BY SCOTT CUNNINGHAM // His classic, soulful groove remains as sweet as ever.
Keeping it real after securing a spot on the national music scene can be difficult for musicians. Fortunately, Mayer Hawthorne remains firmly grounded seven years into his run with his version of classic soul.
Hawthorne visits Portland on Sunday when he plays Revolution Hall in support of his newly release album Man About Town.
I first saw Hawthorne about five years ago at a conference for non-commercial radio and was immediately drawn to his soulful sound and catchy lyrics. His catchy song The Walk drew me in and I've followed him ever since.
We spent some time earlier in the week talking about the new album, his career, and the innovate touches he has brought to promoting his work.
"I try not to take myself too seriously as a person, I like to have fun," Hawthorne explains.
As evidence, look no further than his Twitter account where his name is listed as Mayer World Peace, a nod to his Ann Arbor roots and loyalty to his Detroit Pistons (which, as a native Hoosier, I'm willing to forgive him for). He also lists his location as Waffle House.
When it comes to his music, however, he's all business. And innovation.
For the current album, Hawthorne has done two things that most artists would never try or even think of.
First, he went around the country hosting listening parties for fans of his music. On Twitter, he would make an announcement from a particular city and ask fans who wanted to attend to send him a text if they wanted to attend.
Creating buzz about an album prior to its release is standard fare, but for Hawthorne the listening parties had a much deeper meaning.
"The parties were really something I wanted to do to give back to the fans who have been riding with me the last four albums," he says. "I wanted to let people experience the album in a way that no other artist is doing. I love doing new, different, unique things."
Making a music video trilogy was the other incredibly novel part of releasing the album. The first of the videos, for the song Cosmic Love, was released on Feb. 11. The other two videos were released in a serial format, with the last one being released at the end of April.
"I love the way that visuals complement music. I really miss the days when Michael Jackson would stop the world for a music video. They were so much more than just music videos, they were really films."
I won't spoil the plot for the videos, but they have a class private-eye feel to them, drawing from films such as Chinatown, Casablanca, Blad Runner, Inherent Vice, and The Big Lebowski.
"I didn't want to do another regular music video," he tells me. "My whole management team was like 'What are you doing? You're going to blow your whole budget on this and what if it isn't good?'"
"Everybody thought I was crazy and that just made me want to do it even more."
Hawthorne's instincts paid off, not only with the videos but with the album as well. His classic, soulful groove remains as sweet as ever.
ON TOUR: Mayer Hawthorne appears Sunday May 8 at Revolution Hall in Portland. Doors are at 7:00 PM and tickets are still available as of this writing.