B.o.B Collaborator Bruno Mars Talks Long Road To Success

'I'm not just gonna be coming to you with one sound,' Mars says of his versatility.

Bruno Mars is the man of the moment as the Hawaiian-born singer is currently featured on two of the spring’s biggest hits in B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire.”

Now, Mars’ debut project, It’s Better If You Don’t Understand, released May 11, should keep his momentum going long into the summer and fall with its mix of earnest lyricism and warm melodies.

But despite the usual overnight-star talk, the humble Mars appeciates his years-in-the-making rise to success, which he credits with developing his sound.

“It’s great, man — I mean, the fact that it had to take this long, you know,” he told MTV News. “When we wrote ‘Nothin’ on You’ and ‘Billionaire,’ these are songs that are coming from special places. And the beauty of it is, I feel like I’m a unique artist because I like to dabble in a lot of things. The fact that “Nothin’ on You” is working with me singing over this hip-hop track and ‘Billionaire’ is working with me singing over this reggae track, I think it opens up a lane and lets people know I’m not just gonna be coming to you with one sound.”

Mars initially made his mark behind the scenes as a songwriter and producer — he was pursuing a recording career and lucked into an opportunity to turn over a song of his to an already signed artist. The chance encounter was so unexpected, though, that he actually wanted to decline the offer.

“At the time it was like, ‘No way, this is my art and this is my music,’ ” Mars explained. “They said, ‘We’ll give you $20,000,’ and I said, ‘Here you go, hold that.’ And I kind of became this producer overnight. I never wrote a song before, especially for somebody else — I started writing and producing because I had to eat.”

Eventually he joined forces with Phillip Lawrence and later Ari Levine, and now the production trio are known as the Smeezingtons. Prior to scoring back-to-back hits for B.o.B and Travie McCoy, the collective laid down numbers for Flo Rida and Brandy, among others.

With Mars’ profile increasing, the Smeezingtons will flex their muscles throughout It’s Better If You Don’t Understand, a four-song EP that features collaborations with Cee Lo and B.o.B.

“The journey wasn’t short at all — it was trial and error and trial and error,” Mars said. “It was just back and forth, man. But once ‘Nothin’ on You’ blew up, I had these songs in my back pocket and the label thought it’d be a good time to give people a little taste of what they’re gonna get with the album. The EP came together real nice; you’re gonna get a nice effect of what’s in store.”

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