By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated July 21, 2010 at 09:45 PM EDT

Image Credit: Timothy SaccentiWhen this year began, Mike Posner was just another Duke University senior — albeit one who happened to have a major-label record deal and several buzzy mixtapes under his belt. Today, two months after picking up his diploma, he has one of the biggest songs in the country with top 10 hit “Cooler Than Me.” I recently caught up with the amiable bro, whose debut album, 31 Minutes to Takeoff, hits Aug. 10. Read on for our conversation.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was “Cooler Than Me” inspired by anyone in particular?

MIKE POSNER: Yeah. There’s a girl at Duke that it’s about. But she’ll remain nameless. I don’t think she deserves any notoriety.

Does she know the song is about her?

I think so. I’m not really in contact with her. But when I went back to Duke to graduate, she made a pass at me and she got rejected.

Was it hard to finish those last couple of semesters at Duke knowing that your music career was starting to take off?

Yeah, it was incredibly difficult. But I knew it was going to be hard when I made the decision to go back [as a senior]. I signed the record deal after my junior year in school. I realized that a lot of people in my family had sacrificed for me to have the opportunity to go to a place like Duke. I owed it to them to finish. I graduated with a 3.6. I hope you’re reading, Mom!

What was your major?


Is that something you’re going to apply to your career as a musician?

Yeah. It’s the study of people and society. It’s easier to make art for a society at a certain point in time with an understanding of what’s going on.

Now that you’ve graduated, are you still planning to keep in touch with your college buddies?

Oh yeah, I talk to them all the time. They’re very supportive of me. They’re really the ones that launched my career and allowed me to get a record deal. I made a CD in my dorm room and put it on the Internet, and my friends blew it up. Within a few months I was doing shows across the country without a record deal, without a single, without anything.

Would you say making music was more fun when you were working with a big major-label budget or back when you were just the guy in the dorm room?

It’s way more fun when there’s a budget. Not that it wasn’t fun before. Like, music is my life. But on this record, I was able to do all the things I’ve dreamed of doing for the past 22 years.

What were the goals you had for this album?

My goal was to make a record that sounded like absolutely nothing that’s out right now. I know I’ve achieved that, and it feels pretty good. That being said, I also have pretty lofty goals for the future for myself.

Like what?

I want to headline Bonnaroo. I just want to do it more than anything in the world.

In the past you’ve worked with a lot of rappers on your mixtapes, but not as much on this album. Why is that?

I wanted to prove to everyone that I could make an incredible album by myself. I truly believe that this record is going to blow a lot of people’s minds and they’re not going to be confused as to why it blew their minds. It’s going to be because of me. This album is mine. I have my whole life to collaborate with people.

Who would you like to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?

I’m a huge Andre 3000 fan. I’m a huge Paul Simon fan. I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan. And I’m the hugest Killers fan and Brandon Flowers fan. I can’t wait to hear his new album.

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