Life is moving fast for Quinn XCII, an indie and pop singer/songwriter. Originally from Detroit, he’s made a name for himself not only in his hometown, but also in Los Angeles and now, nationally, headlining his own tour from coast to coast. During a recent visit to New York City while staying with Arlo, the rising artist stopped to talk about his influences, his songs, and the story behind his name.
Where does the name Quinn XCII come from…and how do you pronounce it?
It’s pronounced Quinn Ninety-Two. Quinn is an acronym my professor in college used to preach that stands for Quit Unless Instincts are Never Neglected, which basically just means if there’s nothing inside you telling you to quit pursuing something, don’t. XCII is the Roman numeral 92, which is the year I was born.
Which artists influence your music?
I’m from Detroit, so my parents were always playing soul music and Motown around the house—Michael Jackson, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, and so on. I was definitely inspired by that sound at an early age, and still am. But as I grew up and started finding my own music, I started listening to a wider range of stuff—everything from Jack Johnson to Kid Cudi, and more recently Oh Wonder, Jack Garrett, Leon Bridges and Jon Bellion. I consider all of them inspirations, and I think the diversity of my influences definitely shows in my music.
Do you ever get nervous before going on stage?
I don’t really get nervous before shows anymore, especially my own, but there’s always the occasional situation whether it’s a festival or new market where I feel it a little. There’s always a sense of eagerness and excitement though before I go on stage and that won’t ever change.
What’s the vibe while filming your music videos?
Music videos are actually pretty serious in that I want to make sure the director and I and everyone else are clicking and getting the vision down as accurate as possible. That being said I always enjoy working with a crew of talented people and we always try and make the set as laid back as possible.
What’s one of the most fun moments you remember from a concert?
I’d say the funniest moment for me at a show—while there have been a slew of them—has to be when I was asked to chug a Smirnoff ice on stage on one knee from a crowd member. Very unexpected!
You’re currently on “The Story of Us” Tour. How’s life on the road?
I’ve done 3 tours before this —one other as the headliner last spring, and two in 2016 supporting other artists. This is my first nationwide headline tour so it’s been really exciting and a big step up. First time on a tour bus, bigger production, bigger rooms….My debut album came out in September so I’m playing a lot of new music from the project, and it’s a whole different show than my past tours. This whole tour sold out in advance which is just surreal, and seeing everything grow the way it is has from tour to tour has been incredible—I’m really grateful.
How are you liking the music-making scene in Los Angeles?
It’s very collaborative and creative in LA, so I’ve learned a lot from being out here and working with new people. But one of the most important things to me is finding the balance between that and also keeping my sound and vision intact. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype here: chasing the “hits,” and having people try and change your direction. I’m always mindful of that, and don’t let being here get in the way of what I want my music to sound like and stand for.
Your song “Straightjacket” mentions a “psycho from a midwest suburb?” Who is that?
Ha! That’s in reference to someone I dated years ago and definitely learned some lessons from.
Do you miss anything about living in Michigan?
I miss my friends and family for starters, but I also really miss the changing seasons, especially the frigid winters (which I know to most will sound crazy). It’s definitely a special place for me.
What would you say to anyone trying to make it as an artist right now?
Don’t give up. Realize that it takes years to hone your craft, and the only way to stand out from the crowd is to work harder. It’s such a competitive industry that requires so much more than just having a good voice or making one good song. Create your own sound and keep your artistic integrity. A lot of people try and create what’s working for other people because they think you have to put out what’s “hot” at the moment. If you’re trying to do something another artist is already doing, you’re too late to that sound. Instead take all your influences and use them to make something new and unique.
Stay up do date with Quinn XCII on his website, and follow his musical adventures on Spotify, below, and Instagram!
Photos via @quinnxcii on Instagram.