These days, Mike Posner might be one of the most soft-spoken superstars on the pop charts.
The Southfield, Mich. native and multi-platinum singer/songwriter behind such hits as I Took a Pill in Ibiza and Cooler Than Me hasn’t let his surprise success go to his head.
Posner, 29, talks slowly and quietly in conversation, choosing his words deliberately. He centers his thoughts on finding his own authentic joy and his desire to share his inner truth.
That truth first started to fully emerge on his 2015 EP appropriately titled The Truth. While writing and recording those songs, Posner found himself at the darkest point of his career. He had achieved moderate commercial success straight out of college with his debut album, 2010’s 31 Minutes to Takeoff, and hits he helped pen for other people like Justin Bieber and Maroon 5, only to find himself left on standby.
Trapped in label hell after having two full-length records rejected, creative and personal happiness escaped Posner. So he set out to write songs close to his heart. He toured the country playing small shows, solo and acoustic, while confiding in his friend, country star Jake Owen.
He chronicled it all in his original acoustic, country-esque rendition of Ibiza, where he bared the burden of being a borderline celebrity for all to see.
When Norwegian EDM duo SeeB remixed the track in tropical-house fashion, the ironic juxtaposition launched Posner to international stardom. The song reached the top of the charts in more than 20 different countries and currently continues to climb closer to nearly 1 billion streams on Spotify.
Earlier this year, Ibiza also earned Posner his first Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.
“It meant that my work was recognized, because the Grammys are voted on by other artists and producers and writers, so that was quite nice,” Posner said. “But on another level, it’s my job not to care, right? Just do the music, and if people like it, they like it.”
That balance of caring but not caring is something Posner still struggles with creatively. He’s profoundly prolific, having previously written more than 100 songs per year earlier in his career. So to sit back on his success and bask in material rewards holds no value to him now.
“I’m really blessed where I really have enough things,” Posner said. “If anything, I need less possessions, so that results in an artistic freedom. I met a man two days ago on the beach in Los Angeles and he was selling artwork. When I asked him where he was from, he said, ‘I live on the beach, because I don’t believe in having to pay to have to live on Earth. I just want to put art first.’ So instead of having to do some other job, or cater his art in order to sell more of it, he sleeps in an alley. And he doesn’t need any money, therefore he can paint whatever he wants.”
Now completely free, artistically and financially, Posner has done exactly what he wants. In March, he released both a book of poetry entitled Tear Drops and Balloons and a collaborative side-project LP, Mansionz, with his friend and L.A. rapper/singer, blackbear.
“It’s completely liberating because I kind of do the opposite in Mansionz that I do for my own stuff,” Posner said. “All of these things that I would be afraid to do for Mike Posner, I suddenly have the medium.”
Despite his celebrity, Posner still spends as much time as he wants back in Michigan, and said he actually lived here a lot last year.
“It’s the soil from which this flower is blooming,” Posner said of his musical and familial roots in Michigan. “And I think no matter how tall the flower grows, it will still be the soil from which it blooms.”
Currently on tour, Posner plans to premiere a new poem at every concert, in addition to performing hits with his Legendary Mike Posner Band. He will end the run of shows on May 3 with his first-ever performance in Kalamazoo.
“It’s the last show of the tour, so we’ll be celebrating,” he said. “There’s definitely a homecoming element, a pilgrimage element added to the show.”
UPDATE: The Kalamazoo State Theatre show was cancelled unexpectedly. Refunds will be issued.