Interview: Mike Posner on What He Attributes His Success to & What Future Holds

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Mike Posner is the current it-boy of the college scene and he’s quickly emerging with a lot of mainstream buzz following the creation of two dorm room-produced mixtapes, “A Matter of Time” in March 2009 and most recently “One Foot Out The Door” in October.

The former reached #1 on the iTunesU chart. Posner was all smiles appearing last Monday, February 22 at the Blender Theatre at Gramercy, at his third sold-out New York appearance among his largest crowd yet. He is primarily a producer, who just taught himself to sing two years ago and he played the songs in his set to tracks, working the crowd with the mic and getting the place pretty rowdy. The 22-year-old is a senior at Duke University who covers and mashes up classic hits to recent chart toppers in a slightly similar pop culture vain to Girl Talk, only here, the vocals are Posner’s as well those of collaborators.

You can’t deny his talent however, which the crowd got a taste of when he played the keyboard. It would have been preferred to have him showcase more of this talent but the energy was never lost. Bloginity.com caught up with Mike Posner following his show and he shared some memories from the night.

Michael: What did you think of your sold-out show in New York, the vibe, the audience and what was the whole feeling like for you?

Mike Posner: I was just at Brandeis last night.  They were crazy.  They were both crazy.  All my shows are awesome.  Well, it’s my third sold-out New York show. I did SOBs over the summer, and at CMJ I headlined.  This one was bigger than those because it was a bigger venue so I’m on an upward arc.  But since the summer I’ve been working really hard, and it was cool to see the progress and the crowd energy from the crowd then. It’s always incredible.

Michael: So you finished all your classes and you’ll be walking at graduation ceremonies in May. How did you juggle school and your social life while on tour and while recording your mixtapes?

Mike Posner: What social life?  Man, it was definitely a challenge.  I would go to class during the week.  Sometimes on Thursday, sometimes on Wednesday I would catch a flight out of Raleigh-Durham where I now know the names of all the TSA agents and I’d fly out to do shows, 3-4 every weekend and go to class again.  I did a lot of homework on planes.  It was a grind but I knew it was going to be when I signed my deal in July.  I can’t tell you how many people hit me up and tell me they stay in school because of me.  [Now,] I go to the gym every morning.  I used to go in waves.  When I recorded my first mixtape in March of my junior year I would be incredibly unhealthy and I was still living in the dorms then, making my music in the dorm room, it was a hustle and bustle and there was so much going on during the day.  Class in the morning, finish at 5, eat dinner, sleep til midnight and record til 8 in the morning.  I’d sleep for a few hours and then I’d go to school – it was terrible for your body.  It was too loud during the day to record.  I turned 21 on a Saturday in February and people were asking me to get wasted and I said “no, I’m recording a mixtape.”  People were like “no, what’s a mixtape?” and I said “you’ll see.”

Michael: You impressed with your skills on the keys, why did you only play a few bars of some of the songs and then make your way to the edge of the stage so quickly?  Do you think in the future you will show off more of your musicianship at the keyboard?

Mike: Yeah, when it’s just you on the stage, you kind of have to conduct things, you know, in a certain way, your energy dispersed in various places – it was just that night.  There are definitely times when I’ll do more.

Michael: Do you consider yourself a rapper or a singer or are the lines blurred now like with Lil Wayne?

Mike: I’m not a rapper. Absolutely not. I think Drake does both, I think Drake is incredible.

Michael: Did you produce all the tunes on your mixtape?

Mike: On “A Matter of Time” I produced all of it. “One Foot Out The Door” has other producers on it. I was in school so others helped.

Michael: Do you want to produce other artists or have you already?

Mike: Definitely. I’ve produced Big Sean who is signed to Island Def Jam.  I’m really focused on my project first. After I murder my project it will be easier to produce for whoever I want after that.  I’m just taking it one step at a time.  But, I was a producer first. I have been producing since I was 13. I’ve only been singing for 2 years. You can hear a difference in my voice in “One Foot from A Matter of Time.” I am working with Rachel Riggs, her dad was Michael Jackson’s vocal coach and she’s coaching me.” I like the Neon Trees. Yeah for a while, I am supposed to do a remix for them.  But first I have to finish my record.  I would like to if I have the time.

Michael: There’s an ambient vibe to your music, how did your overall sound come about?

Mike: I think it comes from a lot of stuff I like to listen to. It’s not even artists – sometimes just songs.  “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin is an extremely moody song.  So it’s like, you can’t even reference an artist, it has to be a specific song. I never wanted to make music that was corny so I’ve been extremely lucky to have the hip-hop community accept me with open arms.  Only reason I have that is my music has a degree of authenticity and they respect me for being true to myself.

Michael: When Chiddy Bang came on stage during “Speed of Sound” was that planned?

Mike: We’ve done shows before but he didn’t know he was coming on for that song.  I know he’s an incredible freestyler – we did a show at UNC Chapel Hill and he came to my house and we drove over with my friends and he just freestyled the whole way and never slipped up or anything.  I knew it would be nothing for him to spit on that and he killed it.

Michael: You’ve got SXSW dates, Bamboozle and Warped Tour keeping you busy on the road through August supporting your debut set. What kind of pressure or excitement are you feeling about all these high-profile festivals?

Mike: I don’t feel pressured at all.  I just love being on stage.  I think you can see that from watching me perform.  All these are just opportunities for me to be on stage and be in front of people and make new fans, so I’m excited. Plus I like sharing the stage with so many great artists.

Michael: When I think of rock stars removing clothing during a performance, three things come to mind: either they are completely wasted, they are sweating their ass off or they are just completely showing off.  What was the inspiration for removing your shirt?

Mike: I try to put on the best show possible.  It definitely applies to me in all my shows. Number one, it never applies to me every show and I do a bunch of push-ups before each show.  If I think the crowd is going to enjoy something, I’ll do it. Whatever I need to do to make the best show possible.

Michael: Is there anything you can tell us that’s coming up, any surprises? Are you going to be in a movie?

Mike: No I don’t wanna be in a movie. I’ll tell you that exclusively. If someone gave me $4M dollars to be in a movie, I’d be like “no, I don’t know how to act.”  I’m going to Central Michigan, it’s gonna be crazy. You know who else shows mad love?  Ohio. Dayton, Columbus, Bowling Green, Cleveland, Oxford, Cincinnati – all of them are crazy. The Midwest in general has shown me a lot of love.