Your dad still plays in a band, right?
My dad still plays in a band in Michigan to this day.
Have you two collaborated at all together, or has he made any contributions to songs on the album?
Not yet, but I just sent him a new song and I'm hopeful that I'm going to get him on it. He plays pedal steel guitar, as well as guitar and bass, and he sings—he's pretty much a beast.
Did you draw a lot from his musical styling in crafting your own sound?
Definitely, he had a lot of records that he was always introducing me to. He owned a hardware store called Great Lakes Hardware and Auto, and I used to go to work with him all the time and we'd listen to Motown in the truck on the way. I learned a lot about music from my Pops.
How did your father react to your involvement in hip hop growing up?
He doesn't have any kind of interest in hip hop at all. He was never a big fan of what I was doing with rap music. He's one of those "rap is crap" guys, but I think he's started to come around a little bit.
He's much happier with Mayer Hawthorne. My dad is one of those...he's a character. He's a musician himself; he's one of those [who say] "Yeah, yeah, yeah, call me when you're on the cover of Rolling Stone."
Doesn't seem like that's so far-fetched an idea now. How did you move from appreciating music and hip hop and into actually creating it?
I'd been collecting records forever, and I bought my first Technic 1200s right after I graduated from high school. We didn't have a DJ in the [Athletic Mic Leauge] crew and all our favorite rap groups—Gang Starr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Black Moon—they all had a dope DJs. We were like "Someone needs to DJ." And I said, "You know what—I'm gonna just do it." I went out and bought some turntables and locked myself in my room for that whole summer; I came out, and I was DJ Haircut.
You've said that relationships are best expressed through song as opposed to rhyming, which is what Kanye West has said in reference to recording 808s and Heartbreak. What is it about the physical act of singing that allows an artist to more accurately capture the emotions surrounding love and heartbreak?
I don't really know what it is. Hip hop is a very sort of rebellious, almost chauvinistic form of music that makes it difficult to write love songs and songs that deal with relationships. It's just much more natural coming out in soul music...
How did the very first "Mayer Hawthorne" song come to life? Can you recall what led you to creating that first track as a singer?
I remember I was driving to Detroit for a friend's birthday party, and the whole song "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," was just in my head. It just came out of the sky and I heard the whole thing, bass line, drums, chord changes, harmonies and everything. I had to call myself and leave a voicemail for myself with the whole song, and I went to the party and kind of forgot all about it. Later I got back home and checked my voicemail, and was like "Oh yeah, this right here..." and I recorded it that night, I think.