Exclusive Interview: Singer Mike Posner

By Centerspread Editor Ashley Chang & News Editor Ishika Chawla

Singer Mike Posner performed at the MSJ amphitheater on August 15, after students won the High School Takeover contest hosted by the Bay Area music station WiLD 94.9. In May, students voted for MSJ by clicking on the school’s assigned link once a day, and MSJ ended up with the most votes after a span of several weeks. Posner also held a short meet and greet after his performance, during which two writers from the Smoke Signal interviewed the singer.

Smoke Signal: What are your goals for the future both musically and personally?

Mike Posner: Goals are a funny thing because I’ve attained a lot of material goals in my life at a pretty young age, and I’ve attained enough of them to realize that they don’t really make your life better. So I have some goals now, but they are just a direction to move in. I always say goals are like north; when you get them, they are not worth anything. North is not worth anything; north does not make your life better. It’s just a direction to move in. The things that you encounter along the way and learn along the way are what enrich you and make your life full. So I’d say one of those goals is like it’s no secret that my band and I, we want to be the best band in the world. So that’s one of my goals. Then, fast forward we get there. It’s probably not going to make me any happier, it’s just a direction to move in. The work that I do and the people that I meet along the way, that’s what life is. So my goal is just north.

SS: Do you have a message for young, aspiring artists?

MP: Yeah, worry about being good, don’t worry about being popular. If you worry about being good, you’ll inherently become popular when you get good. I meet too many artists that are more concerned with social media, how to release their project etc., than they are with practicing. The more you do something, the better you get. For me, I started writing songs when I was eight, and I didn’t start getting paid to do it until I was 20 so I did it for 12 years. But sometimes with music, people have this thing where they do it for like a year and have a ridiculous sense of entitlement that they feel. They should have a Grammy or something after doing it for one year. You know music is like anything else. You want to be a doctor, you go to school for 10 years before you can perform surgery on someone, and music is the same way. There’s no shortcuts. You have to practice to get good.

SS: How exactly did you get involved with the [WiLD] 94.9 contest?

MP: I don’t know exactly. I think my manager asked me if this would be something I would like to do and I said yeah.

SS: How do you feel now that your 2016 [SeeB] remix of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” has peaked on the charts?

MP: Well that’s the thing about hit songs, or number one songs what have you, is that they all come down eventually. You know there’s never been a song to go to number one and just stayed there forever. I think I did a better job this time around of being cognizant of that while riding the wave of the song knowing, “Hey, this is a fleeting moment and maybe you’ll get another one, maybe you won’t, so just enjoy it.” I feel like I didn’t take it for granted this time, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I hope.

SS: Lastly, how do you think your written pieces for other artists influence your work?

MP: I mean I don’t think they do really. Most of those songs that become songs for other people I write for myself originally. And then if they don’t fit on one of my albums or something maybe we let someone else hear it and if they connect then it can be for them. It’s kind of a tricky question because I’m always just writing to write. There’s no strategy to writing; it’s just things pop in my head and I hear things in my head and I try to make them sound the way they do in my head to everyone else. It’s as simple as that. There’s no like hey I did this for this guy or I’m going to do something like that, no none of that; it’s just “bleh.” I really think that’s sort of the thing that a lot of artists miss, is that that’s your job. It’s your job to make the things you hear them, make the art that you want to exist in the world. ‘Cause if you don’t do that, no one else will. No one else can hear the things that I hear in my head. And once you start doing something to impress someone else whether it be your manager, or your friend, or your audience, then you’re doing what you think is in their head. But you don’t really know what’s in their head. So what you end up doing is just making a kind of mediocre piece of bull. And it’s easy to slip into that but it’s the death of an artist.

Photo by Staff Writer Richard Chenyu Zhou

Video by Opinion Editor Anthony Chen, Staff Writer Richard Chenyu Zhou & Graphics Editor Victor Zhou

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