Fresh off an impressive 2017 highlighted by the release of his debut album The Story of Us, indie-pop singer and songwriter Quinn XCII is ready to make even bigger waves this year. After finishing his European tour, Quinn announced The Story of Us Tour Part II opened by Chelsea Cutler. Before a sold-out show on Wednesday night at the 9:30 Club, Quinn XCII sat down for an interview to discuss his music career and how his college experience got him started.
Owen: When and how did the name "Quinn XCII" come to fruition?
Quinn XCII: So, the story behind Quinn XCII breaks down into two parts. "Quinn" is an acronym that I came up with while I was in school at Michigan State that stands for "Quit Unless Your Instincts Are Never Neglected" … I just try to urge people to pursue their dreams. And then, the "XCII" is the Roman numeral for 92, which is the year I was born.
Owen: In the early days of your music career, which artists inspired you? Which artists currently inspire you today?
Quinn XCII: I'm from just outside Detroit, so I grew up listening to Motown music around the house; so The Jackson 5, The Temptations and other classic stuff like that. As I got older, I found my own taste in music, so guys today like Jon Bellion, Twenty One Pilots, Jack Garratt, Jack Johnson, Sara Bareilles. … I kind of like to describe my music as a sort of melting pot of a lot of different genres because my taste in music is all over the board, but it all comes compiled into this one unique sound.
Owen: Looking ahead in 2018, are there any major things you're looking forward to doing, or are things busy enough to where you're just taking things day by day?
Quinn XCII: Things are really busy. … It's crazy with music because it's one of those particular industries where if you're fortunate enough to be busy, you know what your whole year looks like. I'm definitely looking forward to my second album, which I hope to be releasing by the end of the year and it looks like it's pretty certain that it will be. Festival season is another thing I'm really looking forward to. I'm playing a lot of great festivals this year, so I'm excited to keep touring and putting out new music.
Owen: As a full-time college student, how did you balance making and performing new music with the workload of school?
Quinn XCII: Truthfully, I wasn't the best student. Ayokay, who is a really good friend of mine and a frequent collaborator and producer, executively produced my first two EP's while I was in college, so I would skip class a lot to go to University of Michigan, where he went to school. Luckily it was only about 45 minutes from where I went to school, so I would drive there a lot … three times a week I would say and we would just record music.
Balancing school was definitely tough for me because I really sucked my teeth into trying to push music as much as I could while I was in school because I realized that was the time where I had the most free time. I didn't want to be put in a position where once I graduated and had to get a job, I would have to balance that and music, which would've been a lot tougher. Luckily, I skated by a few [GPA] decimals and got to the point where I was able to graduate. I was so happy when I found out.
Owen: Did you always know that you wanted to pursue music after college, or was there another career path bouncing around in the back of your head while you were at Michigan State?
Quinn XCII: It was kind of always music. What kind of sucked about going to State was that they didn't have a music program. Had there have been a music program, I definitely would have pursued that. I probably would've learned how to produce and just the general ins and outs of music. I have friends that went to school for that — like Ayokay for example. I think that he actually learned so much from that program that it really helped him with his career now. Because that wasn't offered to me, the closest thing I had to music as far as a creative "left-brain major" was advertising. It helped me write a lot and just think outside of the box, which actually did help me write lyrics and just helped me be a little more creative.
Owen: Looking back, if there was one night of college you could relive, what would it be and why?
Quinn XCII: Oh wow. There's too many. I was in the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Michigan State and there was one "darty" [day party] we had where it was 70 degrees and when you're in the Midwest, every day that's nice you just try to capitalize on it because there's not too many of them, so it was one those nice days and we had a bunch of people over on our front lawn. Nothing too crazy, but moments like that I always recollect on and I really miss too.
Owen: If there is any advice you could give to students currently in college making music, what would it be?
Quinn XCII: I think just to stay the course of being yourself and I know that's really kind of cliché in a way, but I think it's so easy to get distracted by what's going on in pop culture and what's trendy. … At the time when I was making music in college, I was looking up to people that were doing specific things and for a little bit was like, "I have to be like them" and "I have to be making stuff like that person," but in actuality, if you really want to be authentic and stick out, you just have to stick to your guns and make stuff that you naturally make if that makes sense.
Nowadays, with Twitter, Instagram and all that, it's so easy to just see what's going on and try to fit into that bubble, but if you can try to be an outcast in a positive way and just be authentic, I think more people will gravitate to that. In the long term, you'll be known for something that's you and not just something that's popular for the moment.
QuinnXCII's debut album 'The Story of Us' is available for streaming and purchase.