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On The Couch With... Mike Posner

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One of the hottest new pop artist to enter the mainstream spotlight this summer is Detroit's Mike Posner. Earlier this month, the producer turned singer released his much-anticipated big label debut "31 Minutes to Takeoff" on Jive/RCA that follows the release of 2 hugely successful mixtapes. The album debuted this week at #8 on the Billboard Album Chart and #3 on the Digital Album Chart. Mike is stirring up a storm on pop radio as well with his single smash, "Cooler Than Me."

I met up with Mike to have a bite to eat, play a few rounds of Connect 4 (yes, he won) and to chat about his success, his inspirations, his unique brand of hip pop and the importance of social media in his rise to mainstream fame.

In person, Mike is very much like his music - savvy, articulate and presenting himself with a style and swagger that make him one of the coolest new kids in the business. What you hear is what you get.

And he is ambitious too. In our little get together, he explains that there is a lack of male pop stars on the charts right now. He smiled, "Lady Gaga needs a prince. I plan on wearing that crown!" 

Congrats with the mainstream success of "Cooler Than Me" and your debut album. These achievements have been long in the making. For people new to your music, tell us a little more about how you got started in music.
I started playing drums when I was in fourth grade and when I was thirteen, I started making beats, becoming more of a producer and songwriter as well. Two years ago I got tired of having my ideas going through other people. As a producer, I always had to channel my creativity through other artists, I just got tired of that and I started singing. I started creating free mix CDs in my dorm room when I was a senior at Duke University. I decided to put those mixtapes on iTunes and before I knew it the word spread and in a few months it snowballed into a career. It is has been an incredible ride.

College kids were among the first to discover you and take it to a professional level for you...
Totally. It all started with me putting out the mixtapes and the word about those spread from my own social network. Simple as that.

Social media and online networking has helped you tremendously in spreading the world. In a way, you've set a standard for other acts to market their music. Do you see any drawbacks to this DIY style of marketing and producing music?
Music is more democratized than ever. Plus, you don't need a lot of money to make music. You can do it in your dorm room. And you don't need any money to get people to hear it. Record labels don't control who get big anymore, the people do. But at the same time, people are exposed to a lot more shitty artists because anybody can put stuff out. It's a double-edged sword.

Your music is blend of a lot of different genres, from dance to hip hop, and from R&B to pop. Hip hop especially seems to have influenced the way you produce and compose your music.
I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop. And I think that's what makes my lyrics different than any other singer out there. I sing my lyrics in a way that a rapper would rap his. It is in the way I structure my lyrics, not so much the melodies. For example, on "Cooler Than Me", I rhyme "designer shades" and "hide your face." Most singers wouldn't rhyme that way and if you're not a hip hop fan you may not even catch on to that.

When you decided to start singing your own songs, did you have the complete confidence you could make that work? 
I've always had confidence in my project otherwise I wouldn't have done it. When you compare my mixtapes and the CD, you can hear how much I have evolved as a singer. I definitely have grown as a singer.

As a producer, what are other producers and musicians do you look up to?
J Dilla is one of my favorite producers who is from Detroit as well. I also like Mos Def and Talib Kwali. I'm  also a big Nas guy. And Wu Tang Clan. Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin. Obviously I'm from Detroit so a lot of the Motown stuff was constantly in rotation in my house. I was lucky to be exposed to a lot of stuff from a very young age.

I'm also a huge Stuart Price fan. I met him a couple of months ago. I almost threw up [laughs]. He is the man. We were working in the same studio. He is such a pioneer for a sound that is really popping now - his "four on the floor" sound that is hitting mainstream America now. He started that a decade ago.

With your production background, do you find it harder to collaborate with other producers?
Great question. I think it only works for me if we are all really excited about collaborating. I want to work with people that I'm a fan of and that are enthused working with me otherwise I can do it myself. But at the end of the day, I'm only 22 so I love to learn as well. So when I go into the studio with Benny Blanco for example, I see all of his tricks and I come out of the studio a ten times better producer. I'm not cocky and think I can't learn from other people. So working with other producers is when I learn the most.

How do you see yourself in the pop spectrum?
When I started this project, I set out to be a credible pop artist. I want to be an artist that goes to Coachella and Bonnaroo, and still make pop music. There's nothing more important than authenticity in my music. And that's why I think the hip hop community has been supportive of me even though I'm not rapping. Plus, there are no guys really out in pop right now. Lady Gaga needs a prince. I plan on wearing that crown!

August 20, 2010 in Interviews, Mike Posner, On The Couch With... | Permalink