Ever since he dropped his 2015 debut, Change of Scenery, fans have been telling Quinn XCII that his music has helped them get through their lowest moments.
“As more of [the messages] came in, it was as if the door was knocking on my brain and saying, ‘Why am I not speaking on my own struggles?’ Everyone’s telling me it helped them so much. The fans really gave me courage to [speak up more] as well,” he tells Westword, fresh off two February listening parties for his sophomore record, From Michigan With Love, and ahead of a March 23 concert at the Fillmore Auditorium.
Quinn (real name Mikael Temrowski) evolved quickly from being a dorm-room producer to a bona fide indie pop star. He's built his career on affectionate, catchy and youthful songs. From Michigan With Love is the furthest he's waded into adulthood.
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"With the exception of maybe two or three songs, the whole project theme is mental health," he explains. "The title is kind of me saying, ‘Here’s twelve songs of me talking about stuff that I went through back home growing up in Michigan, and how all of it has kind of not stopped following me — even with moving to L.A. and having a little bit of success in my career.’
“I think I wanted to show that not only has it followed me, and it’s something I can’t just shake overnight, but this stuff — anxiety, depression, whatever you want to call it — I deal with it just like a lot of my fans do," he says. "I just wanted to show them that I’m no different than they are. I wanted to create that transparency and make the connection a bit stronger.
“The record helped me talk about stuff I thought I never would," he continues. "It’s like every day, I would leave the studio, and it would feel like little weights were pulled off my shoulders. By the time the record was done, I had more clarity and just felt like I was finally opening up as a person and un-bottling these emotions I had kept in."
Quinn hopes that talking about depression, pills and harmful self-destructive tendencies will result in something better in life for himself and his listeners.
“The goal is obviously to show people that I’m moving forward as an artist, but I really wanted to impact people’s lives with this project and not only talk about [depression], but encourage listeners to seek help if they haven’t yet or haven’t had the courage to talk about it, or whatever the case may be. I wanted to help as many lives as possible."
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Writing an album that he felt adequately addressed the importance of emotional and mental health tested him as a songwriter.
“The last year and a half spent working on this record, there were a lot of ups and downs with it," he says. "I got in my head a little bit about what I wanted to talk about, and I wanted to maintain momentum from the first record.
“I also think the conversation about mental health is super-prominent right now, and I was really inspired by this generation of young kids right now that are finally making it a point to talk about this stuff," he adds. "Being someone that’s gone through that stuff, this was finally a chance for me to put it into my music.”