Mayer Hawthorne never set out to be a soul singer.
In fact, he never set out to be Mayer Hawthorne. The suave moniker is the pseudonym of Andrew Mayer Cohen, a Detroit native, rapper, producer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist.
His Stax Records homages began as a way to get around paying costly royalties to sample the classics for hip-hop tracks.
Only when producer Peanut Butter Wolf heard the homemade samples and sent him a contract for a full album was Cohen's career path changed entirely.
The songs on 2011's "How Do You Do" could have been lifted from Smokey Robinson's catalog, tinkered with and re-imagined with some modern snark and slang.
But the tracks that have been pre-released from Hawthorne's latest effort, "Where Does This Door Go" (available July 16), smooth out the vintage jangle of his previous work, Timberlake-ifying them into sexier dance tracks that dress 1960s soul all in the trappings of modern club hits: top-shelf liquor, "designer drugs," et al.
He's got an impressive catalog of collaborators as well, contributing vocals to Booker T.'s latest single, "Sound the Alarm," and calling on Snoop Dogg to lay down some tracks on his own record.
Blending his hip-hop background with a love for The Rat Pack and the Motown greats, Hawthorne has managed to create something that will appeal to the diverse crowd that fills Forsyth Park for SCAD's New Alumni Concert.
He'll offer something retro for the proud parents in town and something dance-worthy to round out a last college hurrah before the class of 2013 leaves the park to hit the bars - er, sack - on the night preceding their commencement ceremony.
Expect a show of pop-star magnitude and throwback style that Hawthorne calls "flashy but classy."
Something that'll have us all agreeing with renowned producer and Hawthorne fan Mark Ronson: "I have no idea what this is, old or new, but it's [Editor's note: let's just pretend the four-letter word he used was 'very' with an -ing at the end] good!!!"
IF YOU GO
What: SCAD New Alumni Concert with Gringo Star, The Greyboy Allstars and Mayer Hawthorne
When: 7:30 p.m. May 31
Where: Forsyth Park