Soulville’s new Mayer

The Snoop-approved, neo-soul sensation Mayer Hawthorne brings his retro grooves to First Ave. on Easter Sunday

Frap. glasses and graffiti hearts can be soulful too.

Frap. glasses and graffiti hearts can be soulful too. PHOTO COURTESY SCHIKO

by Mark Brenden

WHAT: Mayer Hawthorne, opening for Passion Pit WHEN: April 4, 8 p.m. WHERE: First Avenue, 710 First Ave. N., Minneapolis. Andrew Mayer CohenâÄôs chosen pseudonym is Mayer Hawthorne, but in the world of neo-soul, you could call him the mayor. The crooner who set the genre aflame with his retro debut âÄúA Strange ArrangementâÄù is making a stop in Minneapolis, competing for attention with a fresh-out-the-sepulchre Jesus and an egg-bearing bunny with his Easter Sunday show at First Avenue. The MayerâÄôs straight-outta-oldies-radio grooves appeal to the widest of spectrums, from old to young and nerds to rap stars. Snoop Dogg called him his favorite new artist, while Ghostface Killah said, âÄúHeâÄôs crazyâÄù âÄî likening his music to âÄúhot fire.âÄù Smokey Robinson displayed his approval by joining his band onstage at South by Southwest this year. âÄúItâÄôs a trip, man,âÄù Hawthorne told A&E by phone, âÄúI gotta wake up and kinda slap myself in the face every morning. I always knew I would make it in music somehow, but I never thought that this was how itâÄôd go down.âÄù Hawthorne was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Mich., a college town just outside of Detroit and the birthplace of Motown. He learned about soul music from his parents and from tracing the bloodline of the hip-hop he was listening to, like his newest biggest fan Snoop Dogg. His career took off when he was discovered by noted producer Peanut Butter Wolf and asked to join his label Stone Throw Records, repped by such underground heavy hitters as J Dilla, Madvillain and Omar Rodriguez Lopez. His first record, âÄúA Strange Arrangement,âÄù was remarkably well-received, but nobody could believe that brand of authentic soul could come from a 29-year-old white dude with bold-rimmed glasses. âÄúMost people have been hearing my music before theyâÄôve been seeing what I look like,âÄù Hawthorne observed. âÄúI think thatâÄôs a great thing because it dispels any preconceived notions of who I am or what my music should sound like.âÄù The injector of soul has put his syringe to work recently, having just re-mixed a song, âÄúGansta Luv,âÄù for Snoop DoggâÄôs newest, âÄúMalice in Wonderland.âÄù He is also working on an album under a mysterious genre he called âÄúnew new wave.âÄù âÄúItâÄôs sorta weird, metal-beat, new-wave hip-hop that IâÄôm doing with a producer named 14KT out of Detroit,âÄù he clarified. On top of that, the industrious groove dropper is at work on a pop vocal album à la Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. A possible title for the album? âÄúMayer Bublé,âÄù he joked.