Less than a year removed from Pittsburgh’s Taylor Allderdice High School — former stomping grounds of Wiz Khalifa — Mac Miller is poised for a breakout. The 19-year-old followed the strict formula of Twitter self-promotion (nearly half a million followers and counting) and mixtapes before hitting the road alongside Khalifa and the Taylor Gang. To date, Miller has rhymed almost exclusively about marijuana and dreams of making it big on tracks featuring infectious hooks and high-energy wordplay. But as he enters the studio to record his debut LP, Miller’s near-exclusive repertoire of fun-loving, lighthearted rhymes is making way for a more mature sound. “Making positive music has always been a part of me. For this record, I want to make that same positive feel-good music that people are used to, but I’m going to be trying different things too,” he tells Rolling Stone. Fresh off a five-month, 90-city tour, we caught up with Miller on the first day of recording sessions for his album, which Rostrum Records will release later this summer.
What did this tour, your largest yet, teach you about yourself and your music?
One of the best parts about making music is rocking a crowd. But my absolute favorite part, and this has always been a dream of mine, is to hold out the mic and let the crowd sing. It’s one thing to hear people sing, but to look into their faces and actually see them having fun, that makes all the travel, the whole road experience, all worth it. Now that I’m off the road, I’m taking some time to just stop for a minute and think about what’s been going on in my life. I like to sit back, reflect on what’s going on in my life, and try to bring that all together and put it into the music.
Are you experimenting with any new sounds for this record?
We actually just finished upgrading ID Labs, which has been my home studio for as long as I’ve been recording. We added a drum set and some vintage keyboards that I’m using on this record, which is something that I’ve wanted to experiment with for a long time, but never had the money to go full force with it. I’ve only been back in Pittsburgh for one day, but I’ve already recorded a track or two that I think will be on the album.
For your mix tapes, you worked almost exclusively with Big Jerm behind the boards. Will you have anyone else producing your new tracks?
Actually, I was just in the lab with DJ Premier and Just Blaze, two dream-come-true producers for me to work with. Whether I’m writing the hook or just putting my vision into play with the producers, I’m always involved in the production. We don’t have a huge budget to hire a bunch of big-name producers, so we’re just going to make-work with what we can. But no matter who is producing, my music always sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. For better or worse, it’s one of a kind.
On your 2010 mix tape K.I.D.S, every track oozes with infectious, lighthearted energy. Are you sticking with that mood for your first LP?
Whether I’m discussing important topics in the world or not, people tell me that my music is something they use to cheer themselves up if they’re having a bad day, and that’s something positive I can bring to the world. If I can keep helping people like that, then I’m going to continue doing that.
When can we expect to hear the record?
My plan right now is to have the album ready by the end of the summer, before my first international tour kicks off in early September. There’s no pressure to meet a date, so I’m going to put it out when it’s time. I would love to lay down some tracks in London, because that has always been a dream of mine. I’m not going to force extra songs on the album if I’m done by then, but whether it’s for this album or the next, I’m definitely going to record in Europe.