RedFestDXB 2017: Hitmaker Mike Posner reflects on a tumultuous emotional journey
Maybe it is because he just finished his morning meditation before we talk, but Mike Posner is in a philosophical mood. He quotes a Zen proverb and speaks in a long, self-analytical sprawl.
Nothing, then, like the calculated focus you might expect from a supposedly cynical hitmaker-for-hire behind smashes for Justin Bieber (Boyfriend) and Maroon 5 (Sugar). None of the swagger of the voice of the smash hit – I Took a Pill in Ibiza.
That outlandish anthem was recently nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year. When we speak, Posner says he has not thought about writing an acceptance speech for the ceremony on February 12, and coolly rates his excitement level about the nod – alongside Adele, Bieber and co – at only “about a three” out of 10.
But then he has every reason to curb his enthusiasm, having been through the buzz before.
The 28-year-old – who performs at RedFestDXB on Friday – scored overnight success with his debut single, Cooler than Me, from his 2010 album 31 Minutes to Takeoff.
But he failed to find a follow-up and, after battling depression and shelving two albums, quit his record label. Then he wrote a sad, autobiographical acoustic song about a “singer who already blew his shot”, and released it online. A Norwegian DJ duo he had not met, Seeb, remixed it, creating an upbeat dance-floor smash that topped charts in seven countries.
That song was I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Posner’s post-fame blues distilled into chart gold, and the irony of the situation a recurring theme in interviews. “It was kind of a gross oversimplification that I have in some way perpetuated,” says Posner. “It’s easy for me to present my life in a way that says, ‘Hey, I was famous and I was happy, then I wasn’t famous and unhappy, then I worked to find myself and I got happy and famous again’.
“But in reality, it’s much more messy – I suffer sometimes. I would say I suffer a little bit every day. I never have days which are totally great the entire day. But I feel joy almost every day as well.”
One of the song’s most confessional lyrics is “I’ve made a million dollars and I spend it on girls and shoes”. It’s safe to say Posner’s bank balance has been refilled over the past 18 months, and recent news that his Hollywood home sold for more than US$1.4 million (Dh5 m) might suggest an upgrade from a B-list to an A-list neighbourhood. But Posner says he has no intention of settling down anywhere.
“I just think I’m in kind of a between phase. I’m not sure where I want to live next – so I sold it,” he says. “There’s the old Zen proverb – ‘That which you possess will one day come to possess you’ – you spend a lot of time amassing possessions, and then you get to a point where you want less of them. And I’m sort of there.”
• Mike Posner will perform at RedFestDXB on Friday at 8.40pm