Keeping it in the Mix

At 22, Southfield native and musician Mike Posner hasn’t missed a beat
Photograph by Rob Dowsley

What’s so special about Mike Posner? The 22-year-old Southfield native recently received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Duke University with a 3.59 GPA. Oh, and in the meantime, he released two buzz-worthy mix-tapes of synthy dance pop, played sold-out college campuses across the country, and inked a major label deal with J Records (Sony/RCA) — all before walking at commencement.

Between shows, which include a set at Bonnaroo and all 43 dates of the 2010 Vans Warped Tour, the singer/songwriter/producer is working on his forthcoming debut album. The new grad paused while recording recently at a New York City studio to chat about his music, schoolwork, and “doing it all for The Mitten.”


Tell me a little bit about growing up in Southfield.

I was blessed to live in Southfield. It’s one of the most diverse cities in Michigan. … That resulted in me listening to a really wide spectrum of music — from Miles Davis and Count Basie, to Rage Against the Machine, to Nas.

How’d you catch your big break?

When I put out my first mix-tape [A Matter of Time] in March of 2009. I told my friends to tell their friends. I made it free on the Internet. Within a matter of months, people across the country knew all the words.

What can we expect from the debut full-length?

It’s going to change the direction of pop music in a significant fashion.

That’s a pretty bold statement.

If I didn’t believe in what I was doing and take as much pride in my music as I do, it wouldn’t make sense for me to live this lifestyle. I get on a plane every morning. I write and record music all day, every day. And I do shows every night.

How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it?

Authentic pop music. You can have a good time to it, it provides a sense of escapism, and every member of your family can enjoy it.

How do you stay so focused?

I signed my record deal the summer after my junior year [of college]. I could’ve quit, but a lot of people don’t get that opportunity, especially in Michigan. A lot of people sacrificed things in my family to allow me to have that opportunity. The least I could do was finish. I’ve had countless people come up to me at shows … to tell me that I’m the reason that they stayed in school.

Do you think your unique story has contributed to your success at all?

For three or four months after I put out my first mix-tape … I could walk through the crowd to the stage at my own show that was sold out, and nobody knew who I was until I got up there and opened my mouth. At the time, that frustrated me. Now, looking back, I’m incredibly proud of that because it meant that the people were there for no other reason than the music. … There is no story without the music.

Where do you like to go when you come back home?

I always go to Lost & Found [Vintage] in Royal Oak. I love that store.

Are there certain things you miss?

The people just seem to have better hearts in Michigan.

How is the new album going to change things for you?

I have very big records on my laptop right now. I can’t wait to do it big for Michigan. I don’t have to tell you how tough the last few years have been for our state. At times, I feel guilty to have the job I do and to get paid what I do for doing something as awesome as music every day. All I can do is make the most of my opportunity and come give back after I do it as big as I can.