074, or click here.

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