A practitioner of his own variety of playful but sincere blue-eyed soul, Mayer Hawthorne is the stage name of eclectic DJ/producer Andrew Cohen.
In his guise as Hawthorne, Cohen reveals he's a keen student of sounds of the past, writing songs that show the influences of '60s soul and '70s funk, with a contemporary production sensibility and a witty but heartfelt lyrical stance that often depicts him as the smoothest nerdy guy (or nerdiest smooth guy) in music. Hawthorne's 2011 breakthrough album How Do You Do was steeped in the sound of classic Motown sides, while he folded '70s soul and soft rock into the formula on 2016's Man About Town.
Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a onetime member of the rap groups Athletic Mic League and Now On, Cohen began recording soul-steeped material as something of a joke. He initially didn't plan to have it reach beyond his circle of friends and family. But Hawthorne, the pseudonym Cohen used for the songs, eventually took on a life of its own. When a couple of Hawthorne songs were played for Peanut Butter Wolf, the Stones Throw label head was baffled; he initially thought he was hearing re-edits of obscure late-'60s/early-'70s soul singles, not the work of a multi-instrumentalist who laid everything down himself.
Hawthorne, by then based in Los Angeles, was subsequently signed to Stones Throw, and debuted with "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" b/w "When I Said Goodbye," a pair of scratchy and bittersweet tales of heartache on red heart-shaped 7" vinyl. A 12" featuring a cover of New Holidays' obscure 1969 single "Maybe So Maybe No" followed shortly thereafter, preceding the full-length A Strange Arrangement, released in October 2009. After a live set (Stones Throw Direct to Disc #1) and a couple single releases, Hawthorne released his second album, How Do You Do, for Universal Republic in October 2011. Where Does This Door Go followed on the label in 2013 and added some '70s and '80s flavors to the singer's mix of retro sounds.
Hawthorne next launched a collaborative synth pop project with Texas-based rappers 14K called Jaded; they released their debut album, The Big Knock, in the summer of 2014. Next came another collaborative project, this time with Seattle hip-hop producer Jake One. Under the name Tuxedo, they released their retro synth-soul debut via Stones Throw in early 2015. Hawthorne dropped a solo album of '70s-influenced soul sounds, Man About Town, for Vagrant Records in the spring of 2016. Tuxedo would keep Hawthorne busy as they released albums in 2017 (Tuxedo II) and 2019 (Tuxedo III), but in July he re-emerged as a solo artist, launching his own label, Strange Sounds, with the sorrowful but deeply soulful single "The Game." ~ Andy Kellman & Mark Deming