Mike Posner Roundtable (ILL EXCLUSIVE)
Posted on August 26, 2010 by Lola
Last week Sony Music invited several Toronto bloggers in a roundtable discussion/interview with Mike Posner, who recently released his debut album 31 Minutes to Takeoff. The album has gotten rave reviews and Mike, who had previously released two mixtapes – Only a Matter of Time with DJ Don Cannon and One Foot Out the Door with DJ Clinton Sparks – has built up quite a following. His debut single “Cooler than Me” reached #6 in the US and # 5 in Canada. It was originally featured in the first mixtape, Only a Matter of Time, when Mike was still developing his production, sound and of course rapping as well. The song was then remixed and more production was layered over giving it a more sophisticated and complex sound.
What was the most amazing thing to me about Mike Posner is his work ethic, dedication and his ability to stay focused and stay on track. After the release of his first Mixtape, he got signed to J Records (RCA/Sony). Instead of leaving school and focusing on his music career solely (which I can see a lot of artists doing) he went back to college to finish his degree, started recording for his album, finished a second mixtape and toured on weekends. It seems like the word overload meant nothing to him. And in person, Posner was as cool and laid back and the summer breeze. He was charming and easy to talk to, and seemed like he knew every aspect of his music and where he wanted to go.
Thunderkush – In your first two mixtapes you had a lot of hip-hop features, Big Sean, Donnis, Kid Cudi. Just wondering why you neglected to feature any of those artists in your debut album?
Mike Posner – I wanted to make an album where every song was great, and every song was great because of me. I have my whole life to work with other people.
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TK - Obviously your music has a very diverse sound to it. “Do you Wanna” has distinctive funk influence, “Cheated” is a dance track, and the production on your mixtape is very hip-hop based. Which producers had the biggest effect or influence in creating your sound or shaping the way that you make music?
MP - There is so many and that’s why my music sounds the way it does and that’s why a lot of people have trouble genre defining it, but I think we live in an exciting time where pop and hip-hop and dance they mean less and less every day and it’s hard for me to even to listen to an album all the way through. And that’s the reason my album sounds the way it does. Every song sounds different from the one before and it’s very economical in that sense. I wanted to make a record that basically felt like you were changing the artist in every song and prevented people from hitting Menu and going back on their ipod. So to answer your question I grew up listening to everything from Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin to Peal Jam to Nas, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, J Dilla, Paul Simon – did I say that?
Everyone – No (Laughing)
TK - How did the combination of promoting your music, touring, all while finishing your degree at Duke sort of prepare you for coming into the fast pace music industry?
MP – I feel lucky because I’m a new artist but I’m not really a new artist. People ask me things like how did you do it? My life has gotten like a little bit crazier every month for the last year and a half, so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Was my life crazier this week? Yeah, but last week was crazy too and so were the weeks before that, so I don’t feel overwhelmed, I feel lucky. Like before I did this show on TV in America, I’ve done 200 shows. I’m lucky in that respect. A lot of artists have hits and never really perform them at all before. And all of a sudden they’re on TV in front of tens of millions of people trying to figure it out then. That would be overwhelming, but I feel grateful that my career developed as grassroots as it has and I’m excited to see the world.
Jen (SheDoesTheCity) – You grew up in Detroit – a city rich with musical history – how do you think growing up there carved your creativity? Or did it?
MP – Without a doubt Motown music kind runs in everyone’s veins there, and when people ask like “what are your influences” you don’t even say that. I didn’t say that before, but I definitely grew up listening to them. It’s like so ubiquitous that we don’t even say it, but oldies radio there is not oldies radio it’s just Motown radio. It’s cool. So it special to come from that city and it’s also a special time to come out. (There is) a lot of music coming out, like big Sean and Mayer Hawthorne, and Eminem back then so it’s an exciting time and it’s also a tough time not just in that city but in our state so a lot of times I feel guilty having the job I do and making the money I do. But all I can do is work as hard as I possibly can and bring it back home and make everyone proud.
Jen – You’re busy with a lot of touring and writing music and releasing an album but what does a perfect Saturday look like for you when you don’t have to do your work?
MP – I like watching movies and reading books and doing nothing. My favorite show is it’s always sunny in Philadelphia.
Lola (iLuvlola.net) – Your music is a lot more pop than current artists out like Wale, Kid Cudi, B.O.B., Asher, Big Sean, etc, but your fan base is relatively similar, a lot of college fans. what do you think or how do you plan to differentiate yourself from such artists in the long run?
MP - Well the reason why I have so many college fans is because when I started my music I was in college and as I mentioned before it was very grass roots. So all the people at my shows up until 5 months ago, if I talked to them I could trace it back to somebody I knew. I don’t use the word fans, but the people at my shows they expanded out of my immediate social network…
Lola - Word of mouth…
Yeah, and the people that knew me first were all in college and that’s why I did well, but I never thought that in my whole career I’d consider myself somebody that made music only for college kids.
Lola – Right, which is why I’m asking how you plan to differentiate yourself from artists who kind of have that same audience as you in the long run? like with the next album what do you plan to do? Make the same music, or different direction maybe? Or maybe it’s too soon for another album…
MP- Well umm no it’s not too soon I already have songs for my next album. Hopefully people will invest in me not only as an artist, but also as a person and grow with me. So they’ll get older as I get older. I’m still a young person and people sometimes ask are you worried about running out of ideas?…like no, not at all. I haven’t really been in love yet. When that happens I’m going to have a lot of songs and I get to travel the world, so where some of those artists might have fans in common with me, I don’t think I sound remotely like them. I just hope my fans will grow with me, and I’m going to keep making music that doesn’t sound like anybody else.
Lola - What do you think young fans are looking for in new artists? What did they like in you? Was it the fact that they could relate to you better?
MP – Authenticity. People like to listen to an artist and know that what they’re listening to is an authentic and real to them, it happened to them and it came from them. I don’t give a fuck about being famous. A lot of people sing songs that other people wrote for them, because they just wanna be famous and have a hit record. And that’s cool I’m not mad at that. But that’s why I do what I do. I love writing songs, and I love sharing my experiences in a way that I don’t think other artists do. That’s why I started singing in the first place, because I was one of those writers and nobody would buy my songs because there were no artists that really sang lyrics like the songs I was writing. Like “Cooler than me” …there was nobody that would take that..
Leslie (WRGMag) – Who did you talk to?
MP – I was just having meetings with labels, it wasn’t specific artists. But a lot of people. And I went back like – it was the summer after my sophomore year, and I lived in New York and was taking meetings, and I sold no beats, no songs, and I came back. I remember coming back the year after and instead of going into the A&R’s office I was going to the CEO’s office and I’d always ask “Is so and so here?”
Lola - Do you want to write songs for other artists, or do you only want to write your own records?
MP – I will write songs for female artists. But not male artists.
Lissa Monet – Why?
MP – Because I don’t want them to sound like me. I don’t think there’s anybody that has lyrics like mine and I’m not gonna give it to anybody else.
Lissa Monet – Who’s Caroline Stevens?
MP – It’s a secret.
Lissa Monet – The puma collaboration that you did, I wanted to know how that came about.
MP – I wanted to document my last semester at Duke because I knew I’d be living this double life between being a recording artist on a major label and making a mixtape, going to school and doing the shows across the state and Puma was excited about helping make that happen, because it takes resources to do that.
Lissa - Was that something that you seeked out or that your management seeked out?
MP – I had a meeting that my management set up, and I liked the people. Nothing happens in my career that I don’t want to do. like “I don’t have to be here right now!!” (stomping fists)
Lissa - Do you think situations like that, like you know collaborating with major brands is something that artists should do in order to set themselves apart from each other as far as branding and marketing themselves and expanding their fan base goes??
MP – I don’t think artists should enter in a partnership ever unless it makes sense for them and the branding for them. I would say your default answer should always be no, and then think about it, and then if it makes sense you should do it. Other than that, no, because you are a brand in your own right as an artist.
Leslie (WRGMag) – What beat have you heard recently that you’d like to jump in on, or is that not your style?
I probably won’t but have I heard one and I was like wow? – Hmmm I have one but it’s not recent…
Leslie (WRGMag) – What is it?
You know the mixtape that Wayne has with the song “La La La?”
Everybody – Yeah
MP – That one is stupid. Like so good. And I felt bad for the guy that made it, because it’s on a mixtape and even if you looked you couldn’t find out who made it you know? I actually found out who made it, because my manager somehow knew, but if you’re just a listener like I was for years, I felt so bad for that guy. He made an amazing song and he got no credit, no money, no nothing.
Leslie (WRGMag) – Who else do you look up to in music that you’d like to jump on a track with?
MP – Lyrically I think Paul Simon and Andre 3000 are like the best lyricists of their respective generation. I’d love to do a song with Feist, with Metric, Florence and the Machine…People always expect you to say artists that are similar to you a little bit, but that’s like stupid. [Laughing]
Leslie (WRGMag) – Predictable?
MP – Well no like you don’t want two people doing the same thing on a song, or it’d just be one of them.
Follow Mike on twitter @MikePosner
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