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Quinn XCII Discusses The Evolution Of His Sound & How He Came To Be A Musician (Exclusive Q&A)


If you've gone to any college party in the last year, chances are you've jammed out to one of Quinn XCII's super catchy songs. Known for his unique sound that crosses over the borders of pop, hip hop, electronic and soul, Quinn XCII is constantly experimenting with new styles of music and following small sources of inspirations like a single chord or a line of lyric. His songs, "Straightjacket" and "Iron & Steel," show that he practices what he preaches.

While on his tour, Quinn took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Her Campus about his pre-performance preparation, his love of surfing Spotify in search of new playlists and who he'd love to collaborate with in the future. 

Her Campus: You have a really distinct sound that’s easily recognizable on the radio. How did you come to develop it over the years?

Quinn XCII: I think I developed it through not really trying to purposely come up with a sound, if that makes sense. I went into music—and I still do this—without really having an idea of what I wanted to sound like. I just sort of made something on my own that was natural, and I think subconsciously, I kind of came up with my own sound. I always attribute it to a lot of the inspirations that I grew up listening to—a lot of Motown music, a lot of early Jack Johnson and Michael Jackson, and even like Dave Matthews Band, so a wide variety of dance-y, soulful, poppy music that I was really inspired by. As I got older, I got into other genres like hip hop and electronic music. I think all of that stirred together are the ingredients to what I make. It's the inspiration that I grew up on.

HC: You’re currently on tour and will be performing at a bunch of summer festivals. What’s your favorite part about performing, and how do you get ready for a performance?

Q: My favorite part about performing is just getting a chance to see everyone in person and seeing how the music affects them on a face-to-face level. I like seeing people sing the words because I think nowadays it's so easy to get messages via social media and think that's enough, but once you have face-to-face communication with people on tour, and you get to talk to them and meet them, it's a really gratifying feeling for me on a more personal level. How I get ready for shows is pretty nonchalant. I probably should warm up more, but I don't do a lot of it. I don't really mediate but more so get in the zone and chill out for an hour before I go on. I don't like to talk to many people. I drink tea and warm my voice up slightly and then just go on. It's pretty loose. I like to keep things pretty chill and not have too many people around me in the green room. Right before I go on, my band will have a little huddle and say a couple of words. That's our little ritual that we do.

HC: Have you always wanted to be a singer-songwriter? If not, what alternate career did you plan to pursue?

Q: I definitely didn't grow up telling myself that I wanted to be a musician when I was older. I always knew I liked music, but I was never seeking it as my dream job. I would write songs and perform for my friends and family. I'd always been a musical kid, but what's funny is that I never really thought of it as something I could do full-time. It was more so like a hobby for me. That really was the narrative through my entire life until college. Then I started writing music and putting it on SoundCloud, which is when I started to see a fan base grow. I didn't ever really see music as a job. This wasn't the only thing I ever wanted to do. I don't know what I would be doing if I wasn't in music. It's funny now to say that because I didn't think I'd be doing music, but now that I am doing it, I don't see myself doing something else. I was never an amazing student. I was never very driven in school, and not because I didn't think it was important. I wasn't very good at certain subjects, and that was very discouraging at times. I always had fun doing other things, and I was always more of a creative kid than into textbooks and analytical thinking. It didn't translate for me, so I think that definitely helped as I got older in figuring out what I wanted to do. I got a degree in advertising from Michigan State, so I guess if I wasn't in music, I would probably be working at an ad agency. Let's hope that doesn't happen!

HC: What kind of music do you listen to?

Q: It's funny because I listen to a lot of my own stuff on a daily basis, not because I'm bumping my own stuff but more from a critical standpoint. I like to listen to stuff that I've made, and see where I can improve on certain things and assess and better them in the future. As far as other artists go, I love using Spotify to find new music. I'm constantly scrolling playlists and checking out to see who's putting music out. There isn't somebody specific that I listen to on a daily basis, but I'm always searching different platforms for new content. If it sounds good, I'll be into it. That's kind of what I always say. I'm not like a picky listener when it comes to music. I use music a lot as an outlet. I'm never searching for one particular person.


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HC: What is your process like for writing songs? Do you have a specific ritual you have to go through?

Q:There's not really like a formula. I always say it's pretty sporadic and random, so some days I'll have a simple melody that I'll record on my phone. I'll use that as a basis and build lyrics off of that. Other days I'll work with a producer who has a cool little chord progression that I'm really into, and from there I'll build off that. Maybe there's a lyric I want to touch on or a word that I really like that I want to build an idea around that one word, or a song around that theme. It's really random at times, which I think is good because the process isn't so boring. It's good to go into studio sessions every day and have a less-minded approach and not think about it too much. It means that you're constantly thinking of new ways to make songs, and there's not just a step-by-step process.

HC: If you could collaborate with anyone in the music industry, who would it be and why?

Q: I would say right now artists like Jon Bellion, Kid Cudi, Oh Wonder, Years & Years. I mention those artists because I think they're really good at genre-bending and meshing different sounds into one another, which I like to think I do the same. I look up to those guys as inspirations and people I aspire to be in the same realm as. But one thing that sticks out to me are creatives and people who aren't afraid to take risks as far as sounds go, and experimenting with new ideas. It seems whenever they put up music—I mean granted there are plenty of other people who do the same thing—they stretch the boundaries of what pop music is, or what music is in general. I would say those four for sure but again, I could name 100 more.



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HC: What would you like to accomplish musically in the future?

Q: It's kind of a weird question because as I further my career, my goals change more often. I would say I for sure want to accomplish things like winning a Grammy or being recognized on a more national platform, whether that's an award or something that's more traditional in that sense. It's funny because at the same time, I always talk about the Grammys as something super subjective, and you really can't name just one person as "Best New Artist" or "Best Song." To me, it's annoying when you see other nominees feel like they're losers in that sense because they're doing so well at the same time. You can't say one person is better than the other because music is very subjective but at the same time, I still want to win a Grammy. That's really long-term, obviously, and an end-of-the-road goal for me.

I would say as far as short-term stuff that I want to accomplish is to continue to play bigger rooms and venues for concerts. I want everything to continue to grow in size, which they are right now. I'm so lucky that they are. I see more fans coming to shows, which is a really cool sign that things are moving in the right direction. I would also love to collaborate with more artists. In general, I think just growing as a person and making the sound bigger and trying to spread it to as many people as possible. I feel like once you get a small taste of success, you want to strive for something more and want the next best thing.

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