By now we’re guessing you’ve read our 10th Anniversary Cover Story with the young king Justin Bieber and in the profile, you probably noticed JayBee’s manager Scooter Braun dropping some gems about the star.
Braun got his start by putting together parties while he was attending ATL’s Emory University, and then landed a job under Jermaine Dupri. Eventually he’d become a staple in Atlanta’s nightlife and music scene—and he was sharpening his eye for talent all the while.
Today, in addition to Bieber, he has a roster of hit-makers on his label “Schoolboy Records” that includes Asher Roth and Carly Rae Jepsen (who scored a Top 40 hit with “Call Me Maybe”). He’s also managing boy-band-of-the-moment The Wanted, which currently holds the No. 3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for their song “Glad You Came.” Yup, dude is already mogul status at 30 years old.
Braun discovered Bieber when he was 13, by scouring YouTube and gaining the trust of Bieber and his mother when no one else knew the pint-sized young’n from Stratford, Canada was. During our interview in Justin’s suite at the Four Seasons, Braun spoke candidly about everything from his aspirations for JayBee’s next career phase, to the fears he has as Justin matures—he even dispelled rumors of an alleged “swag coach” on the Bieb team. Oh, and mid-interview Justin pops up for some funny back-and-forth-banter. Read the full interview below...
Interview by Joe La Puma (@JLaPuma)
Complex: How would you describe your bond with Justin?
Scooter Braun: We have a very different bond. The common misconception—because I’m 13 years older than him—is that it’s a little brother. It’s more like an uncle or a dad. I kind of realized it being on the road with Justin’s mom. She’s not a disciplinarian, and he needed that person in his life.
I fully expected him to make mistakes. We all did. At the same time, the struggle we’ve had is that he doesn’t like being famous.
At times, he’s gotten mad, like, “You’re not being my friend. You’re not being fun.” And I told him, “I’m not here to be your friend. I’m here to be that man in your life who tells you right from wrong, whether you disagree with me or not. And I’m not always right, but I’m going to try and do the best job I can.”
As he gets older there is a shift happening, that I’m actually wanting. I just want him to go about it in the right way. I don’t want to have to be the father/uncle figure all the time. I want him to start being on my level and one of my boys, and I want to start treating him like a man. I have that relationship with my pops and my uncle now. So I think he’s transitioning to that place.
We’re talking about things differently. He’s pushing back a little bit more, but I think that’s natural. Everything my family taught me, I found myself repeating those lessons to him, and my goal... And let’s not take away that he has his own father.
I’m with him a lot, and me and his dad have come to terms with that and developed a friendship. I find that, with all these seeds that I’ve planted over the years, I get very proud when I hear him say things that were those seeds that you plant and hope he turns into that man.
I’m proud of him. He’s a really good kid, and he’s headed in the right direction. I fully expected him to make mistakes. We all did. At the same time, the struggle we’ve had is that he doesn’t like being famous.
He struggles with not being normal. He really wants to be normal, and I’m constantly telling him, “You’re not normal, and since you’re living an extraordinary life, I’m going to hold you to extraordinary standards.” That was my pop’s thing. My father did that to me, and I feel like I’ve grown to be a successful adult because I always pushed myself beyond expectations.
Maybe people don’t agree with that, but I feel like, if he’s trying to do something no one’s ever done before, then he needs to be pushed to that place. And when he doesn’t think he can make it, I’ve got to help him realize he can.
Many artists have told me that they would rather be themselves, not famous.
SB: Like Asher?
Asher hasn’t told me that, but other artists definitely have. I’m sure a lot of people feel that way, especially when they’re famous. And none of them that I’ve mentioned are famous to the extent that Justin is. I was just thinking he has a lot of years left. Like, it just started.
SB: I appreciate you saying that, because a lot of people—before they see him, before they hear the music, before they look at everything—just assume, based on 50 years of pop history and the majority of them being failures, that he’s just going to come and go. Everyone—and this is the thing that pleases me—that’s taken a real look, realizes that this kid isn’t going anywhere.
Yeah. I don’t see that. I see him maturing.
SB: Em got signed at, like, 27.
Exactly. He’s 18. He has potentially 20 or 30 more years of this. What does that mean to you, and have you thought about that? I’m sure you’ve thought about it, but does that conversation ever happen?
SB: We have it all the time. Whenever he’s starting to go into a place where I think he’s forgetting that someone’s told him that, because he started so young and started so early, he’s one of the few people on the planet that has the chance to have a career the length of Michael Jackson’s and grow up in front of the whole world with his music.
I think he understands that not only is that a burden, but it’s also a blessing. And he doesn’t want to blow it. We had a talk one time when he was having a really tough time with the fans and not being able to go outside.
He was really struggling with it. He didn’t know if he could handle it anymore. He was like, “I want to make music. I want to sing onstage, but I just don’t know if I can handle this.” We had a long talk about it, and he said to me, “If I can’t strive to be the best, then it’s not worth it.”