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The Minnesota rapper has worked tirelessly to get where he’s at right now. What started out as a career that became existent because of an opportunity that occurred at Vans Warped Tour when he was 16, has become a career highlighted by his ability to make art that goes beyond the scope of music, tour with his friends, his current relationship with Bella Thorne, and be the famously charismatic hippy he is.
Mod is currently finishing the last leg of his cross-country Smile Machine Tour that started a little over a month ago. During his stop in Indianapolis, I had a chance to sit and catch up with him about his roots, Mac Miller, his new upcoming album, and more.
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Mod Sun: It’s been fantastic my man! Sad it’s almost over.
MC: You made your stop in your home state of Minnesota last night, can you talk about why it’s important to you to make each time you return to play in your home state special?
Mod: Yeah! So it’s always a feeling of having to prove myself when I play in Minnesota. When I was first starting out, there wasn’t a tremendous amount of support from the state itself, ya know? Like I had a group of kids that listened to my shit, but I would go to Denver, Colorado and play shows then come back to Minnesota and play shows with half the amount of people. So everytime I go back I make it a point to prove myself, and I rep Minnesota pretty fucking well I think, it’s always in my bio and I’ll mention it in any interview. So I just wanna prove to the state that I made it big, not just locally but across the country and world.
MC: And I know your art goes beyond the scope of your music. You recently released your new poetry book So Long Los Angeles earlier in the year. Can you talk about your inspirations and process for that book particularly?
Mod: Yeah, the process of that one was actually different compared to my other books. That was a point where I carried around a typewriter everywhere I went for a year, and I was just randomly typing everything I could find. Eventually I had folders that were just filled with scraps of these poems, and each page in the book is an actual photo copy of the page. What I’ve done with writing and everything is I release projects that are cohesive and get out a feeling I’ve been having. And with SLLA it was a collection of these poems from the past year, which was a really really crazy time for me. Los Angeles in one word for me is temptations, and I’m always tempted.
MC: Always willing to try new things and have new experiences.
Mod: Yeah, and in the duration of writing it I was living on Sunset Blvd in Laurel Canyon, and I ended up moving to Woodland Hills, which is totally in the fucking mountains, away from everything. It was time to clean up, ya know?
MC: That environment is essential for that. So over the summer you released a song titled “Runaway” which showcased a versatile, melodic side of you with introspective lyrics. Could you talk about where those lyrics came from?
Mod: That song’s really fun. Anyone around me can attest to the fact that I make music everyday, whether it’s with myself or with others or for someone else. Songs just come out of me like vomit man, and Runaway was a perfect example. It’s based off the very first chords I learned on guitar, which come from the band Early November. As a musical expeditioner I can teach myself to play anything related to music. Simplicity to me in music has always been something that I strive for, but it’s not the easiest thing for me, I usually orchestrate big things.
But like Runaway, a lot of the stuff I’m going to be releasing has that kind of simplistic approach where I kind of timed myself. So for example when I was making Runaway, Bella was over in New York doing press stuff waking up three hours earlier than me, so I would stay up all night thinking “I wanna send her this when she wakes up,” and I really pushed for it. I wrote the line “one day I’ll be gone and all you’ll have is the words I said,” and I thought that line was special, but I was wondering how I was going to beat that line, but they just come if you let it flow out of you man. And I’ll play it tonight on the piano, and I think it’s the best song on the setlist. It brings people together and I love it.
MC: You talk about some of the songs you’re going to release like “Runaway” and “Burning Up,” what can we expect for the next Mod Sun album?
Mod: Yes, new Mod Sun album is coming very, very soon. You’re gonna know when it’s coming, but I’m not going to tell you. Something’s gonna happen with me coming up, and you’re going to understand that it’s a part of a bigger picture. It’s gonna feel random but I promise you it’s not, then you’ll know it’s coming. It’s my best work, and some of the best work of any artist right now. I say that because I have been making songs for some of the bigger names in the game lately. I’m a songwriter and a producer now. My name has gotten bigger in the industry because of the work I’ve done for other people. I’m really trying to have longevity for my career and sometimes that means making songs for other people.
MC: Speaking of other artists, I remember an instance on Instagram where Trippie Redd hinted at a collaboration with you, is that coming to fruition?
Mod: I have songs that I’ve made for him! I haven’t sent any yet, but we have people who want us to get in the studio together. I actually wanted him on “Burning Up.”
Caskey: Oh shit, remix!
Mod: Cas, he brought up Trippie, ahaha! I’m actually making music for this man Caskey right here, I’m working on MGK’s new album, Bella and Tana’s album. Bella’s will shake the fucking industry. My album is done, but I’m giving myself a chance to write one more for it. Over the course of the past six months, I’ve written probably about 300 songs for Mod Sun, and I’ve known the whole time which 13 songs or so that will be on it, but I wanna try to put a piece of right now into the album, not six months ago.
No joking though, my album is going to put me –
Caskey: At the top of the music game!
Mod: Yes, all around. But you look at people like Mark Ronson or Dr. Dre, people who are known almost more for their work with other people than their own work, ya know? I wanna get plaques man. Whether it’s for my songs or for someone else’s.
MC: You mention MGK, what was your take on his recent incident with Eminem?
Mod: So when something like that happens, you’re kind of supposed to take sides, right? And I’ll be honest, Kells did what’s kind quote-on-quote “taboo” in rap. He dissed the God. Everyone knows how people feel about Eminem’s music for the past five years. Like we get it’s Eminem, dope, but recently, we’re not lovin’ it. And why I put Kells as one of my favorite current musicians is he doesn’t look to anyone else but himself to shine. He stands on his own two feet, and has always stuck his neck out for me and for other artists.
Bob Dylan – who I’m blessed to be alive at the same time as – is a prime example of that kind of artistry. He made jazz, gospel, and at Newport Jazz Fest, got booed off stage for playing electric guitar and playing Like a Rolling Stone. That’s what I’m talking about, he didn’t look to other people, other artists to cosign, none of that. You just have to be real with yourself, and what happened with Kells and Eminem was corny, and Kells was dope, it’s facts. Honesty is power, and as far as good people go, Kells is an example of good people. I don’t see what he does in music very much.
MC: And another thing that happened recently was Mac Miller’s death. You had some ties to him, could you talk about your reaction to that?
Mod: Yes, honestly he did a lot for me. He let me open shows for him, he wore my fucking hoodie on his TV show (Mac Miller and The Most Dope Family). We were around each other for small periods of time. I think my hoodie got in his hands through Tree Jay, Mac’s right hand man. Jay was always showing me love. Me and Mac were never super close, but people close to him were close to me though. But, like we never even had each other’s phone numbers, but he was still sticking his neck out for me like that, wearing my hoodie, letting me open up for him. He genuinely fucked with me and what I did.
To be honest, me and him did our own things around the same times, both on our own waves, but there was never any competition with him. He was bigger than me and I was in a position where all the other white rappers were trying to get at, and I’ve never heard from anyone about having competition with Mac.
MC: He was always someone to bring other artists up.
Mod: Yeah, yeah! He embodied that by taking people he wanted to bring up on tour with him. But his death lit a spark between me and my friends to keep in touch with each other more, to work with each other more, and care more. He was a blessing.
MC: I agree. Alright, so to move in a lighter direction, I’ve noticed for a long time that you are big on interacting with your fan base online and in person, can you talk about why it’s important to you to do that?
Mod: Um, it’s not even like I feel like it’s important, I’m just honestly blessed, I’m literally in awe that people give a fuck, ya know? I believe in myself so much that to have someone compliment me, or to have someone to sit down and ask me questions, it feels like I’m the one being given a blessing. I’m blessed to play in front of people.
So like online, I’m not much of an online guy. I don’t like to sit on the internet and just look at shit. I use my computer to make music, but when it comes to interacting with fans, it’s like code of conduct. Like I’m so blessed to have people see what I’m doing, and I know that they want the best for me, and that’s the best part.
MC: Beautiful. And before we finish, is there any of that iconic Mod Sun advice or anything you’d like to say to people right now?
Mod: Yeah, my biggest advice that I can give to anyone is my feeling of changing the world. It sounds scary and impossible, but what I’ve realized lately is that it’s more important to change the people around you and their world. Anyone of those people in your phone or life that you can reach, those are the people you can help and change their world. To make someone believe that they are someone important and can be a positive piece in this world really goes a long way. The help you can offer to those around you is tremendous.
Mod Sun‘s drive to do as much as he can artistically for himself and others around him is a true testament to his genuine character. The music world doesn’t have very many personalities like Mod Sun, and I’m not sure there will be many like him in the future either.
Junior at Ball State University studying photojournalism.
Lover of music, travel, and photography.