Coming to town

Score tickets to see Detroit neo-soul rocker Mayer Hawthorne on Mercedes Benz Evolution Tour


Though many can appreciate the beauty of a Mercedes, few can afford one. But the Mercedes-Benz Evolution Tour, which hits Miami on Tuesday as part of a nine-city jaunt across America to promote the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA, its new luxury compact SUV, is more than affordable — it’s free.

And the show (check out for details on how to score an invitation) features one super-cool cat —Grammy-nominated Detroit neo-soul rocker Mayer Hawthorne. He’s touring in support of his third studio album, Where Does This Door Go, which features collaborations with Jack Splash and Happy hitmaker Pharrell Williams.

Hawthorne talked to

This sounds like a cool event — are you pumped?

Yeah, I’m excited — I haven’t been to Miami in a while, and I love Miami. What’s not to like? There’s a lot of beautiful people and beautiful scenery, and some good food, and I recorded a lot of my last album down there [at Circle House Studios in North Miami Beach], working with Pharrell Williams and Jack Splash.

How did you hook up with Pharrell?

As far as Pharrell, when he heard I was making this album, he actually reached out to me and said that he wanted to work with me on it. And that just totally blew me away. I mean, I’ve been a huge fan forever — I think he is practically single-handedly responsible for keeping good music on the radio. I look back on my favorite Top 40 songs from the past decade, and they’re all Pharrell Williams. So that’s pretty amazing. It was totally a dream come true to work with him, and I thought we did something that was pretty revolutionary.

Were you going for more of a hip-hop vibe on the new album?

I was a hip-hop DJ and producer for a decade before I even made one soul record. So everything I do is heavily inspired and influenced by that. But that was the first time I ever had a rapper rap on a song. I had Snoop Dogg on my last album, but I wouldn’t let him rap — I told him he had to sing. But even when I’m making strictly soul music, there’s always a little hip-hop in there — that’s just who I am and where I come from.

Do you get a complimentary vehicle for participating?

[Laughs] I don’t know — we haven’t gotten one yet. But I actually have a vintage Mercedes that’s my favorite car that I own. A 1987 convertible, 560SL.

As a Detroit guy, do you have any problem promoting Mercedes, since it’s not made in the USA?

Ummm, I don’t have any problem with that … [laughs] That’s a tough question. I grew up working in an auto parts store. That was what my father did — we sold American auto parts in Detroit, and it’s been a wild ride for the auto industry in Detroit. I think there are good things happening in Detroit still for cars, but I think Detroit also really needs to find some other things that they’re good at.

Who are some of your other idols?

Barry White. He’s No. 1. He’s the maestro, man. He’s the original smooth dude with the gangster groove, and that’s who I aspire to be. He has a unique voice — there’s nobody like him. I wish I could [sing that deep], but we gotta work with what we got.

Michael Hamersly

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