“How can you not like Hall & Oates?” asks Mayer Hawthorne, whose latest album, “Where Does This Door Go,” was released on Universal Republic last week. The Michigan-born crooner is best known for a soulful, Motown-infused sound that bridges a 1960s sock hop with lyrics that surprisingly veer into dark waters. But this time around, Hawthorne (real name Andrew Mayer Cohen) has gone to an era where Kenny Loggins reigned supreme and yes, Hall & Oates were considered gods among men. And the performer, who is currently touring the U.S. with One Republic before decamping to Europe later this fall, didn’t only change his sound to match that of Steely Dan, whom he considers the greatest influence on his latest yacht rock-heavy effort, but his on-stage style, too.
“Fashion has always been a big part of what I do,” Hawthorne tells THR. The statement is evident by the suits, pocket squares, bow ties and thick Buddy Holly-style nerd glasses — sometimes sourced from the Venice boardwalk for $10 or less — for which he’s known. “I’ve been styling myself and the band forever.”
At his Los Angeles show at the Troubadour last week, Hawthorne sported a red suit (“either H&M or maybe Topman, I can’t remember,”) while his three-piece band wore matching red, white and blue Britton stripe shirts.
“I make sure that we all keep it flashy but classy. It’s something that I get from my grandmother and aunt,” he says. “When my Aunt Ilene walked into a room you were like, ‘Who is that?’ But it was never over the top. It was always very classy, and I like to remember that.”
Though his usual polished-yet-whimsical aesthetic is still intact, gone are the bow ties, clean cut hairstyle and signature specs, though his pocket square remains. But along with hints of Steely Dan’s smooth, suave melodies that are now so prominent on late night box-set infomercials, Hawthorne has added a modified Mohawk to his look and a more soft rock-appropriate vibe — a prime example of which was displayed in the shorts suit he sported during a July 16 Jimmy Fallon performance, complete with paisley-print short sleeve button down worn slightly open to reveal a tiny tuft of chest hair. Hawthorne calls the custom look “one of my favorite things I’ve ever worn.”
With so much change in the air, the musician realizes that he might not please fans who are used to his usual brand of modernized doo-wop.
“That’s okay,” he says. “This album is the most natural for me. It’s all about progression.”
On his new album, Hawthorne also gained a producer in Pharrell Williams, who worked with him to procure the slightly nerdy, jazzy intellectual sound for which he says was a major influence growing up. But probably the biggest change that fans might notice is in the baby-faced 34 year-olds eyes, in that his usual eyewear is no more. But not for a reason that’s particularly exciting.
“I had Lasik,” he explains with a chuckle. “It’s part of the new thing. It’s evolution.”
Watch Hawthorne’s Jimmy Fallon performance, below.