Mike Posner walking across America

Mike Posner, a popular indie artist from Southfield is on a “Walk Across America” from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

By Esther Allweiss Ingber

Touring part of the country on foot, just because he wants to — that is Mike Posner’s birthday gift to himself. If all goes well, his steps will take him from the Atlantic to the Pacific by December.

Posner, a Southfield native, is an in-demand, Los Angeles-based alternative/indie singer and songwriter. He turned 31 on Feb. 12. His song, “I Took a Pill in Ibizia,” received a 2017 Grammy nomination.

“The Walk Across America,” as Posner named his adventure, is his next move following the January release of his new album A Really Good Kid. Acknowledging that his decision to travel now was not an agent’s dream, Posner said, “There’s never a good time to drop out and take an extended break like this.”

His sister, Emily Posner, a criminal defense attorney in New Orleans, broke the news about his upcoming trip to their mother, retired pharmacist Roberta Henrion of Southfield.

“My first reaction when I spoke to Michael was: ‘You’re doing what! Walking across America? Why?’”

Despite Henrion’s surprise, she’s not concerned about him reaching his goal. Posner’s always been athletic — playing soccer in elementary and middle schools and lettering in track, cross-country and basketball at Groves High School in Birmingham.

Posner also developed an early interest in music as a percussionist in band camps. He started performing while attending Duke University and interned at a Detroit hip-hop station after his freshman year. Record companies got interested when his free mixtape released on iTunes gained a large fan following.

As his senior year began, Posner was invited to sign with J Records, a subsidiary of Sony BMG Music Entertainment. A school counselor found a way for him to graduate from Duke with enough credits in 3½ years.

Posner achieved fame in 2009 with his hit song, “Cooler than Me.” The three albums he’s released since then are “all different,” he said. “I was never interested in making the same thing twice. I’ve lived more life and learned different things.”

In a review of the newest album, a Variety music critic wrote that Posner “has matured without losing his childlike charm.”

Posner has given impromptu concerts in area parks during his trek. Colin McAndrews

Planning the walk was one way for Posner to get out from under his sorrow over recent tragedies: losing his beloved father, civil defense attorney Jon Posner, to brain cancer on Jan. 11, 2017, and later the suicide of producer Avicii, a good friend and collaborator.

Asbury Park. N.J. — “because Bruce Springsteen played here a lot” — is where Posner and “Walk Manager” Colin McAndrews launched on April 15.

“The city has a nice beach,” Posner said. “And though it was really cold, I got into the water. That meant a lot to me.”

He aims to be past the Rocky Mountains before winter and celebrate the end of his nine-month walk with friends in Venice Beach, Calif.

“The Walk Across America” is advertised on Posner’s website (mikeposner.com), and he puts up photos and videos on his Instagram account. His routine is to start at 7 or 7:30 a.m. daily. Initially walking 10 miles, he says, “I’m building up my mileage to do 20 miles per day.” He expects to wear out several pairs of walking shoes before he’s done.

Fans along the way walk with him and bring food. Although he bought an RV camper for cooking and sleeping, he’s accepted home hospitality for himself and McAndrews.

Invited by a fan and her mother in New Jersey, “they enjoyed a lovely dinner in a house with a big bathroom,” Henrion said. “Michael seems to fall into these lovely situations.”

Something Posner finds fun while traveling is performing free, impromptu “ninja shows” in area parks. The location details go on his Instagram.

The “coolest experience” he’s had so far was visiting Graffiti Highway, the abandoned Highway Route 61 in Centralia, Pa.

“The road is closed down and covered in all kinds of art and graffiti,” he said.

Posner remains close to his family. His parents taught him and Emily about Jewish ethics and responsibility toward others, reinforced by Sunday school at Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring. “My bar mitzvah topic was ‘The Role of Jews in the Civil Rights Movement.’”

He took a break from walking to fly from Ohio to New Orleans for his sister’s recent wedding to Jennifer Vitry. On Memorial Day, he flew to Detroit and gave a benefit concert on May 29. He will continue his journey in Ohio.

“I expect to walk with Michael in the summer,” Henrion said.

While his walk is likely to yield more songs, Posner said he isn’t doing it for that reason.

“Everything that happens in life gets into your art,” he said. “It makes my art deeper and more layered.”

For now, “I’m having a ball and meeting new people,” Posner said. “I’m enjoying every step.”