When Mike Posner was a Junior at Duke University, he recorded a song in his dorm room called “Cooler Than Me” about being snubbed by a snooty girl. A few months later, the sly kiss-off climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard Pop chart, became a Top 10 hit around the world, and sold more than three million copies. Suddenly the girls weren’t so snooty anymore. The sweetly shy 22-year-old Detroit native with a raspy soulful tenor was transformed into the break-out newcomer of 2010 with his debut album 31 Minutes to Takeoff, which also spawned the platinum hits “Please Don’t Go” and “Bow Chicka Wow Wow” featuring Lil’ Wayne and showcased Posner’s knack for killer hooks, shapely melodies, irresistible beats, and relatable lyrics that navigate post-collegiate life and love.
Posner released two successful mixtapes through iTunesU, A Matter of Time and One Foot Out The Door, and in 2009, signed a record deal with RCA (formerly J Records). After graduating from Duke with a B.A. in Sociology, Posner hit the road and performed around the world to support the album — a heady time that he describes as a mixed blessing. “It was a little crazy to me,” he says. “I wrote a song in my dorm room and before I knew I was performing it in Australia…and people knew the words! It was amazing, I was fresh out of college and still figuring myself out.”
Intensely prolific, Posner wrote non-stop, accumulating more songs than he could possibly record himself, approximately 100 every year by his own estimation. He began shopping them around and scored a major hit co-writing and producing Justin Bieber’s 3x-platinum smash “Boyfriend.” He’s also worked with British up-and-comer Labrinth (“Beneath Your Beautiful” featuring Emeli Sandé), as well as songs for Pharrell Williams, Maroon 5, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Nelly, T.I., Snoop Dogg, Nick Jonas, Avicii, Austin Mahone, Big Time Rush, Iggy Azalea, Riff Raff, Olly Murs, and Rixton – just to name a few.
The success, he said, led him to rethink his life. “I found myself in the Fame Race. I was constantly posturing for more money and more fame. I got addicted to the attention.” he says. Posner didn’t tell anyone, but he considered quitting and solely focusing on songwriting and production work. “I was ashamed of myself.” Then one day on a flight to London, a song popped into his head, that he says changed his life.
“When I felt the idea for ‘Pretty Damn Good’ come through me, I knew it was special,” he says. “I knew I couldn’t quit being an artist, I knew the direction my music needed to take, and most importantly, I knew why.”
“I used to think my imperfections were flaws, but now I know they’re actually my greatest strengths. I still just feel like a kid from Michigan who is really, really blessed. I’m not perfect. I don’t have an entourage. I don’t wear gold chains. I drive a Chevy (he now drives a 2014 Porsche Cayman). I just feel normal, like somebody pulled me out of the crowd and put me on stage. But at the same time, I’m accomplishing what I always dreamed of doing. People see me and think, ‘If that guy is achieving his dreams, then I can, too.’”
Posner’s positive new direction is reflected in the songs he is planning to include on the album, “Everybody has somebody in their life that they wish things had turned out differently with,” Posner says of the song’s lyrics. “I really wanted to capture the nostalgia, yearning, and urgency of that feeling and, at the same time, make the sonics of the song fun, upbeat, and danceable.”
As he continues to put the finishing touches on his album Pages, which he is largely producing himself, Posner admits that his perfectionism sometimes gets the better of him. “I feel like stuff is never done,” he says. “It’s always weird for me to put something out. I just want to keep working on it. But at some point, you just have to let it go or else it’s just a cool song on your laptop, and it doesn’t do anything for the world. I want to do something for the world.”