Quinn XCII: “There is no formula”

HQ /
Apr 16, 2018 / Music

It’s 4:30, so I call up the on-site contact for Quinn, Ryan.

He tells us to wait outside, and that he’s going out to bring us into the venue. My friends and I look at each other with excitement. He then brings us to the back of the venue, up a flight of stairs, and into a room, and we sit down on the black leather couch and wait as Quinn finishes his soundcheck.

After some time passes, Quinn comes into the room, radiant and smiling. We stand up and greet each other, and it’s already clear that he is a down to earth person. We all sit down around a coffee table, and we get straight to the interview.

“I didn’t grow up wanting to do music full time,” he says as he finds a comfortable spot on the couch. “I always grew up liking music a lot and liking writing. You know, when you grow up you wanna be a baseball player, a firefighter, stuff like that. That was never my dream job. Truthfully, I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I kind of started doing music. But I always knew that I loved, loved music and I loved writing, and then one day in high school I kind of fused those two passions together.

“I wrote my first song, and it was terrible, but it definitely sparked the first idea of ‘oh, this could be a cool thing to do’ as like, a hobby,” he chuckles and we smile. “Then it naturally kind of just turned into a career, like through putting music on Soundcloud and all these free outlets. It was never set and stone what I wanted to do with my life, but it kind of just happened. Which is cool, but also a little unconventional, but that’s what I like about it too. It’s like a hobby turned into a career.”

At this point, he’s found a comfortable spot on the couch, and we’re looking at our papers, trying to search for a good question to ask. We then point out how he’s been getting some looks in the industry lately, and attention in general.

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“The shows have definitely gotten bigger, I think more people are coming to see me perform, and more people know the words to songs which is amazing. It’s not like I’m getting stopped on the street every day. It does happen, but it’s not an issue where I need bodyguards on me. I’m still very much the same person that I was a year ago in that sense. But as far as the music goes, streamings are getting higher and I just think that my catalog is growing stronger in terms of people getting attached to it and listening to it.

“But yeah, I think I’m getting more looks in the industry if that makes sense. More people are looking at my albums. We’re getting recognition from people that I really respect, and we’re just taking it month by month and taking it slowly. I think that’s the best process; doing this slowly because you don’t want to overshoot your shot and go for the Hail Mary in the first quarter… if things don’t work out, then it’s not like your career can be set back four years.”

As he’s talking, I feel as if I’m getting life advice from a parental figure or something. I notice a cross tattooed on his left arm, and I take note that it’s clear that Quinn sticks to his morals and ideology. “Instead, our philosophy is kind of built slowly and our fanbase is still intact everywhere we go. Fingers crossed, it continues, but it’s kind of our philosophy. Spotify has also recognized me, like it’s put my music on their playlists and stuff. Like I said, just getting attention from big places like Spotify and other artists and stuff like that.”

Slowly the interview is becoming less of an interview and more like an actual conversation; words are flowing, and we’re looking at our papers less. I’m wondering why I was so anxious about the interview in the first place, and we continue to conversate.

“There’s no formula. I don’t have a set method I use,” Quinn says as he describes his creative process. “I could work with a producer that shows me a very small snippet of a chord progression that I really like, and I get really inspired. I’m like, ‘loop that ten times’ and I’ll build off that, so we start from the ground up. Sometimes it’s a little melody that I hear from the producer, sometimes it’s a lyric that I’m inspired by, sometimes it’s something that I just hum to myself… There’s never a set formula; I never walk in the studio and say ‘I’m going to make a song.’ It’s very sporadic and very just spur of the moment, but I think that’s why it’s so cool.”

He is wisdomatic now.

“You never want to force making songs, because that’s the worst thing you could do because it doesn’t come off naturally. You want to be vulnerable when you make music too – you want to try but in some ways, you don’t because you don’t want to force that creative process. You want to let it flow naturally, at least in my opinion. Whatever mood I’m in or whatever happens that day, I just go with it.”

His debut album, The Story of Us, reached #6 on the iTunes Pop Chart. It’s a conceptual kind of album, describing a different kind of relationship on each track.

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“A lot of my music is always based off what I have gone through whether it’s relationships, with a girlfriend or family member, friends, anything… just experiences in general that I think a lot of people can relate to. I try to make sure that everything that I talk about is something that other people can latch on to. I think that’s really important. To keep a fanbase, you need to talk about things that people can hold on to, and assimilate their life into that song. I want to be as relatable as I can – like I don’t feel any different from my fans. I don’t even like calling my fans ‘fans,’ I think of them as a community of people who support my music, I’d rather say. Relatability also shows people that this is something that anybody can do when you put your mind to it and that’s something else that I preach, pursue your dreams and stuff.”

To stay on the same topic of pursuing dreams, we ask Quinn if he has any projects in the making, and his eyes light up.

“My second album comes out by the end of the year, which I’m super excited about,” he reveals. “I can’t wait. There are a few features on there that I really like and look up to.”

We look at him, and it’s as if he can anticipate the question we’re going to ask; he answers it before we say anything.

“I wish I could say who, I can’t spoil it now, so I’m gonna keep that on the DL, but yeah. I’m working on as much as possible right now. I’m also trying to balance being on the road and doing shows and stuff, which is always kind of a tricky situation, but I’m learning as I’m getting more into this, how to balance that. I’m going to try new things with the new album, too. I think my voice is something unique enough to the point that my voice still sounds like a Quinn song – at least, I like to think that.

“I think it gives me the ability to try new things because, at the end of the day with my vocals on the record, it’ll somehow turn out like something that’s from me. What I mean by that is it won’t sound random in a way. I want to experiment with new stuff on this next project.

|The next album, I really want to be able to make more dancy and upbeat, just good vibes and not as thematic. The Story of Us was super conceptual and was about relationships, and this one I want to make sure it’s just a fun thing to listen to. I want it to be about just stuff I enjoy doing.”

Ever since Quinn XCII collaborated with producer and childhood friend ayokay on the notable track, ‘Kings of Summer,’ he has reached the mainstream with high school and college students. With melodious and laid-back songs like ‘Straightjacket’ (which has over 33 million streams on Spotify and was dubbed as Soundcloud’s Song of the Month,) it’s no surprise that he has caught the eyes of many.

“I always knew something was special about ‘Straightjacket,’” he says endearingly. “I think it took the label the most convincing to get behind it; now everyone’s behind it, and we’re making a massive push to the radio with it which is awesome. Hearing it on the radio is crazy.”

The tone he’s speaking in is very prideful and captivating now. “I, bias, was always into it. I definitely was surprised, though. I think whenever music that you put out can stream over a million plays or even hit a million, that’s crazy and insane. Now it’s at like, 38 million streams, which is wild. So yeah, I was definitely surprised. I was confident, but I still think that you have to naturally be like ‘wow, that’s crazy’ once it hits a certain point. I’m just hoping it continues to grow, though.”

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We then ask him what and who inspires him to pursue music.

I would say definitely ayokay, who’s my friend, producer. He executive produced everything up until my debut album, The ‘Story of Us’. My EPs, ‘Change of Scenery’ and ‘Bloom’, he produced. That kind of got my name out there in the music community and industry.

|He was responsible for all the beats behind that, so I’d definitely have the credit him at #1, because he’s always been my corner for my sound and like, having faith in me. He’s always motivated me to try new things and stuff, so yeah. We’re always working together. I would say also my family and fiance and just close people in my life that don’t even associate with the music industry.

||They’re just supporting me. Without them, I could definitely see myself, at times, getting down. I got down on myself way too much early on, naturally, just with doubts and such. It is hard to make a name for yourself, especially in music, so trying to find ways to stand out and stuff, I always struggled at first.

“Also, my manager Jesse; he’s great. Him and ayokay, I would put at my top two supporters for sure, and family and people who push me to keep going. They helped make all of this happen, on top of my amazing talent of course.”

Attention from his singles has aided him in selling out the majority of concerts in his recent string of shows across the United States, The Story of Us Part II Tour.

“I think touring builds your confidence, like when talking to fans, and recording and doing interviews like this. You just kind of gain a better sense of who you are as an artist and person when on tour. I think it builds your character more. Now this being my second headlining tour, it really helps with stage presence, for example. It really helps with how you project yourself towards your audience because they’re all strangers at the end of the day. You want to make sure that they’re comfortable with you on stage and make it seem like it’s almost your house and you’re inviting them into it.

“You want to make sure that they feel like they’re at home and they’re relaxed and uncomfortable, because if they see that you’re uncomfortable then they’re going to feel the same as well.

“It’s like when you see somebody doing a speech in class and they’re clearly nervous, and you’re at your desk thinking ‘now I’m nervous!’ It’s the same thing with music, so you definitely want to be comfortable and conscious of shows, for sure. I’ve been the opener for two tours, and it was great; a really cool learning experience. It really helped me with becoming a headliner. It’s totally different, though. It makes you feel as if you’re not the center of attention, which is good in a way because it humbles yourself a bit and makes you appreciate getting to this point more.

“Like, I toured with Louis the Child as the opener. We were in this little van, and we got the worst seats on the bus, and I was in the very back in the corner using my backpack as a pillow. It was terrible. I don’t think you can appreciate now sleeping on a bus where it’s comfortable until you do stuff like that. Anything in life, really; until you suffer a bit and work hard, it makes it so much sweeter when you get to the point of where your goals are being accomplished.

“I’ve always wanted to be on a tour bus, and now we finally are, playing big shows as a headliner and not just being the person on the side stage watching the headliner perform. It definitely feels a lot sweeter that I had to go through that stuff to get to this point which is nice.”

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Our time is almost up, and my friends and I are wishing that we can stay and talk to Quinn longer, but we’re aware that he’s on a schedule. His show starts in a couple hours, so we decided to ask about how he feels when he gets on stage.

“It’s more of an exciting anxiousness. Although I hate roller coasters, it’s kind of like that.”

We point out that that’s the exact same comparison we made when describing the feeling we had before the interview, and he laughs.

“You know it’s going to be awesome, but when you’re on the roller coaster and the thing cranks up and you’re going up… It’s like butterflies. You’re not scared, you just have that anticipation. I think that I’ve gotten to that point that that’s what it is, but for a while, I was nervous for sure. I had stage fright for a small part of my career, which is terrible. Until you hit the stage, though, it all goes away and you feel like you’re at home.”

It’s nearly 6 now, and we have to say goodbye to Quinn so that he can prepare for a meet and greet with his supporters. We take a picture together, say goodbyes, and exit the door. As we walk down the flight of stairs and walk around back to the front of the venue, we laugh about how nervous we felt before the interview.

With a distinctive sound, genuine stage presence, and a down to earth personality, it is no surprise that Quinn XCII will be the “next big thing” when it comes to pop, soul, and electronic music.

If I were you, I’d listen to him and buy tickets before all his shows sell out.

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Words by HQ

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