If you think today's pop music is missing a certain amount of soul, you're not alone. And a dude named Mayer Hawthorne, who grew up in Motown-land on the outskirts of Detroit, is trying to do something about it. The 33-year-old who equally worships contemporary hip-hop and Hall & Oates (last year he performed on Daryl Hall's "Live From Daryl's House" webcast) is bringing back the smooth sounds of soul and R&B groups from the '70s. Check him out Tuesday night at Grand Central (697 N. Miami Ave., Miami), where he takes the stage in support of his latest album, "How Do You Do." He talked to Miami.com about the show, his friendship with Snoop Dogg, and how he developed his retro sound.
What can we expect from your show? What's a Mayer Hawthorne concert like?
It is definitely not a concert - it is a show. We don't do concerts. We make sure everybody is involved, and we work harder than anybody to make sure that nobody ever wants their money back when they come to see Mayer Hawthorne.
What kind of band do you have up there?
My band The County is drums, bass, guitar, keys and myself.
So any of the horns from your songs are done with synthesizers?
Yeah, we're not traveling with horns right now.
What inspired your old-school soul sound in the first place?
I grew up just outside of Detroit, so when you grow up there, it's just kind of in your blood. But I learned more about soul music through hip-hop, I think, than I did through Motown. I wasn't even alive during the heyday of Motown - I grew up in the '80s and '90s listening to LL Cool J and Public Enemy and N.W.A. and Ice Cube. And I learned most of what I know about soul music through digging for the samples of my favorite hip-hip tracks.
How was the experience of performing with Daryl Hall for you?
That was the most fun I've ever had in my entire life. I got to go to Daryl Hall's house, and sing "Private Eyes" with Daryl Hall, trading verses. It does not get any better than that.
How did you hook up with Snoop Dogg?
Snoop asked me to remix a song for him, called "Gangsta Love," and of course I was real excited to do that. And he liked the way it came out. And every time I've hung out with Snoop, he's always listening to classic soul music, like The Delfonics and The Dramatics and The Chi-Lites. He never listens to hip-hop - he's always listening to soul music, and he's always singing along. I was hanging with him and I got to hear that, and I just said to myself, other people need to hear this - it's just awesome. So when he asked me how he could get on my album, I told him he has to sing.
So he was cool with that?
He was really excited, man, and you can tell when you listen to it. You can hear it in his voice. He really just put all his passion for it in there.
Have you ever been to Miami? What do you think of the city?
I have been to Miami numerous times, and I can tell you that it might be my favorite place in the entire world, and I cannot wait to get back there.
Wow - what exactly is it about this place?
I wish I had an entire week to just kick it in Miami. Everybody in the whole crew - we're just counting down the days, for real. I know you think that I say this in every interview, but we have photos of Miami as the backgrounds on our phones, and we are really just waiting to go back.
Well, move down here - what's the problem?
I would love to, man - maybe I will. Who knows? I'll be looking into it.