An artist with an appreciation of various genres of music has the ability to mold an album into an inimitable work of art. Mayer Hawthorne (singer, songwriter, producer), craftily creates and performs songs influenced by hip-hop, old-school Motown, and bluesy rock. His latest album, Where Does This Door Go, hosts an abundance of surprises – the overall sound is as tastefully unpredictable as the collaborations. Here, Hawthorne discusses the inner workings of his latest album, partnership with Kendrick Lamar, and co-producing with Pharrell Williams. Here, the soulful crooner reveals the entire track listing for Where Does This Door Go, to be released July 16th.
Life + Times: Regarding Where Does This Door Go, you stated that you were going for a fun approach. What was your favorite part of the development of the album?
Mayer Hawthorne: I think my favorite part was getting rid of all the rules. I used to say shit like “I can’t use any synthesizers” or “I can’t use any samples.” For this album I threw all the rules out and I just had fun.
L+T: At SXSW, you premiered some of the tracks from Where Does This Door Go. If I’m not mistaken, you originally didn’t know if you were actually going to release some or all of the tracks as an EP or album…or even release them at all. Is that correct? Was there a determining factor that led to your decision to create a LP?
MH: I recorded over forty songs for this album. It was really tough to narrow it down. The track list changed every day. In the end I decided to keep the album short and try to release the rest later. I really wanted to make a party record like [Michael Jackson's] Thriller, where every song could be a single.
L+T: You worked with a lot of industry heavies on the new album. For example, “Wine Glass Woman” has Pharrell written all over it. How did you come into contact? Did you guys mostly see eye-to-eye on the production of the tracks?
MH: I think I first met Pharrell on stage at a Snoop Dogg show. We both have a deep appreciation for rap music and Steely Dan, so when we got in the studio it was definitely magic. [Pharrell] had this vision of me as a sort of stadium rock artist, which I didn’t necessarily agree with 100%, but it was really fun to experiment with that vibe.
L+T: In addition to Pharrell, you also partnered with Greg Wells, John Hill, Jack Splash, and Oak (of Oak & Pop). All five of these producers have different musical perspectives and approaches. How were you able to take a piece of wisdom from each producer and mold it into the album – without it losing its cohesiveness?
MH: I knew from the beginning that working with multiple producers would be a challenge. I didn’t want the album to sound like a mixtape. Then I remembered, “Hey, I’m a producer too. I can be the glue that pulls everything together.”
L+T: On a personal note, “Crime” is one of my favorite tracks on the record. How did this collaboration with Kendrick come about?
MH: I met Kendrick at SXSW and we talked about maybe working together. When I wrote “Crime,” I immediately thought of him – but he wasn’t available. The label suggested a bunch of other artists but I was like, “No, it’s gotta be Kendrick or nobody.” A week before the album was due, it was still nobody. Then lo and behold, we made it happen at the last minute. He brought this incredible 2Pac energy and it was exactly what the song needed.
L+T: Is a musician truly only good as his last record or can he rest on his laurels?
MH: I do think a music artist is only as relevant as their last record. You always have to evolve and keep moving forward. But timeless music can live forever and be rediscovered over and over again. This album is definitely timeless.
Mayer Hawthorne Where Does This Door Go Tracklist
2. Back Seat Lover
3. The Innocent
4. Allie Jones
5. The Only One
6. Wine Glass Woman
7. Her Favorite Song
8. Crime (with Kendrick Lamar)
9. Reach Out Richard
10. Corsican Rosé
11. Where Does This Door Go
12. Robot Love
13. The Stars Are Ours
14. All Better
Photography by: Autumn de Wilde