Mike Posner Talks ‘Pages’ Album, Finding Himself and the Truth [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Mike Posner has pulled off the uncanny feat of flying under the radar while still creating music that tops the charts.
The Michigan-bred singer-songwriter started off as a rapper playing with rhyme schemes over beats, but as his talents evolved, he found his niche singing over hip-hop tracks instead of spitting on them. Posner released his debut album, ’31 Minutes to Takeoff,’ in 2010; the album’s lead single, ‘Cooler Than Me,’ sold nearly three million records, while the follow-up single ‘Please Don’t Go,’ sold another 1.5 million units. But after all of that success, he retreated from the spotlight and it’s been almost three years of near silence ever since. Though he’s lent his songwriting and production talents to stars as diverse as Justin Bieber, Big Sean, Diplo, Avicii and 2 Chainz, in that time, fans of the crooner’s own music were left asking: “What happened to Mike Posner?”
Quite simply, Posner needed a break from fame. Hypnotized by the music biz’s smoke-and-mirrors, he lost himself in the process of blowing up. Realizing this before it was too late, now the 26-year-old Posner admits that he learned one of life’s oldest lessons the hard way: “money doesn’t buy happiness.” Now, after re-evaluating the things he deems important, he’s making his career comeback with his sophomore album, ‘Pages,’ a project that he says wrote itself.
With raw and honest lyrics penned in his green notepad, he’s finally ready to share them with the world. Posner talks to The Boombox about what life is like when you think you’ve made it and what happens when you realize you haven’t. Instead of being who everyone wants him to be, today, Mike Posner just wants to tell the truth.
The Boombox: Just three years ago you were rapping and singing alongside the likes of Big Sean and Lil Wayne. Now, it seems like you’re already in “career comeback mode.” Where are you trying to take your career right now?
Mike Posner: Oh man, I feel like my career is just starting as a writer, [and] as a performer, I’m still getting better. I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do, and give the world the best of me that I possibly can.
Coming from Detroit, when you first emerged as a rapper before transitioning to singing, do you feel like fans have ever looked at you like were the next white rapper trying to follow in Eminem’s footsteps?
People never really said that because I sing, you know? I did rap when I was a teenager — started rapping when I was nine, and started singing when I was 20. I kinda sing like a rapper would sing. Because I was singing over beats instead of rapping, people didn’t really put me in that box. And I’m glad … that’s kinda like the heaviest bar you could try to lift up in the world.
Watch Mike Posner’s ‘My Light’ Video
You recently released your new single, ‘My Light.’ The track seems like it came from a very personal place. Is it a reflection of what’s happened in your career over the years?
It was just the truth. I think a lot of people [are] scared to tell the truth in songs. Especially when it’s something that’s not … flattering about themselves. I was one of those artists when I first started. I would always pretend I was perfect. That s— is so corny. Imperfect is the new perfect, you know? I just try to keep it real in my lyrics [now] — I have to tell the truth.
One of the lines in that song is, “All I wanted was a record deal, a couple dollars, and I got it / I couldn’t understand why I still had all my problems / And this stage ain’t a good place to find yourself …” Did you ever think you were trapped, and looking for a way to find yourself while pursuing music?
I think a lot of people in their late teens and early 20s [think], “If I just get a dream job or money, that [will] fill the hole that I have in my heart.” My parents always told me money doesn’t buy happiness, but I always thought that was something that people who didn’t have enough money say. I remember saying, “Man, I’ll just get this deal, and I’ll be good.” So, I went for it and I got it, but it didn’t make me happy. That’s almost like succeeding [in] your goals and not getting filled up is almost a bigger problem than failing. That’s what I went through, and that’s what I’ve gone through for the last two [or] three years.
You have your new album, ‘Pages,’ on the way. Is the title a euphemism for your struggle and story over the past two to three years?
The album’s called ‘Pages’ because I write all my songs and my dreams and my poems in my green notebook. The album, in reality, is just a few pages from my notebook, and that’s why it has that title.
Listen to Mike Posner’s ‘Top of the World’ Feat. Big Sean
You started doing music as a rapper and developed into a singer but how would you classify yourself, and what fans should expect from you on your upcoming project?
I just sing over hip-hop beats, you know. That’s what I’ve been doing. That’s what I started in ’09 in my dorm room. I try to tell the truth in my lyrics; write good melodies and make hard beats. So, basically, I just combine hip-hop with melody. That’s how I classify myself.
You had several hits your first LP. That project was reflective of where your mind was back then. But now, you’ve gone through a struggle, and are determined to “tell the truth.” Do you think you have a song now that will catch on like ‘Cooler Than Me’ did?
You know, I’ve been blessed to have a couple big hits in my career. And every time I have a big one, it’s never been me trying to make a hit. I just do things that I think are dope, and [that] me and my friends listen to and…think [are] tight. That’s how we did ‘Boyfriend’ for Justin Bieber; that’s how we did ‘Cooler Than Me;’ that’s how we did ‘Please Don’t Go.’ Usually, if I think something is tight, then the rest of the world seems to agree. That’s all I really care about in the studio — just if I rock with it.
Because you’ve had the opportunity to work with quite a few major names in hip-hop, who’s next on your collaboration wish list?
Lauryn Hill. [We'd make] something with an ‘Ex-Factor’ vibe.
If you had the chance to work with Lil Wayne again, would you do it? Or do you want to work with new people this time around?
Yeah, I think Wayne is incredible. I was in Miami working with Timbaland and Bieber [for] Bieber’s stuff [he has going on] with Wayne. He’s one of the best rappers in the world. Of course I’d work with him. Would I like to work some new other people? Yeah. But it’s not like I have to choose one or the other.
At this point, if you weren’t doing music anymore what would you want to do with yourself?
I’m asked that question a lot, and it’s honestly hard for me to answer ’cause I really believe this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I think I was blessed with this talent for a reason. No one told me how to write a song, but I’m just good at it, you know. There are a lot of other things in my life that I’m not so good at, but writing a song is not one of them. For me to say, “Oh, if I didn’t do [music] I could be a teacher,” like, no. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. That’s why I take it serious. That’s why I work at it everyday.
Listen to Mike Posner’s ‘The Way It Used to Be’