The following is an untold story on a fascinating new creation of 2017’s Best Song of the Year Grammy nominee, Mike Posner. The writer, Aspen Matis, spent 13 hours over the course of a month-and-a-half in dialogue with Posner, most of which the two artists voice-recorded. In these talks, Posner shares his upcoming work with Matis—a touching story that is inspiring and not yet public.  While most known for his pop-stardom, Posner is also a sought-after poet, responsible for writing the hits of Maroon 5, Nick Jonas, Justin Bieber, Nelly, TI, Snoop Dogg, Avicii, and others. Still further broad in scope, Posner is one of the two members of the critically acclaimed Mansionz, an alternative R&B pair, producing work far divergent from Posner’s melodic pop. Over the summer, he dropped new work, long his secret. On August 3rd, Mike Posner’s current project was released. This is an exclusive:

Mike Posner and I met by chance. We were in Los Angeles this spring, arbitrarily together in a class called The Landmark Forum. The course—which inspires participants to release disempowering stories they’ve told themselves about themselves, for the sake of new creation and fuller living, in the present—was transformative for us both. Guided by a powerful speaker, the leader of our communal Socratic inquiry, I discovered the deeper foundation of my personal walls: the beliefs I hadn’t known I had not known were blocking me from connecting to others—creating my isolation. In my case, the belief that I was different, cast forever as a black sheep; never good enough, and weird. (In his case, something similar.) And in its powerful atmosphere, I (ironically) connected with Posner, both of us healing from something potent. Though I didn’t yet know his story of loss.

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All Hail Misha

Author Aspen Matis Faces Greatness in Mike Posner’s Discreet Release

When the course ended, Posner generously shared his mind and art with me. We began talking with frequency. Soon he granted me access to unreleased recordings: his newest project’s first two “episodes” before they had been published. What I discovered in our discussions was the formative climate—a rich universe most of us can seldom glimpse, and this particular story had a value, beyond entertainment.

Eventually, he gave me his permission to publish the whole story that emerged, our greater discourse in the form I saw best fit. A profile, an interview; or, a book. Our creation, a true exclusive. We began a pure dialogue that we jokingly titled A MAP FOR BEING GOOD ENOUGH AS A HUMAN, a phrase Posner had spoken and I had scrawled on a napkin at a Thai bar, attempting to steal. Yet weeks passed and the conversation did not end, meditation on human love and the creative power of language, beyond speech itself—and the thoughtless title was beginning to feel fitting. I felt we were in a true search: teammates of discovery, first-hand witnesses to the artificial nature of borders, of alllimits—probing the hidden nature of our reality, once freed: seen naked of the imaginary boundaries.

Then in the summer, as we were becoming friends, he dropped the new creative work, a surprise. The project, titled What Does This All Mean? was released without noise. An unannounced and unpredicted existence, Posner’s new work hit with still another twist: After his Grammy-nominated Best Song of the Year “I Took a Pill In Ibiza” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, his follow-up is a weird departure… a podcast. Divergent from all his projects to date, this work is principally spoken rather than sung. While narratively a twin spirit of The Moth and using similar first-person venues of storytelling—the parallel ends here. Because Posner is a music-maker to his bones. The music felt like the organic and necessary progression of the story; and his symphonic approach becomes a channel for new explorations, in this realm beyond words.And the result is a whimsical mixtape fantasy of score and the spoken word, cooing: a recreation of the artist’s true tales and new music, all of it original. His most recent prior release was also unpredictable, and dark; the rapper and former Duke University scholar published Tear Drops and Balloons, a book of rhythmic poems, in recent spring. With this latest twist, Posner’s creative life seems to run a river of swift turns, his career gaining breadth and power of current with each of his surprises—and the upcoming podcast, the river’s next turn, is waterfall he’s hid.The intention of the work, he tells me, is, simply, “to uplift.” But the painful undercurrent of this latest creation seemed a missing piece. (With no press or peephole into its creation: the place of the work’s origin was unknowable.)

Author Aspen Matis Faces Greatness in Mike Posner’s Discreet Release

The profound story I eventually discovered under the story is that Posner’s new work was reactive to the early death of a loved one. This past winter, in January 2017, Posner’s dad, with whom he was very close, passed; in the sadness of the wake of pain, Posner began rethinking—then composing. With the early loss of his father, anew work pulled him, one with distinctive gravity; he gave the tug a name and moved toward its force: one question that approached the whole earth, and also his own life: What Does It All Mean? He surrendered to this wonder.—Thus he began composing, movement in the pursuit his singular mission of discovery. Posner sees the podcast as not the report on life and art and science, but as the science and art—and so, he makes it true. Applauding this release, we publish here the first 3 episodes, to enjoy—and to discover yourself within. What Does This All Mean? is a treasure—one greater than I’ve encountered prior.

EPISODE 1 Happy Father’s Day: In a riveting, impassioned window into deep loss, Mike Posner visits his father’s gravesite. His Father’s Day now dry, Posner’s spiritual encounter at that site vibrates, still–alive for all who tune into his words: the revisit of the memories his father. Of all love.EPISODE 2 The Sun Is Always Shining: An encounter in a North Hollywood gym has Mike observe despair from a wholly new vantage point. When tragedy strikes, it is too easy to forget that, behind the gloomy cloud looming, the sun’s rays are still beaming . A dark cloud obscuring light isn’t the end of light. Loss is merely another opportunity to close your eyes and discover: behind the clouds, the sun is always shining. EPISODE 3 Who Knows? — Meeting Kanye West and Transforming Failure into Success: An experience with Kanye West in a New York elevator humbles Mike–and steers him to embark on an unforeseen path with his friend Big Sean. With “Cooler Than Me” making vibrations through college dorms across America, Mike stares blankly at a sociology paper in Duke’s library. The daunting feeling of possible rejection can be crippling, especially coming from one of the world’s biggest artists. But this “big” rejection becomes the first step.What Does This All Mean is a profound exploration of what it means to be a human—and so, a celebration of wonder. The podcast is now widely available (the Podcasts app, and iTunes, etc.), and has a website: The podcast medium is a natural form for Posner, and he proves an odd master, an author of plot and melody, simultaneously. And in this newly created position, the speaker of both languages we’re hearing, Posner tweaks the Podcast form—and so, revives the old heart of the mode. He enlivens not just the listener, but the genre itself.—

Mike Posner is a Grammy-nominated musician, poet, record producer, and podcast creator. His debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff,  includes the US Billboard Hot 100 top 10 single “Cooler than Me” as well as the top 20 single “Please Don’t Go.” In 2016 he released his second album, At Night, Alone, and remix of the album’s single, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” reached top 10 on the charts in 27 countries across the globe; in many, the song hit number one. Posner also writes songs for fellow artists. A poet, he released his first book of poetry in March 2017, a hardcover titled Tear Drops & Balloons. Posner is also a member of the alternative hip-hop and R&B duo Mansionz and the creator and host of the new podcast What Does This All Mean? @MikePosner

Aspen Matis’s work has appeared in The Atlantic and The New York Times, and in literary magazines such as Tin House. She is the co-creator of The Human Network, the world’s first democratized think tank, for peace. Her memoir, Girl in the Woods (HarperCollins 2015), is becoming a scripted television series of the same name. She is also a spokesperson for the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. @aspenmatis

Author Aspen Matis Faces Greatness in Mike Posner’s Discreet Release

Aspen Matis and Mike Posner‘s co-authored book, a pure dialogue titled A MAP FOR BEING GOOD ENOUGH AS A HUMAN, is a beautiful and moving meditation on human love and the creative power of language, beyond words. Exposing the artificial nature of borders (and of all limits), probing the hidden nature of our reality, beyond those borders, A MAP FOR BEING GOOD ENOUGH AS A HUMAN recreates our world—as unbound, limitless in openings. It is a new and hopeful story told as Dialogue, our “evolved” species’ original and deeply powerful tool for digging for deeper fields of gold. The whole dialogue is forthcoming.