We had the pleasure of catching a few songs from Mr. Posner at the Island Records brunch. We didn’t really know what to expect, after not hearing from him in quite some time. What ensued was nothing short of jaw-dropping, as this storied musician put on a show that was miles away from what we had known him for. Mike has completely shifted gears, harnessing a much more Americana-rich, folk-centric sound. It reminded us of Neil Young, Bob Seger, and other notable classics in American music. It was raw, real, and caught us completely off guard.

TMN: It’s been awhile since we’ve spoken to you, and in all honesty it’s been awhile since we’ve heard your name pop up. The one thing that we wanted to bring up after seeing your performance down at the brunch — you had this Neil Young/Americana/folk essence going on. Can you dive into that a little bit more and elaborate on where that’s coming from?

Mike Posner: Yeah, I think it just came from just getting tired of like pretending, you know? When I would do interviews like this in the past, like around my first album, I only wanted people to see the good parts of me, or what I thought were the good parts of me. So, like I’d be sitting in an interview like this and I’d be thinking in my head, “How do I make you and all your readers like me? How do I seem cool to them?” And it’s exhausting! It’s exhausting because you’re constantly in your mind, filtering what to allow people to see and what not to. It’s much easier to just let everyone see everything.

I’ve said this before: I defecate, I masturbate, if I’m lucky I’ll fornicate, just like everyone else. I guess in my soul that’s where it came from. Musically, I became like really fascinated by a lot of the artists you just named and also guys like Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Jr., that did what I just said, but in their music as well.

I figured out there were writers out there that really didn’t give a fuck. They really said the shit that they were scared to say. And, when  I saw that that lineage existed, and I also saw that no one was carrying  it on, it’s like the songs on the radio–a lot of which I’ve written–were not carrying on this lineage, I felt I had the skillset in order to do that, and I still do.

TMN: It was a very raw, emotional, open and honest–as anti-pop as it gets. So,
talk to us about how you evolved from the pop world, from having those hits and helping write other hits for other people. What has the journey been like from going from that to something that is 100% real storytelling, super emotional, with absolutely no pop essence to it — like you don’t give a shit. It’s you.

MP: Let me clarify it all. There is a small part of me that gives a shit still. Well, I’m trying to get rid of him. He’s not going quietly, you know? (Laughs). As for how it happened, I’m not really sure, man. The songs came, you know? This can come off like eccentric, esoteric, and just like be thrown in the box with like wish-washy artist talk, but I really feel like the songs just sort of come through. I don’t really feel like I’m doing em, so if you hate em or you love em, I can’t really take credit either way.

My good friend, I’ve quoted him many times he’s a poet, he’s an incredible poet. He says ‘the art comes before the artist.’ Like I said, when I’m writing I don’t think, it’s just the way it goes. And then I have these songs and it’s like ‘what the hell do I do with these,’ you know? And then I thought, the art comes before the artist. So it’s up to me to adjust my life to serve this art, not the other way around.

Which I did for years, is like try to make the art serve me. Try to make a song that’s gonna make me more money and more famous and make people think higher of me and give me more worldly possessions. Well that’s backward. That’s making the art serve the artist and that leads to shitty art. And we have a lot of shitty art, we don’t need anymore. Also, I said in the interview earlier, like having that sort of “worldly success”–and I’m using quotations with my fingers right now–was really a blessing at a young age.

Because, in America, I feel like we’re sort of taught the point of your life is to get the most shit; get the most money, get the most girls — it’s very hedonistic. Getting those things at a young age was like a real blessing. Because I got them and it was sad and depressing at the time because I realized this didn’t really make me happier. At the same time, to realize that at 22 and not 62, I’m very grateful for it. So, I had these songs on the radio and dadadada…it’s like I’ve done that now. Now what do I want to do? Do I  just want to do that again? Not really. I want to do something else. I want to tell the truth.

TMN: So talk to us about “Buried In Detroit.” That was a real deep song. What’s going on there? What’s the background behind that tune in particular?

MP: Umm, I’d tell you the story of how I wrote it, but sometimes I think that cheapens the song.

TMN: You can always say leave it up for interpretation. A lot of artists give us that response.

MP: Well, there’s not really a lot to interpret about it. Like it’s not very poetic in that it’s a very direct song, you know? Maybe I won’t say anything, you’re right. I learned something from you. Thank you. (Laughs)

TMN: It’s part of the fun of being a fan.

MP: You ever heard like the story behind a song and it ruins the song?

TMN: Absolutely.

MP: I don’t think I should tell any stories about my songs.

TMN: There’s one from Angus & Julia Stone about a girl with sunflowers in her hair, and I totally thought it was a love song, and it was about a friend of theirs that over dosed. And it ruined it.

MP: Well, that’s the thing though. You need to be careful with that. The best novelists never say “this is what the novel means.”

You know, and the best novels can be interpreted in different ways. And, I don’t know if my new music can really do that. I know songs that I’ve written in the past have been interpreted in different ways. Like, I had a song called “Please Don’t Go,” that like you know people have told me like they listened to that after a family member passed away, you know which is not–well, I won’t say what it’s not.

And then I’ve had other people like you know then the most like easiest interpretation would be that you’re talking to a girl, right, telling her “Please Don’t Go.” And uh, like I remember in high school we read a novel by E. Annie Proulx and it’s called The Shipping News.

Our teacher, Mrs. Mundy, who’s one of the best teachers I ever had, she made us write about what the book was about, and we had to back it up. And you’re never right or wrong as long as (laughs)–your grade came from how eloquently and convincingly you could defend your point. And then we would like read these interviews by E. Annie Proulx and she’d be like, ‘I’m not gonna tell you. You’re all right.’ And so, I think you’re right. I think it’s like umm, I think it’s umm it’s unwise sometimes to say too much about your art, because the art in any medium, you’re trying to express truth, right, with a capital T. And some people can do that through words, and some people can do it through music, and some people can do it through painting. And if the song is good, it got close to that truth with a capital T. And uh you saying in the interview like  talking about you doing that piece is not closer to the truth, it’s farther away, if that makes sense.

“None of your words are the moon, they’re just fingers pointing at the moon.”

TMN: So, we tweeted earlier that we were going to be meeting up with you to interview and we did have somebody hit us up, a Twitter fanclub, that wants to know some kind of exclusive details on the album. They’re itching to know.

MP: It’s almost done. I’ve worked with Labrinth, and it’s gonna be on a song. You know Labrinth? He’s dope as fuck. I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be on a song. So, that’s it.

TMN: Any hints at a release date?

MP: Nah, cause I’m not done with it, you know? I’m close to done with it. It’s just the production, I have like all the songs, you know, and they’re all recorded; it’s just like polishing stuff up basically.

TMN: Cool. I gotta ask you some random questions, man. I need to know a little bit more about you. What was your first job?

MP: My first job was paper boy.

TMN: Really?

MP: Yeah, I had a bag that went around the front of my bike. I had a difficult time with it, because every month you had to knock on the door and ask the people to pay you for the papers. And then like you would miss em, sometimes they weren’t home and then like they’d owe for like 2 or 3 months. I just fucking hated asking people for money.

TMN: What are three things that are always in your fridge no matter what?

MP: My fridge is sometimes totally empty.

TMN: Any hot sauce, ketchup?

MP: No, I’m pretty weird about food. I eat much less than most Americans. Especially when I’m recording or practicing, I’m very like cognicesnt of when I feel inspired and when I feel tired and uninspired, and I’ve found that often like after like gorging myself. I feel tired and waste like an hour of my day.

We add those hours up in a year, and multiple years, and that’s like a lot of your life you’re just spending tired. So, I typically don’t eat breakfast, I eat like a banana and almond smoothie for lunch, and then I’ll have like one like meal, usually for dinner, sometimes less. And I usually take every two weeks I don’t eat for a day–and then one time I didn’t eat for 6 days; just water.

TMN: (Laughs)I don’t know how you did that.

MP: Through meditation — that helped a lot. But the goal of it for me was to dethrone “king stomach.” Another thing I realized in doing a lot of this work is that the feeling of hunger comes from our brain, and not from our stomach. I noticed that if I was doing something that I felt uncomfortable with, or if i was practicing a piece and I couldn’t get it right, this feeling hunger would just present itself! It basically was an excuse for me to get out of the situation. There’s not really like a healthy thing. I want to be in control of myself, not be like dragged around by anything. I still am, I’m not free of it, but guess I can better handle it than I did (before).

TMN: Last one, we ask everybody this, it’s a little bit off the wall, but if your music, now, were an animal, what would it be?

MP: Like this music I’m making right now?

TMN: What we heard today.

MP: Love this question. Wolverine.

TMN: Any particular reason why?

MP: Not saying. I learned that from you.

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