The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and Quinn XCII has dropped the titular single from his upcoming album, A Letter to My Younger Self. The album, which is slated for release on July 10th, is a reflection on Quinn’s time in high school—the formative years that, at the time, feel like the most crucial of your life, but are perhaps not as dire as they’re often made out to be. The new single, out today, is an even deeper dive into that time and those (relatable) feelings. “I was really drawn to capturing the most nostalgic part of my life, which, to me, has always been high school,” he tells L’Officiel USA. “I've always loved when other artists have put out projects that feel like a time capsule.”
Mr. 92, AKA Mikael Temrowski (XCII is 92, as opposed to “ex-c-i-i”, as my friends and I have lovingly pronounced it for the last five years) began making music in high school, pulling beats off of YouTube and writing raps to go with it. The Michigander had grown up around music and felt passionate about creative writing; he started making his own music as a way to fuse the two. “By no means did I ever think [music] would become a career of mine,” he says. In 2015, he partnered with longtime friend Ayokay and the duo released their EP, Change of Scenery, on SoundCloud. Their follow up single in 2016, “Kings of Summer,” is what eventually caught the ears of major labels—the track went to #1 on Spotify Global Viral charts, and the pair signed with Columbia Records shortly thereafter. He released his debut album, The Story of Us, in 2017, and his latest album, From Michigan With Love, in February of 2019.
His new single, “A Letter to My Younger Self,” is, well, what it sounds like. “In high school,” Quinn says, “everyone thinks everything is the most serious and monumental decision of their life and everything that happens then is going to shape them to be who they are. In ways that's true, but I think it's more of a reminder to kids who are in that era of their life right now (and to myself) that it's just a chapter of your greater story as a person.” The track also features the rapper Logic, who recently became a father. “His verse is mainly centered towards his newborn son, and telling him what he should do,” he says, “telling him what he would do differently, but also to not take life too seriously; it's just a blip in the greater scheme of things. I thought that was a really special thing for him to say on a record.”
The album, of course, has a nostalgia factor, both through the lyrics and through the sound design. “I wanted to create something that was very vintage sounding, inspired by the things that I was into during that time,” he says. He references the artists he was into in the early 2000s, like Third Eye Blind and Jack Johnson. “I tried to incorporate a lot of the things that they did with their music into this album,” he says, pointing to his use of live instruments on the LP. “I'm pumped to show people what those four years were like for me because everyone's story is different. It's a way for me to shed light a bit and go deeper into who I am,” he says. It’s his favorite project to date.
Quinn tends to write about—and get his inspiration from—his real-life experiences. He likes to be raw and genuine. “I think fans are really smart,” he says, “they really know if something is authentic or not. For me, what's always been important is to stay my authentic self.” That being said, he also likes to write from the perspective of others, with the intention of giving a voice to people who might not have a platform. “I like coming up with stories that I know other people will relate to, even if it's something I've never gone through,” Quinn says. “I think it's my responsibility to give others the chance to hear their stories out.” He also believes in not forcing creativity; only writing music when he’s feeling it. He knows the songs are inside of him somewhere. “I try to catch lightning in a bottle when it strikes,” he says, “and when it doesn't, I try not to get too discouraged.”
Outside of music, Quinn is really just “a guy from the midwest.” He loves sports and drinking, video games (“to a fault”) and Netflix, walking his dog and going to the beach “(pretty basic married man stuff”). Since quarantine began, he’s been taking up new hobbies, like golf, cooking, and reading. “I just finished The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which is really centered in meditation and staying present,” he says. “I'm so scatterbrained, I feel like my attention is just pulled in millions of different directions at once, so I think this was a really important book for me to read. It's been very zen at my house.”
If there’s one thing Quinn XCII wants you to know about his music, it’s that there’s depth, and that it comes from a place of authenticity and love. “I think people forget that there's depth to pop music sometimes,” he says. “While I don't categorize my music as pop, I think most people do, and I hope people are realizing there's so much more to every song that I put out than meets the eye.”
As for what’s next? That’s a little up in the air. A Letter To My Younger Self is out July 10th, and he’d been scheduled to tour with Hobo Johnson, AJR, and Ashe, which has of course been postponed (“it's a bummer, but I think it's important to note that it's obviously for the safety of everybody during these weird times and it will only make the return of live shows more special”). Instead, he’ll take this time to create more music, noting that he feels grateful to give people new music during this abnormal time period. “I'm trying to stay positive and know that this is just temporary,” he says, “I'm trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel and not let it affect my creativity and wellbeing.”