Detroit soul singer Mayer Hawthorne is gaining a lot of buzz these days. He dropped by the MTV Newsroom to talk about what it was like to be the somewhat mismatched opening act for electro-funk duo Chromeo this fall.
“I’ve always made sure that I tour with bands that people aren’t expecting me to tour with,” the artist, who has toured with the likes of Bruno Mars, Janelle Monáe and Passion Pit, said. As it turns out, Hawthorne was the last artist to tour with Amy Winehouse before her tragic death last summer.
“I watched her set every night,” Hawthorne said, lowering his eyes. “She really seemed to be back on the right track.”
Joined by his band the County, the musician explained how the pairing of soul and electro-funk came to be on the Chromeo tour, which he just wrapped in New York City.
“I did a couple covers of their songs and just put them out for free online,” he recalled. “I actually met them through [Chromeo lead singer, Dave’s brother] A-Trak. We kept in touch and just decided, ’Hey, let’s hit the road together!’ ”
Hawthorne’s style of music is a throwback to the likes of Curtis Mayfield and Smokey Robinson, whom he names among his influences. “I try to make sure that I make music that can stand the test of time,” he explained. “Hopefully people are digging for my records in 30 years just like I’m digging for records from 30 years ago.”
Despite his steady climb to success, including his major-label debut, How Do You Do, released under Universal Republic earlier this year, the singer explained that it’s not easy being the opening act and standing in front of someone else’s fans.
“When we come out onstage, we get a lot of funny looks, arms folded, like, ’This is not who I came for,’ ” he explained. “That’s one of the reasons why we work so hard to make sure that our show is the best in the world.”
Hawthorne assures, however, that by the end of his set “everybody’s usually all smiles and jumping up and down.”
Over the next few months, Mayer Hawthorne and the County will be touring the world.
“We’re just getting warmed up,” he smirked.