Mikey Mike is one of the many producers that lives behind-the-scenes, writing and constructing songs for major label artists. He has worked with some of the biggest names in music (Wale, Sia, Stargate) and is looking to transition into a legitimate recording artist. Earlier this year he released the amazing Chainsaw Love EP, which quickly became a favorite among Sunset readers. Now, he has given us the privilege of premiering his brand new track “Seven,” which finds the Maryland native in full nostalgia mode. I’ve had this song for awhile, and it’s safe to say it’s in my top five of the year.
Along with “Seven,” we have an exclusive interview with Mike. It covers everything from the arduous process of getting a song approved for a major artist to the story behind the “Chainsaw Love” concept.
Arjun: What is the process for writing/producing songs for other artists? What order of people have to approve a song for it to get through to the artist? And then who makes the final call for whether it will be on the artist’s album?
Mike: There’s a ton of things that have to happen for a song to go through and actually get put out, and the process is a little different with each record. With the last song I was working on, just to give you an idea of how it could go when things go right, I had a rough sketch of a track and a really dope hook laid down. There’s no point in polishing a turd, so besides spending hours tweaking and shit, I sent a rough around to the A&Rs and managers I work with to see if any of them were fucking with it. One of them really dug it, so I developed more, passed it back, then Sia finished writing the verses and Stargate flushed out the production, and then a few days later it’s in a studio in LA, getting played for artists, etc. If one of them was feeling it, they would cut the record, and then it would go into a pile with the other 20 or 30 songs they’ve cut for their album. Then, the A&Rs, execs, artists (if they have clout) put their heads together and pick the best 15 songs or whatever, and then if your really lucky, one day you get a call like “hey your song made the album” and then this is the part where you scream back into the phone “SHOW ME THE MONEYYYY HO!!!!!”
Arjun: Do you generally write a song in a single sitting or do you find yourself going back to an idea multiple times until the song is complete?
Mike: All depends, but generally I do them in pieces, maybe a hook here, verse idea there. But a lot of times I find the best stuff gets written the quickest because when you get in that heavenly groove and everything is flowing, it just kind of writes itself, like someone just kind of planted the idea in your head or your heart or whatever and you’re just transferring it down to paper.
Arjun: What percentage of beats would you say you actually use out of all the beats you produce?
Mike: I usually don’t even flush out a beat or production until the whole song is written if it’s something for myself. So if I have something written and I record it and I still like it after a couple of days, I will finish the track then. So in that sense, almost everything.
Arjun: How did you get your deal with Beluga Heights?
Mike: I had been shooting ideas to the A&R there for a while, and I had a single placed with this chick Auburn they had at the time and after a while of writing hooks and doing beats and songs for them, they wanted to sign me. That was a couple of years ago. A lot of the work I do now is outside of Beluga, but as of right now, I’ll have a couple of joints on Sean Kingston’s album.
(The track below has caught the eye of certified hit maker David Guetta, so there’s a chance you could hear a version from him in the near future.)
Arjun: Do you, like Kanye famously admitted, save your best beats for your solo material?
Mike: I definitely hold on to my favorite chord progressions and melodies and shit–a couple I’ve had since as far back as 8th grade–but as far as beats in general, a lot of the ones I think are the dopest aren’t stylistically in the vein of what I do as an artist, so in that sense no, I don’t hold them.
Arjun: Do you make an instrumental with a particular artist in mind or do you make one and think “oh, this would work well for this artist…?”
Mike: Usually aiming, but most songs can crossover a little from artist to artist if the artists have similar lanes. So it might be like “yo I could hear this for Rihanna or Rita Ora or maybe Shakira” as opposed to just one of them. But at the end of the day, I don’t get too too hung up on aiming when I’m writing because if you have a great song, it will find a home somewhere.
Arjun: What is your reaction to having one of the most popular posts of the year on Sunset?
Mike: I hate everyone, so I really don’t give a fuck… No, I didn’t know that; that’s dope. It always surprises me a little when people are with it and get it and enjoy it because the only person I aim to please is myself. I basically just sit down and put different sounds and words together until I can feel serotonin start oozing in my head, and that’s when I know I’ve got something. I’m glad other people enjoy it too though.
Arjun: Who inspired the Chainsaw Love series? Where did the idea of “harvesting all of someone’s nonessential organs” come from (ASIDE FROM ALL THOSE BATH SALTS)?
Mike: There wasn’t one particular girl; it was more a collage of a couple of girls and situations and feelings and maybe a little of me inventing a girl of my dreams at moments. With that said, it was all real and true in some way or another. The whole “you should come back and let me harvest all your nonessential organs”–I said that to a girl at a bar one time when I was drunk, and I guess she was a terrible person with a terrible sense of humor because I don’t think we ended up having sex. A real shocker there. When a girl does say “only if you do it with a chainsaw,” I’ll know she’s the one. Put a ring up on that shit real quick.
Arjun: You talk at the end of a few tracks in the CL series. Is that all part of the idea of making super personal and raw music? Are you calling out someone specifically?
Mike: I think, for me especially, it’s important that people get to know my spirit. I’m definitely not the world’s most naturally gifted vocalist, but it’s like one way or another, I will make you love me motherfucker. And I think once you’re into something and get to know someone through their music more, you start to hear things a little differently and start to see them in a different way and the whole “this dude singing and rapping a little loose and out of tune” gets lost in all of the swag and spirit and rawness and the retarded ass beatz. If anything, I think the looseness of the music makes it a little more endearing. So the talking was part of that, and mostly because I just felt like talking shit.
Arjun: One of my favorite things about your music is how contradictory it seems. Most of “Seven” finds you reminiscing and it’s really bittersweet and nostalgic, but then you also say you’d “murder a bitch if she even mentioned school,” which seems to go against the entire nature of the song. But in a way it doesn’t. Without realizing it at the time, that’s how I felt when I was seven. You kind of used profanity to describe the naivete of childhood. Can you talk about writing that song and the seemingly conflicting nature of your music?
Mike: Yeah, with “Seven” I started playing the chords on this synth pad, and it felt really warm and watery and nostalgic and like a hopeful sadness and when I was playing them I got this really odd feeling that I hadn’t felt in years and years, and I was trying to put my finger on what the feeling was and then it hit me. It was the feeling of being little and loving the shit out of a girl you would never have the chance with because she’s so much older and one of your sister’s friends or your babysitter or something. And at the time, that’s like some deep ass pain. I think it’s one of those things a lot of people can relate to but wouldn’t expect to hear in a record, or to hear anywhere for that matter. There wasn’t a whole lot of thought on the “murder a bitch part”; I just like the way it felt and the twist it added to the feel of the song. Apparently, the head of Warner Brothers was feeling this song for Jason Derulo. Lolol. *Scratches head*
I’d like to thank Mike for doing this interview. Hope you guys enjoyed his responses and the rad new track. Be on the lookout for big things from Mikey Mike.
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