Mayer Hawthorne talks latest album and putting on good show at Savannah alumni concert

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comMay 30, 2013 

JEREMY DEPUTAT — Submitted photo

  • IF YOU GO

    WHEN: 6 p.m. May 31

    WHERE: Forsyth Park, Savannah

    COST: Free

    DETAILS: www.scad.edu/info-for/alumni/calendar.cfm

Mayer Hawthorne's two previous albums had been something of a one-man show with the Los-Angeles based R&B singer writing, arranging and playing every instrument on nearly every track.

So when it came time to record "Where Does This Door Go?," an album for which Hawthorne, 34, says he wrote more than 40 songs, the Michigan native thought it might not be a bad idea to call in a little backup.

That assistance came from superstar producers such as Pharrell Williams; Jake One, who has collaborated with fun., Dr. Dre and Wiz Khalifa; and Jack Splash, who has written and produced songs for Katy Perry, Jennifer Hudson and Cee-Lo Green. All three have producing credits on Hawthorne's upcoming LP, slated for a July 14 release.

"The recording process on this album was totally different on purpose," Hawthorne said. "It was really more about pushing myself ... and journeying into the unknown. I wanted to do something new and I think we did. This album sounds new, which I feel like is a real achievement in 2013 when everything feels like it's been done before."

Hawthorne will play songs from the new album and his previous two when he performs May 31 at the Savannah College of Art and Design's annual New Alumni Concert in Forsyth Park. The free concert coincides with the weekend of the college's commencement ceremonies and, in recent years, has featured such acts as Cold War Kids and Grace Potter and The Nocturnals.

Joining Hawthorne on the bill May 31 are Atlanta indie rockers Gringo Star and California jazz funk band The Greyboy Allstars.

Hawthorne said he is excited to debut the new material, including "Her Favorite Song," the new album's first single, and seemed nonchalant about playing songs that most of the audience, including some of his more die-hard fans, don't know.

"We don't do concerts, we do shows," Hawthorne said. "No one works harder than us at getting everybody up and having a good time. We put a lot of thought into our shows in rehearsals to make sure we keep everyone moving. It's a lot like being a DJ. If everyone is dancing, it doesn't matter if you're playing old music or new music. It's about the party."

In addition to putting the finishing touches on his own album, Hawthorne recently collaborated with rock 'n' roll legend Booker T. Jones on "Sound the Alarm," the title track from Jones' upcoming LP. That album is due out June 25.

Hawthorne said the collaboration came about after the two met at, of all places, soul singer Daryl Hall's house.

"We just kind of stayed in touch, and one day he called and said he had a song that he had me in mind for, and I dropped everything," Hawthorne said. "It was sort of a pinch-me moment working with him. I mean, the song is not only soulful and funky, but it also just sounds new and fresh. It was such an honor. I mean, Booker T could be induced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three or four times for different things for different projects he's been involved with."

After playing Savannah, Hawthorne will play a handful of shows in Europe in June and early July before returning stateside to play more than a dozen dates with OneRepublic.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.

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