Poo Bear's career and achievements are highlighted in a new documentary, Poo Bear: Afraid of Forever (a title that reflects his fears of getting married as well as not staying relevant in the music industry), which premiered on Red Bull TV April 29 -- fortuitous timing, considering his recent chart-dominating hits. In celebration of the doc's release, Poo Bear chatted with Billboard about his work with Bieber, their two current songs, and what's next for the Bieber/Poo Bear pair.
What was your first impression of Justin when you met him?
I would hear him on the radio and think, “Whoa, I wouldn’t even know where to begin to work with this kid.” I never once tried to write a song for Justin, because I felt like he was so put together already that there was no song I could submit for him. I felt like he was in a league of his own.
So for me to one day meet him organically -- not in a studio but just hanging out -- it created a new energy, because nobody put me with him or him with me. We just met at a birthday party and we got along… he didn’t even know I wrote songs. But somebody played him some music that I did, and he was like, “Wait a minute, who’s that?” Justin just started wanting to work with me naturally, and then he kidnapped me on tour for a year [Laughs]. He kidnapped me, but it was the most amazing kidnapping of all time, because I traveled around the world with him, saw places I never thought I would see.
I’m just humble and grateful to be on that team. Most artists just move on to the next songwriter or producer. So it’s like a proven testament that we have something special, it’s bigger than the music. Of course, it started with the music, but we really have a genuine love for each other, and it proves to me every time he includes me in a project that he really doesn’t have to. He could call anybody.
What would you say are the most misunderstood things about him?
Just his intentions. His intentions are so amazing. Everything in television is about ratings. So I get how they were able to sensationalize small negative stories and turn them into big stories every day for a couple years. At that time he was a teenager, 17, 18, 19, 20 years old -- there’s no handbook on how to be an extremely wealthy teenager. So I tipped my hat off to him, I stood by him when nobody was there, and it just showed me his heart. He has a great heart, and he cares about people, he cares about making good decisions. He really wants the best for people, and his commitment to his friends and to his fans, it’s real, it’s genuine.
He’s a human being, and no human being is perfect. And his loyalty -- I’ve never had an artist that I’ve worked with say my name in a radio interview or any type of magazine or anything. He was the first artist that I worked with consistently who actually promotes me. Some artists want to take all the credit -- for him to be honest and proud of us and all of our work that we’ve done together, to me that just speaks volumes. He’s just so loyal, man, and I’m here for him forever.
What is his work ethic like in the studio?
When he’s in the studio, he’s literally in there recording and putting his heart, sweat and tears into his music, because he genuinely loves music, honestly more than anybody I’ve seen. People love music, but they also love the lifestyle and glam that comes along with it. He’s so inspired, he really gets into the music deeply. And it inspires me -- when my energy is running low, he sends me some new music that inspires me and gets me going.
Is there a song on Purpose that you felt was the most special?
I would definitely have to say "Where Are U Now." When we first started on the record, it was just done with piano chords, and we loved it at that time. And then when Scooter [Braun, manager] sent it out to [producers] Skrillex and Jack Ü and see what they did to the record, where the beat went, it was so new and progressive and refreshing.
Before that song, the media haD tore Justin down so much and I had people around me saying, "I don’t know why he's working with Justin, his career’s done." Then “Where Are U Now” went crazy on the radio, went top 10 on the Hot 100. For me, it had more meaning than his other records just because it was his comeback song. I was just really happy for all of us. We went through it all man, we all put our hearts into that.
With "I’m the One" and "Despacito," what kind of impact did you have on Justin’s parts of the songs?
"I’m the One" started off with something that I created with Justin. It was only a beat -- it wasn’t even a beat, it was the guitar part that you hear in there. It was an idea that Khaled heard, and he wanted Justin to sing it, and Justin wanted to work on it with me. It turned into the hook, and then from that, Khaled took it and sent to Quavo, Chance [and Lil Wayne].
And then "Despacito" -- Justin heard the record in the club in South America and said, “I love this, I want to remix it.” And it just so happens they were wanting to do a remix at the time -- it was really just divine timing. We got some apples with that and then we got some oranges with “I’m the One”… two fruits on one tree, it’s amazing. We’re on our way to a fruit salad [Laughs]. We got more records coming really soon.
Now that you’re working with Justin again and “I’m The One” and "Despacito" are doing so well, do you feel like you’re on a good roll?
I’ve never stopped writing, I’ve never slowed down just because I don’t have something on the radio, or a No. 1 or No. 2 record. That doesn’t mean that I’m not in the studio planting seeds.
I still feel like I’m in the beginning of my career, I have so much to prove to the world, to myself, to God. I’m so focused right now and I’ve always been focused on creating. It’s just about, "How long and how consistent can [my career} be? How can I keep evolving so I’m never looked upon as ‘Oh, he’s too old’?" That’s one of those being afraid of forever things -- being too old where I’m not in reach of the mind of kids. I’m trying to stay a song ahead, two songs ahead of everybody else.
What can you tease about what you’re working on with Justin now? Any kind of different sounds or anything lyrically that you’re trying out?
I can just say that we’re always evolving, we’re never trying to do what was done before. We want to stay on the forefront of music, we want to be the ones that change the direction in the course of music. It’s coming up on two years since Purpose. It’s naturally time for a new body of work. I’m excited for the world to hear what’s next.
Watch Poo Bear: Afraid of Forever on Red Bull TV here.