5 Questions With Mike Posner

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NASHVILLE, TN — The New Year has just started but for singer/songwriter/ producer Mike Posner it’s already a banner year. He has a Grammy Award nomination, one billion streams for only one song, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” which is at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, after also ranking high on several charts throughout Europe. The song (‘Ibiza’) has yielded the young 28-year-old performer not only over 1 billion streams but it’s now the #2 most streamed song of 2016 on Spotify, earning Posner a Grammy nomination in the Record of the Year category alongside Adele, Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Lukas Graham for the upcoming Grammy Awards next month.  It’s a very tough but lofty category to be placed in. But these superstar names are just another day at the office for Posner. The Detroit native has struck previous music gold with one of his Grammy competitors. He co-wrote the hit “Boyfriend” for Justin Bieber.  He is also known for co-writing “Sugar” by Maroon 5,  “Beneath Your Beautiful” by Labrinth, as well as songs for Talib Kweli, Pharrell Williams, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Nelly, TI, Snoop Dogg, Nick Jonas, Avicii, Austin Mahone. .

His 2010 debut, 31 Minutes to Takeoff, produced the two platinum hits (“Bow Chicka Wow Wow,” and “Please Don’t Go”) for Mike. With so much success and fame and fame at such a young age, Mike took what seems to have been a much-needed sabbatical from being a superstar. He moved out of L.A., took some time off to reflect, refocus, and moved back to his hometown. Along the way, Posner spent some time in Nashville to hang out with some of his musician friends and songwriting buddies. In the chat below with the Tribune, it seems that hanging out in Music City USA helped give the musical wordsmith an entirely different perspective about the world of songwriting.

TRIBUNE: So, where were you when you first got the news that you had been nominated for a Grammy? POSNER: I was at my mom’s house in Southfield, Michigan. I looked at my phone in the morning, and I had this huge amount of text messages. I had a missed call from David Massey who runs Island Records. I called him back, said ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘You got nominated for song of the year.’ I said, ‘Whoa, pretty cool.’

TRIBUNE: Have you heard from Justin (Bieber) since you found out you are both nominated for a Grammy in the same category? POSNER: “No, I talked to him maybe like three or four months ago. We talk every once in a while. We’re not like best friends, but we are friends. When I talk to him, it’s not always business. He’s a friend of mine that I care about. But like I said, we don’t talk regularly.”

TRIBUNE: “Share with me, in your own words, the backstory about your Grammy nominated song ‘I Took a Pill in Ibiza.’ POSNER: “The song is about the disillusionment that goes along with falling from fame. But writing about that disillusionment has garnered me more fame…It kinda started when I was with my buddy Jake Owen, who lives outside Nashville. We were passing the guitar back and forth. I would play a song, and then I’d pass the guitar to him, then he’d play a song, pass it back. I played him an old tune of mine, and he said, ‘I really like that, Mike. What inspired it?’ I said, ‘It’s about a girl I know and some of it I just made up.’ And he looked me in the eye and he said, ‘Why don’t you just tell the truth?’ And at the time, I didn’t really have an answer.” 

TRIBUNE: I understand that hanging out with friends in Nashville has made an impact on your songwriting. POSNER: “Yes. Going back to Jake (Owens) again. After he said, ‘There are some writers out there who just tell the truth,” he showed me some examples. Most of which were country music artists that I knew nothing about. I then later went on the road with him for a couple of days. Jake and Greg (Holler) would take me to what I call ‘country school.’ They would teach me about how Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Hank Sr and Hank Jr., and all these great artists would supply not only those songs, but they would tell me those people’s stories and how those songs came to be. In each of those cases, Willie, Hank Sr, Hank Jr., Merle, the songs were inextricably linked to their stories as human beings. It was amazing. In fact, once you learn their stories as human beings, it legitimizes their songs because you realize they were telling the truth. I thought I knew how to do that from all the hip-hop I’ve grown up on. And so, this album is just my attempt to carry on that lineage, which is an undertaking that a few of us writers have raised our hand to carry out. I really feel like I’ve learned from these country music legends. There’s a lineage to these things. Hank Jr learned from Hank Sr. I learned from Hank Jr. But you don’t have to know these people to carry on their lineage, you can just do it by doing great work.”

TRIBUNE: Other than your songwriting sessions with your friends, what are some of the other things that you enjoy about visiting Nashville?  POSNER: “My favorite restaurant in the world is in Nashville. It’s Monell’s. The location that looks like a house (Germantown location) It feels like it’s Thanksgiving every day there! (he laughs). Aside from that, I love the people in Nashville. I have some great friends in that city…One day I might try on some cowboy boots to see how they feel.”

FOOTNOTE:  Last week Mike Posner’s father passed away after a lengthy illness. Our condolences go out to him and his family.

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