All images copyright Ruthie Abel 2012
Last month Elk's Lodge Number 99, a 1920's neo-gothic tower near downtown LA, now known as the Park Plaza Hotel, was home to the Artists Den, a live concert series that aspires to showcase musicians in unique environments. Singer-songwriter Mayer Hawthorne, a 32-year-old Detroit native and the evening's artist in residence, carved out a few minutes to chat before donning his bow tie and joining his band, the County, for a performance influenced by classical soul, jazz and hip-hop.
RA: Do you have a game-day routine?
MH: I'm pretty spontaneous. I just like to make sure that I get some time to myself to relax, to gather myself before I go on, but you know, we have a little ritual before we go on stage, some secret things that we do...
RA: A chant? A séance?
MH: Something like that... It's band shit.
Setting the stage
RA: How do you start the day?
MH: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I definitely have a hearty breakfast before I do anything.
RA: What's on the table?
MH: Anything with hash browns.
Hawthorne's pre-show interview with the Artist Den's Alan Light
RA: Did your move from Detroit to L.A. require much adjustment?
MH: L.A. is surprisingly similar to Detroit. They're both big car towns. You can't survive in LA without a car and Detroit is the motor city. L.A. is real laid back as far as vibe. Detroit is the same. It's not like New York, where it's like go-go-go-go, grind, grind, grind.
Detroit definitely has a stronger work ethic than L.A. Detroit is a real blue collar, work hard town; it was a real advantage for me coming to L.A. from Detroit. I was like, 'You guys only workin 8 hours a day? I'm working like 25.' We got ahead real fast because of that.
The Grand Ballroom, created by architect Claud Beelman
RA: Do you miss your DJ days?
MH: Not at all, because I still DJ, like at the crib, every day, and I still do as many DJ gigs as I possibly can... it's my favorite thing.
RA: Pet peeve?
MH: I hate it, I can't stand it when you're driving and you let someone out, like turn in front of you, and they don't throw you the nod or wave or something. Acknowledge that shit. Watch your manners.
MH: Haircut is one. That's my DJ name but my parents call me Haircut to this day. I got Haircut from when I was like one year old; my parents took me to get my haircut and I had a fuckin' temper tantrum. They would buy me records to keep me occupied so I would sit there and behave.
RA: What's number two?
MH: My dad calls me "Mac" a lot, from Mike Tyson's Punch Out -- Little Mac is the main character. I was obsessed. I can still beat Mike Tyson on Punch Out.
RA: Do you box?
MH: No, but I like boxing. I like to work out outdoors, to run on the beach, cause, otherwise I feel like I'd never go to the beach. I couldn't live in LA and not be close to the beach, you know, that's like the whole thing. I don't understand people who don't live by the beach. Why would you not?
RA: What's your go-to inspiration?
MH: Beautiful women, inspiration number one. And two. And three.
RA: Anyone in particular?
MH: There's a long, long, long list. There's so many beautiful women out there. Who do I love right now? Frieda Pinto. She's always amazing. Olivia Wilde. I love 'em all.
RA: Best advice you've received?
MH: My dad always told me, 'Humility is the final achievement.' That's the best advice in the world. Stay humble. And give back.
RA: I hear you have a lot of globe-trotting coming up. How's life on the road?
MH: It's cool, it's unbelievable, it's what I've always wanted to do. No complaints. It's a grind. It wears you down, but "first world problems," as we say around here.
The performance will be broadcast this summer on public television.