All the Summer Feels
When Detroit-bred singer-songwriter Quinn XCII (real name: Mikael Temrowski) set out to record his third album A Letter to My Younger Self, there was no pandemic and he probably never thought it could serve as a time capsule for later on. While the songs are an uplifting look back, many will find they are comforting as we look forward. The record follows up The Story of Us and From Michigan With Love, thrust beyond mental health and depression to more acceptance, escapism, and advice, full of nostalgia, sonic throwbacks, and stellar features ranging from the romantic ditty “Sleep While I Drive” featuring Ashe, to the title track “A Letter to My Younger Self” with Logic, a hip-hop, trumpet-laden pick-me-up cheer with 80s arcade-ready synth.
With his own blend of reggae and soul, hip-hop and electronic, and a voice that falls somewhere between Justin Timberlake and Phil Collins, Quinn XCII has positioned himself as a pop act for everyone in the playlist generation. Quinn XCII spoke with Hamptons Monthly about his upbringing and summers in Michigan, what he hopes not to take for granted after the quarantine, and how the give-and-take with his fans encourages him to open up in his music.
Non-album track “Little Things” with Louis the Child and Chelsea Cutler is a total summer anthem. Your sound wavers effortlessly between pop and hip- hop, electronic and reggae. You grew up in Detroit, which is a city rich in musical history. How did your city shape you as an artist from a child through college at Michigan State to now?
I think growing up in the greater area of Detroit and being on the lake, being on the boat a lot and getting to relish in Michigan summers, is a super unique experience; I really encourage you to go. You feel like you are in your own world a bit, and I think summertime exemplifies that. Being a byproduct of lake life really shaped how I make my music.
Influences of reggae and hip-hop and pop and electronic stem from the music I grew up listening to and what my parents played when I was growing up. That laid-back environment was just naturally how I wanted my music to sound. Like “Little Things,” there’s an effortlessness to it, but I am definitely very much trying. I think it is maybe just because the laid-back style of living is what I was used to, which is why it speaks that way in the music.
You had a huge tour scheduled for this year, kicking off this month including a date at Jones Beach. What a total bummer. Do you have some plans since things are on hold with virtual shows, other projects?
Yeah, I think clearly it’s a weird time, but I say that in terms of creatively finding ways to pivot and keep the ball rolling and come up with cool things to do while we’re kind of stuck in our houses. I have jumped on the bandwagon with some Twitch streams and we just filmed an entire nine-show concert. I’m still trying to give fans a sliver of the new music and what it would sound like performed live.
“Second Time Around” is about not having any regrets. You have said this is the most powerful song you’ve ever written. You have also said “It’s never too late to make a positive change in your life.” There’s a lot of positive messaging in your music; you seem like someone who cares a lot about anxiety, mental health and the well- being of your fans, and this resonates in your music.
The song is really about self- forgiveness and self-love and really giving yourself permission to have a clean slate. I’ve always been really hard on myself in terms of forgiving me for things I’ve done. Even if it’s little things, I am always like “why did I say this or do that’.”
Even in the times we’re living now, it’s changed my perspective on things. It’s an ode to giving people permission to say I’m human and I’ve done things in my life that I don’t love. It’s a reminder that you are the only one to give yourself permission to go on.
With fans, it’s been so amazing — I’m so fortunate to get — how fans say it’s helped them with mental health or a death in their life. I’ve already seen an outpouring of responses on how people are living with guilt and regret and it’s a topic I really haven’t touched upon, and I’m glad I did. It’s allowing people to give them courage to reach out. I think it’s a two-way street; I don’t think I would be as vulnerable with my music if my fans were not like that with me.
What a cool combo of your voice with Marc E. Bassy’s on the song “Coffee.” This one is kind of nostalgic about a relationship, or it could even be about something you don’t have right now. Once the storm passes, what are you most looking forward to?
I could give you like a hundred different answers. I’m looking forward to comfortably being with groups of people, whether that’s friends on the beach or at a restaurant. Talking to a stranger. I think I’m realizing I have taken for granted human interaction, really just like enjoying the presence of other people. “Coffee” to me, that song was made here, filmed in my house. It covers the restrictions of quarantine and this time we are living in. Ten years from now I’ll remember the time we were living in. It will be like a time capsule of the things that were going on.