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February 23, 2012 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-02-23

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MAGNUM OPUS

The Cohens gather for a family photo before young Andrew boards the bus for Camp Sea Gull in
northern Michigan. He went to camp for five summers.

Mayer Hawthorne's Mom Tells All (Almost)

Rising pop star is 18 time zones away so he'll never know,
rig ht?

By Allan Nahajewski

epending on when you're reading this,
Andrew (Drew) Cohen — who became a
bar mitzvah 20 years ago at Temple Beth
Emeth in Ann Arbor — may be crooning his
soulful original hit songs to throngs of fans
in Auckland, New Zealand, or Sydney, Aus-
tralia. Or in Indonesia, England, Scotland,
France, the Netherlands, Germany or Aus-
tria, if you're a little behind in your reading.
Cohen, 33, has hit the big time in the mu-
sic world. On Feb. 23, he kicked off an ag-
gressive 5-1/2-week, 27-show, nine-country
world tour. His stage name: Mayer
Hawthorne — a combination of
his middle name and the street
he grew up on.
Andrew's on a hot streak. Time
Magazine put one of his songs on
its top 10 list for 2011 — a tribute
to Detroit called "A Long Time."
He's been on Letterman's late-
night fest and on Conan O'Brien's
and Jimmy Kimmel's shows, too.
He's opened for Stevie Wonder in
Las Vegas. Snoop Dogg is a fan
of his; the two have recorded to-
gether. Other celebrities — John
Mayer, Justin Timberlake, Kanye
West, Perez Hilton and Deepak
Chopra — have tweeted their admiration.
His irresistibly ear-catching tunes have
appeared in major movies and TV shows.
He's doing what he loves and getting rave
reviews worldwide.
What could go wrong?
Well, there's every young person's recur-
ring nightmare that some day, when you
become world famous, your mother gets
the urge to tell stories that you prefer
remain private.
But fortunately for Andrew, his mother's
stories are more endearing than embarrass-
ing.
Kathi Cohen, who until recently worked
at the Jewish Community Center in Ann
Arbor, remembers her son's intense ap-
preciation of records as a 3-year-old. Thanks
to a family friend in the record business,
little Andrew would get 45s, which he
would play on his Fisher Price turntable.
"He listened to them constantly. He learned
to recognize what the labels looked like,"
she says. "That's when we knew he was
musically oriented. He's always had such an
amazing ear for music. He listens to a song
and hears everything!'
So a career in music for Andrew is no
surprise.The Cohens are a musical fam-
ily. Andrew's father, Richard, plays bass in
the Ann Arbor-based classic rock band the
Breakers. Kathi used to play guitar as well. In

D

interviews, Andrew often credits his parents
for his musical talent. His dad taught him
the bass at age 6. He learned to play other
instruments — guitar, piano, drums — by
going to band practice with his dad and
filling in for absent musicians.
What is surprising is Andrew's fame
and prowess as a singer. No years of voice
lessons. No American Idol aspirations. "He
would sing around the house, and he would
play in bands, but not as the singer," says
Kathi.

Andrew's singing debut?
"When he was at Tappan Middle School,
he sang in a school play. It was Guys and
Dolls, and he sang 'Sit Down, You're Rockin'
the Boat:At that age, a lot of the kids'voices
were changing, but Andrew did great," she
recalls. "It was his only play. It was some-
thing I made him do, but he never went
back to it."
After Tappan, Andrew attended Huron
High School and the University of Michigan,
where he graduated with a degree in com-
puter science. (Yes, he's a computer nerd,
says his morn.) He also played basketball
in the Maccabi Games and attended U-M
coach Steve Fisher's basketball camp.
With some of his basketball friends, he
was a part of a local hip-hop group, Athletic
Mic League, performing as DJ Haircut. He
also had a variety of odd jobs — graphic
design, shingling roofs, light construction,
working at Borders headquarters and driv-
ing the tractor that picked up golf balls at a
driving range.
In 2008, Andrew and two friends moved
to Los Angeles to see if they could make
it there in the music business. A challenge
that seemed insurmountable turned out
to be a big break. The group found that
they couldn't afford to pay for the rights for
the old soul songs they wanted to sample.
That's when Andrew started to create his

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