Sensual soul singer Mayer Hawthorne (birth name Andrew Cohen) was enjoying a rare day off in Atlanta, Georgia when I called him up.
Vintage culture is being embraced in a big way in the music community. Stores report an increase of vinyl sales of 39 percent and Record Store Day grows steadily with each passing year. With a sound that channels soul greats like Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield and a childhood spent in Motown-drenched Detroit playing music in his basement with Andrew W.K., Hawthorne's got all the makings of a great throwback star, primed to ride the nostalgia explosion to popular and critical success.
But don't get it twisted (as Hawthorne told me several times throughout our conversation) he doesn't want to be pigeon-holed as an "oldies guy."
"A lot of people think that I live in some kind of time capsule where I only listen to Otis Redding. But I'm all about moving music forward and not back," said Hawthorne. "I don't want to go back to the good old days. Those days are over."
Before he was crooning at crowds, he was a busy hip-hop DJ and producer.. After moving to Los Angeles to work as a DJ and producer, he decided to short cut the song licensing process and make his own tracks to sample.
Those homemade soul tracks caught the attention of Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butt Wolf, who encouraged the release of a full-length, which became the album A Strange Arrangement.
And although he's busy with a long tour for his latest record, How Do You Do, Hawthorne finds time to spin his favorite albums.
"I'm always DJing, all the time, as much as I possibly can. I love to DJ. I DJ after-parties, on days off, whatever," said Hawthorne.
A dedicated crate-digger, Hawthorne built quite the collection of vinyl from an almost absurdly early age.
"When I was a baby, my parents would buy me records to get me to behave it was a reward if I would behave while I was getting my haircut. I would scream and have a temper tantrum, so they would buy me records to get me to shut up and keep me occupied," said Hawthorne, who DJs under the name DJ Haircut.
"I'm a big vinyl record guy. Every day is Record Store Day for me. It's something I've been doing since I was a kid," said Hawthorne, who tries to stop in a record store on multiple stops of his tour.
He blew through Indianapolis once before, on a tour for A Strange Arrangement.
"Last time we were in Indianapolis we did a show at Radio Radio and it was off the hinges. It was a total pleasant surprise show on the tour," said Hawthorne. "I'm definitely looking forward to getting back here and hope it's going to be the same energy."
A large part of that energy is created by his supporting band, The County.
"I definitely do a lot myself, and that's part of the fun for me. But I also get by with a little help from my friends. I have a crew of unbelievable musician friends that helped me on How Do You Do" said Hawthorne. "I can't do it all myself. I have an amazing bands that tours with me when I perform live."
" I don't make music to sell the most records or win Grammys or be the most popular. I make music that I think is fresh, and if you like if, I love you. If you don't like it, I love you just the same," said Hawthorne.