Okay, so Braun is Bieber’s manager — it’s his job to make sure that people care about Bieber in five years, fifteen years, forever-ever. But when I first met Braun in 2009 at the taping of “Christmas in Washington” where Bieber made his national television debut, the then-28-year-old manager had an impressive game plan to launch Bieber to superstardom that quickly became reality.
Two years later, Bieber was back in Washington to perform at the National Building Museum. I caught up with Braun at last Sunday’s taping and asked him how he plans to help transform Bieber into an grown up pop star.
(“Christmas in Washington” airs on TNT tonight at 8 p.m.)
We were here two years ago and you seemed to have a very carefully composed plan for how you wanted this guy’s career to go — and it worked.
I knew exactly where it was going to go. The next phase is what I’m interested to see. I knew we could get it here... It’s like raising a kid. It’s like less about me coaching him now and hoping I gave him all the proper tools to take it to the next level. The next step is him becoming an adult artist. My pops raised me until I was 18 and gave me the proper tools to become a man and make the right decisions on my own. Now that [Bieber] is becoming a man, it’s not like [I’m managing] every little detail. I’m giving him more freedom. He’s being more opinionated about stuff. And I like that.
So what is the next step for him?
I think the Christmas album is part of it... A lot of very critical reviewers listened to the album and said how good it was. He has a different, more mature voice. Songs like “Christmas Eve” are very mature. And he wrote these songs. So I think the next phase, it’s going to be a little bit interesting because he has to step out a little bit. What I’ve talked to him about is the Michael Jackson model: Never lose the young fans, only gain the older ones. So I don’t think we’re going to do anything to alienate his fan base. But I think at the same time, he’s just going to grow up naturally. I think that’s the secret. His fans are growing up with him and people are shocked to see the average fan base is older than they thought. That’s because these kids are growing up with him.
You just said he has to “step out.” Do you mean step away from the spotlight for a moment?
I think he’ll step out and do film for a little bit and do film for a little bit... But I mean step out on his own. Step out and say, ‘This is really who I am.’ And I think he’s been doing it. I don’t know a teenager, ever, who had to grow up in front of the world by themselves like he did. He’s growing up in front of the whole world and at one point in your life you step up and say, ‘I’m a man now.’ I think that’s coming for him. And he doesn’t just get to do that quietly. He’s going to be doing it as a very public figure.
People always ask me, ‘Is Justin Bieber really going to be around in five years?’ Is there any anxiety in your camp about how to overcome that skepticism and make it happen?
Justin once told me... “They don’t hate me, they hate the idea of me. ” I Thought that was very mature of him. He’s very aware. He’s very aware that when people give his music a chance, he wins them over. It’s not like they dislike him. They dislike the last 40 years of pop music where most kid acts don’t translate. But I think he’s translating. He already is in a major way. His record sales aren’t just kids. Adults enjoy his music and college girls enjoy his music. My girlfriend is 29 and her friends all love his music... I don’t really have anxiety. People are going to choose to grow with him or not. And I think as long as he stays true to himself, he’s going to be fine.