Mayer Hawthorne has seen his share of rejection — and I'm not talking about music labels.
The suits-and-sneakers-wearing crooner with the thick-rimmed glasses said he wasn't the coolest kid in his Ann Arbor, Mich., high school and was often turned down by his female peers.
“I got rejected,” said Hawthorne (real name: Andrew Mayer Cohen) over the phone last week from his tour bus in Tempe, Ariz. “There was plenty of that. Luckily that didn't stop me from trying. I still had my share of girlfriends.”
Hawthorne has gone on to release three albums, with the most recent one, 2013's “Where Does this Door Go,” featuring three songs produced by Pharrell Williams. Hawthorne — who will perform a sold-out show on Valentine's Day at Park West — has also collaborated with Pitbull, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Jessie Ware. His sound is a mix of soul and pop with hip-hop influences, or, as he has called it, “Steely Dan meets the Beastie Boys.”
As is often the case when someone reaches a certain level of fame, Hawthorne now has people from his past reaching out to him, for one reason or another.
“There's been a couple of those,” Hawthorne said. “People come out of the woodwork. I had a babysitter from back in the day try to contact me to see if I was available. I hadn't had contact with her since I was a kid.”
Hawthorne is surrounded by beautiful women in his music videos, and his sharp wardrobe can be described as geek chic. He said he isn't playing a persona on stage or on camera and insisted he is just being himself. And if you ask him, his “suave” really isn't that suave.
“I don't consider myself cool,” Hawthorne said. “I'm more of a music nerd.”
Last month Hawthorne attended the Grammys for the first time. His limited edition boxed set for “How Do You Do” was nominated for best boxed or special limited edition package. Hawthorne's boxed set lost, but he said he still enjoyed himself — because awards don't mean that much to him.
“It's not at the top of my bucket list,” Hawthorne said. “I don't make music to win awards. This is going to sound corny, but the thing at the top of my bucket list is to be able to do this forever. I don't want to have to go back to a 9 to 5.”
The versatile Hawthorne often plays his own instruments and self-produced his first two albums, 2009's “A Strange Arrangement” and 2011's “How Do You Do.” For the third album, he opted to relinquish his producer responsibilities to the producers he selected. It wasn't easy. There were disagreements, with Hawthorne wanting to make sure his album still sounded like him.
What was the key to resolving the disagreements?
“Whenever I felt like I wasn't getting my way and got upset in the studio, I would step back and realize, ‘Wait a minute, this is what you wanted,'” Hawthorne said. “I wanted people to push me. I wanted people to force me to try something new. At the end of the day, we get to make music for a living. It's not worth getting upset about. And I'm a lover, not a fighter.”
firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter @TribLuis
For more celebrity news and sightings, go to chicagotribune.com/luis
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave.
Tickets: Sold out