Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Mike Posner: Nicely chilled

Mike Posner
Mike Posner Mike Posner Mike Posner Mike Posner

23-year-old recent college graduate Mike Posner is currently enjoying his first taste of global success with his instantly-infectious debut single âCooler Than Meâ. Which - described as a âhot electro-pop ode to a haughty hottie with a snotty attitudeâ(!) - is currently charting in no less than 19 countries, impressively attaining Top Five status in territories ranging from Australia, New Zealand and Canada to the UK and Ireland.

All of which bodes well for the forthcoming British release of the Southfield, Michigan-raised singer/songwriter/producerâs genre-bending debut album â31 Minutes To Takeoffâ. Which, having already followed âCooler Than Meâ into the US Top Ten, finds its mainstream-yet-credible fusion of electro-pop, rock, hip hop and soul boasting guest appearances from multi-million-selling former Motown R&B legends Boyz 11 Men plus Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker; while producers (in addition to Posner himself) include Benny Blanco, The Smeezingtons, Gigamesh, and Greg Kurston.

Indeed, with Mike having started his career as an artist just over two years ago by making mixtapes (âA Matter Of Timeâ; âOne Foot Out The Doorâ) in his college dorm, the eclectic nature of his music has since seen his aforementioned debut song (âCooler Than Meâ) gradually grow from cult student anthem to resonate across numerous different genres and generations to the point where its uptempo electronic bounce and catchy hooks have already exceeded sales of two million paid downloads worldwide.

⦠Cue for a softly-spoken, yet charming Mr. Posner to meet up with âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis in the basement of a Central London studio to discuss his current worldwide breakthrough, and how his musical diversity derives from his roots in the multicultural suburbs of Detroit, Michigan.

His international Top Five debut single âCooler Than Meâ, which has been described as âa hot electro-pop ode to a haughty hottie with a snotty attitudeâ(!)

âA lotta people donât know I recorded that song while was still a student, and that I recorded it in my dorm-room on an extremely cheap microphone! So to now be hearing it on the radio in The States and over here is very special for me, knowing that I made it in such a makeshift manner! And while yes, it is about a specific girl in my class I had a crush on - though Iâm not gonna tell you her name, because she doesnât deserve any notoriety! - itâs also about a specific TYPE of girl! Because there are girls like that EVERYWHERE! You know, everybody knows that girl who thinks sheâs cooler than them! Which is why I figured Iâd just try to capture that moment of feeling snubbed! Because all my songs are either driven by something thatâs happened to me, or by something Iâve felt on the inside.â

Mikeâs US Top 10 debut album - â31 Minutes To Takeoffâ - which has been acclaimed for its âgenre-bending fusion of electro-pop, rock, hip hop, soul and R&Bââ¦

âMusically I think that description is bang-on, because there are a lot of different styles on there. Plus itâs a 21st century album - meaning that, instead of listening to l2 different artists on your i-Pod, with my record you can just listen to ONE! Because every song is refreshing and different from the one before, and at the same time BETTER than the one before!...And while Iâm not the greatest singer in the world - Iâve only been singing for two years - I do without a doubt consider myself a LYRICS artist. Because thereâs not another artist OUT there that has lyrics like mine! Which is why I wonât write for any other male artists - you know, I wanna KEEP it that way! Because, like I said earlier, my stuff does come from real-life. And I figure that - more often than not - if itâs real to ME, then itâs gonna be real for OTHER people! And subject-wise I talk mainly about things that have happened with girls - both past and present - as well as just things that Iâve felt emotionally over the past few years.â

His early background growing up in Southfield, Michigan - a suburb of Detroit

âI grew up in a super-diverse area. So, for as long as I can remember, I listened to an array of music that was as broad as my social network - which, as I say, was really BROAD! So I heard things like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Miles Davis and Rage Against The Machine as well as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, J. Dilla, Paul Simon, Luther Vandross⦠Plus of course, being born in Detroit, I had all the MOTOWN stuff - which kinda runs in the veins of EVERYBODY where Iâm from!.. So yeah, all of that is woven into the fabric of my music today. Which is the reason why people have had a hard time genre-fying my music - because I jump around from song to song!.. Though, that being said, I do think the combination of my lyrics and my melody and my voice does still make my album a cohesive project.â

How Mike first got into music professionally

âWell, Iâve actually considered myself a professional since I was 13 - though Iâm sure OTHER people didnât consider me that way until probably like a year-and-a-HALF ago! But yeah, when I was around l1 years old I convinced my mom to buy me a keyboard. And within a couple of years Iâd figured out how to hook it up to her desktop computer, and started producing and writing! Which is something I did for around eight or nine years - and still do TODAY! The main difference now being that I also SING! And the only reason I started singing was actually because of my initial failure as a producer and writer!â

How becoming an intern at super-credible New York rap indie Definitive Jux Records helped him get his artist career off the ground

âOh, that was two summers ago! Like you said, I was an intern at Definitive Jux Records, which is owned by a rapper named El-P. So I used to change his cat litter, do his laundry, take out his trash, do his dishes... You know, EVERYTHING! But for me that was basically just an excuse to be in New York! Because, while working there, on the side Iâd be taking meetings with all the record labels, playing them the songs Iâd written, and trying to sell them to their clients... But their response would always be âWe donât have an artist that this fitsâ⦠Which was when the light-bulb suddenly went on over my head! I was like âOK, thereâs no artist that fits these. So, if I ever want to hear any of these songs on the radio, Iâm gonna have to sing them MYSELF!â... And it was literally just a few months after that that I recorded âCooler Than Meâ!.. You know, Iâd been singing for literally like two months MAXIMUM when I recorded that song - and that right there was basically the birth of me as an ARTIST!.. So, while I do still consider myself a producer and writer at heart, whatâs really exciting for me these days is the actual taking ownership of what I create! Because it means I donât have to channel my ideas and creativity through anybody ELSE any more - and I LIKE it that way!â

How Mike ended up with his current record deal with Sony Musicâs J Records (also home to the likes of Alicia Keys, Jamie Foxx and Fantasia)

âAfter I recorded âCooler Than Meâ and released it on my (March 2009) mixtape âA Matter Of Timeâ, things got CRAZY! You name a label, and I can guarantee I sat across the desk from the CEO that summer! And so, by the end of that school year, I was lucky to be in the position where I got to pick the label I wanted to BE with! Which is an opportunity that a lotta artists donât GET! So I chose J Records because I thought it was the best FIT for me - and right now I couldnât be happier with my decision and my situation!â

His feelings on his music - due to his college background - being dubbed by US critics âfrat-boy soulâ (!)

âWell, Iâm always pleasantly surprised whenever somebody attaches the word âsoulâ to me. Because thatâs not something that you can like quantify or practise. And I do think it maybe goes back to where I was raised, being so close to the Motown tradition. You know, there was a lotta Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross that was playing in my household, and also in every OTHER household in my neighbourhood AND in my city... So yeah, I do sing from the soul - like every artist SHOULD, but every artist DOESNâT. Plus I also only sing my own lyrics - which in turn means everything Iâm singing MEANS something to me... And so I like to think thatâs where these descriptions come from. Because I donât feel Iâm actually similar to ANYONE! I mean, if I thought I was just regurgitating something that already existed Iâd see no point in doing this INTERVIEW! It wouldnât make SENSE to me! You know, I do genuinely feel I have made something thatâs original - and I think people will realise that very quickly when they hear my album!â

The single âCooler Than Meâ is out now. The album â31 Minutes To Takeoffâ will follow on February 28, both through J Records

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