Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Mike Posner: Looking to add to that Detroit musical heritage

Mike Posner
Mike Posner Mike Posner Mike Posner Mike Posner

“I do not believe that there is a dude who is better than Jay-Z that is out there that just did not make it, that did not get discovered. I think talent has a way of finding its way through. There is always a degree of hard work that has to go with it but a combination of the two usually leads to success.”

Detroit has a long and well documented history of influential music and a rich and diverse selection of huge stars that I could pontificate about on reams of paper. Michael Posner who hails from Detroit, Michigan is not at the moment a pioneer or indeed an icon reaching the calibre of such famous figures such as Marvin Gaye or indeed a Smokey Robinson. His recognition however of that rich history is an important foundation: ”I grew up in a really diverse neighbourhood in Detroit Michigan so first and foremost Motown music runs in everybody’s veins whether you are white or black. I used that as a foundation to other music so for me there would be Nas, Jay Z, The Roots. I remember listening to Miles Davis, Charlie Parker when I was young but I just love all types of music. I am really blessed that I grew up I the neighbourhood that I did.”

So what does he need to be on that road to reach the levels of previous Detroit stars? Obviously for that accolade you need time and a continuous stream of huge bangers that in those clichéd words do indeed stand the test of time. In terms of time, unless Mr Posner figures out the mysteries of mother time then he just has to wait for the years to clock up.

The twenty three year old does however possess an ace up his sleeve to build towards a name that is synonymous with Detroit and great music. A songwriter, producer and a singer who has his own studio, Michael Posner has autonomy in his arsenal that will certainly allow him to control his destiny and become a star.

“I do not want to make music that sounds like everyone else. If you are an artists relying on other producers then you are at the whims of those making tracks. For me I control the tracks from top to bottom. I was able to get a studio at my own home through my record deal.” He adds “That was the beauty of making two mix tapes before my album. I was not walking into labels who wanted to sign me with no leverage. Luckily there were several labels that wanted me and I choose the label that believed in my vision [J Records]. They recognised that no one understands me better than me and they left me with that vision.”

In the flesh he is a cool and laid back guy who seems to do everything in his own sweet time but do not let that mislead you. This is a young guy (who seems to be bringing back that stylised George Michael beard back) has all the attributes of tenacity, guile and talent that you need for success. Indeed there is a detectable spark that shines from this guy who seems genuinely keen to chat.

While others were swatting like crazy at the renowned Duke University where he studied, Mike was not only studying Marketing and Sociology he was forging a singing career: “there were a few moments when I had to pick between doing a show or finishing a paper or studying for an exam. Somehow I managed to struggle and juggle both aspects of my life and come through with a grade point average.” He adds wryly laughing “it was a strong temptation to leave studying altogether but most people do not get a chance to go to university let alone Duke University. So at the time my singing career was taking off I had finished three years and I had one year remaining when I had signed my record deal and so I thought that I owed it to myself and my family to complete my studies.”

He keenly admits during our conversation that the Marketing degree has been influential. His success has not been some lucky venture but he has orchestrated his marketing plan to great effect with his mix-tapes and the use of the viral world. Humorously while he is now acheiving this success his mother still is not sure if he is doing that well, “I think my parents were always supportive but my mom is still a little sceptical she worries. She says things like you are working too hard. Even today she was like you should go to this film festival and meet people don’t you want to turn this into something. I was like I have already made one album.” he laughs with hands held in resignation.

Maybe mom will need to be shown a few YouTube clips detailing his current success. In only two years Mike has been propelled into the realms of superstardom working with names like Lil Wayne and Bruno Mars. Interestingly singing was the default to production aspirations, “I did not know I could sing but no one wanted my beats and so I started singing them myself. In fact when I did 'Cooler Than Me' I had been singing for a month or two. That is exciting for me because I am still getting better. I have learnt so much from the other producers I have been with so it is good.” 'Cooler than Me' (the second highest selling single of 2010) was an instantly catchy track that had the underground and commercial music arena going nuts should we say. With his album '31 Minutes To Take Off', he has vindicated the promise that his two mix-tapes showed. His follow up UK single, 'Please Don’t Go' follows on with his trademark use of that electro pop feel backed by his smooth vocals, a simple but catchy chorus, served with big harmonious.
“I enjoy making songs that millions of people can listen too but at the same time I will not want to write a corny track ever.“

Electro pop is not the only string to his bow and the album definitely draws from his eclectic musical ear shaped by his Detroit upbringing. Sexy Rn'B in the shape of Deja Vu and Motown influenced tracks like 'Do U Wanna' overlaid by his clean production indeed point to Posner as something a little bit different to some of the label manufactured artists that he will undoubtedly be in competition with for chart positions:

“There are a lot of people with records out there that they have not written. I grew up a hip-hop kid and the most important thing is authenticity and ethos. If what you saying on a track is not real then you are nothing it does not matter how complex your rhymes are. I try and bring that to popular music.” This ethos of “keeping real” perfectly exemplified in the track 'Cheated' with the lines: “I should have cheated/ no one told me I was dating a whore”, a definite nail in the coffin of any possible reunion with that ex I think. Maybe she is ruing the loss now that many people are beckoning for Michael Posnor.

He alludes to some sick collaborations but only names one,” I am working with Labrinth and I just love his voice it is crazy. I just get goosebumps when I hear his voice. We have done a couple of records together where we write together and we co-produce as well. We did one song for my next record and we are working on one for his next record which is going to be sick.” So give me some meat on the bones I ask: “Well I do not want to say something because someone might steal it”.

His UK hotlist does not stop at Labrinth and he is indeed very aware of the UK artists making moves. “There are a million artists that I love. I have been a huge Florence fan for a minute. Adele I think is sick and I love 'Hometown' that is a crazy track. I'm feeling Tinnie as well, Wretch 32 (Check Pete’s interview with the man himself) I am just getting into him he is heavy.”

His current success will mean that further collaborations with UK artists maybe on the horizon. He is definitely possesses confidence but indeed this is backed by his talent. The truth will be in what he goes on to produce once the real pressure of labels and audience expectation asserts its powerful force but thankfully he acknowledges the hard journey from here on in:

“I do not believe that there is a dude who is better than Jay-Z that is out there that just did not make it, that did not get discovered. I think talent has a way of finding its way through. There is always a degree of hard work that has to go with it but a combination of the two usually leads to success.”

Single 'Please Don't Go' is out now on J Records as is album '31 Minutes to Take off'.
Words Semper Azeez-Harris

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