Mayer Hawthorne headlines free concert in Miami for Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour tonight

Mayer Hawthorne. Photo: Jeremy Dupetat

Everyone can appreciate the beauty of a Mercedes, although not everyone can afford one. But the Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour, which hits Miami on Aug. 19 as part of a nine-city jaunt across America to promote the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA, its new luxury compact SUV, is more than affordable – it’s FREE.

And the show (email to score a spot on the guest list) features one super-cool cat –Grammy-nominated Detroit neo-soul rocker Mayer Hawthorne, who’s touring in support of his third studio album, “Where Does This Door Go,” which features collaborations with Jack Splash and “Happy” hitmaker Pharrell Williams.

Hawthorne talked to about the show, his love of Miami, and how he hooked up with Pharrell.

This sounds like a cool event – are you pumped?
Yeah, I’m excited – I haven’t been to Miami in a while, and I love Miami.

What about it do you love so much?
Well, what’s not to like? There’s a lot of beautiful people and beautiful scenery, and some good food, and I recorded a lot of my last album down there [at Circle House Studios in North Miami Beach], working with Pharrell Williams and Jack Splash – they were both in Miami. And I got to spend a lot of time in your great city.

So how did you get involved with this tour?
Mercedes was cool enough to ask me to get involved, and they’re a classy brand. You know, my motto is, “It’s flashy, but classy,” and Mercedes perfectly illustrates that motto, and when they asked me to do it, I was like, hey, sounds fun.

Do you get a complimentary vehicle for participating?
[Laughs] I don’t know – we haven’t gotten one yet. But I actually have a vintage Mercedes that’s my favorite car that I own. A 1987 convertible, 560 SL.

As a Detroit guy, do you have any problem promoting Mercedes, since it’s not made in the U.S.A.?
Ummm, I don’t have any problem with that … S—. [Laughs] That’s a tough question. I grew up working in an auto parts store. That was what my father did – we sold American auto parts in Detroit, and it’s been a wild ride for the auto industry in Detroit. I think there are good things happening in Detroit still for cars, but I think Detroit also really needs to find some other things that they’re good at.

What can we expect from your show – how long will they let you play?
Oh, man – they’re gonna have to kick me off the stage! We’re gonna go until they kick us off. We’re gonna do it Prince-style – I might do seven encores like Prince, if they want it.

Will we hear a lot from “Where Does This Door Go”?
I’ll be doing some joints from the new album for sure, but I’m the type of guy that – you know, I go to a lot of shows to see other bands, and I know you’ve got to give the people what they want. So we’re gonna give the people what they want.

So it’ll be like a greatest-hits type of thing?
Yeah, we’re gonna give you the classics, for sure.

Will you have your full band with you?
Definitely, yeah. I got my band that is made up of mostly guys that I grew up with in Detroit, and we’ve been playing together for years and years, and they’re the best band in the world.

Horn section, too?
I don’t have a horn section, no. I wish Mercedes would pay me enough for that.

How did you hook up with Pharrell? Were you going for more of a hip-hop vibe on the new album?
Well, I come from hip-hop. I was a hip-hop DJ and producer for a decade before I even made one soul record. So everything I do is heavily inspired and influenced by that. But that was the first time I ever had a rapper rap on a song. I had Snoop Dogg on my last album, but I wouldn’t let him rap – I told him he had to sing. But even when I’m making strictly soul music, there’s always a little hip-hop in there – that’s just who I am and where I come from.
But as far as Pharrell Williams, when he heard I was making this album, he actually reached out to me and said that he wanted to work with me on it. And that just totally blew me away. I mean, I’ve been a huge Pharrell Williams fan forever – I think he is practically single-handedly responsible for keeping good music on the radio. I look back on my favorite Top 40 songs from the past decade, and they’re all Pharrell Williams. So that’s pretty amazing. It was totally a dream come true to work with him, and I thought we did something that was pretty revolutionary.

Who are some of your other idols?
Barry White. He’s number one. He’s the maestro, man. He’s the original smooth dude with the gangster groove, and that’s who I aspire to be.

It might be hard to sing that deep.
Yeah, he has a unique voice – there’s nobody like him. I wish I could do that, but we gotta work with what we got [laughs].