Olivia Daniels and Steffaney Wood – Quinn XCII opened for Lil’ Yachty during the Union Board’s annual spring concert. We met with him prior to his performance to discuss the inspiration for his music as well as his beginnings. What follows is a lightly edited transcript from our interview with him:
Q: Can you explain the significance of the numbers at the end of your name?
A: Yeah, XCII is just Roman numeral for ninety-two, the year I was born. That’s it.
Q: How are we supposed to pronounce it?
A: Just “Quinn ninety-two.” To elaborate on the story behind the name, it’s a tricky name to get down, everyone asks if [it should be pronounced] “Quincy” or “Quinn X-CI- I.” But, it’s just Quinn ninety-two. There are pros and cons.
Q: Because we are in a college setting and college students often feel there’s a conflict between pursuing what they love—such as, music or arts—and something that will provide them with financial security, can you speak about that from personal experience?
A: I went to Michigan State and was studying advertising. My parents, as many parents would, were a little hesitant when they found out that I was doing music on the side. They really wanted me to graduate first and have a degree to fall back on, and then go after music. They were totally supportive but also realistic about the situation. They knew that [success] was a long shot in some ways, and there are no promises that stuff like this will work out. I will say though, if you are super passionate about it, totally go for it because I think life, in general, is too short to not pursue your dreams. I know it sounds so cliché, but it really is true. For me, I didn’t want to live my life thinking twenty years from now I may think, “Why did I not go after that opportunity?” Hopefully, I will have no regrets by that time, but it certainly is a risk.
Q: Having attended college, what is the difference between performing in a college setting and other venues? Do you prefer one?
A: I don’t know if I prefer one. The college setting is always more of a party atmosphere, and there’s not as much pressure I guess you could say, because everyone there just wants to have a good time. And college, in general, is just a fun atmosphere. At least in my opinion it’s laid back. Comparing it to another venue, it is more hyper. In some ways, it could also be the opposite. You just have to feel out the crowd.
Q: Shifting the conversation to the national stage in terms of politics, we live in a polarized nation right now. What role do you think music plays in general, and specifically yours, in that context?
A: I don’t speak on too many political subjects…it can get kind of controversial. I want to keep my fans intact and [promote] everyone loving each other. I think artists who speak on political stuff, while it’s inspiring and great and the industry needs people like that, I just want to make my music positive so everyone can relate to [it]. There are definitely artists who touch on those subjects, but I don’t think that’s the kind of music that I’m interested in. Definitely positivity in general is a huge focal point in the stuff that I make.
Q: What other themes would you say are in your music?
A: Well, it’s about not taking things too seriously; it’s happiness. It’s also heartbreak and emotion. I think what’s cool about my [music] is that it touches on a lot of subjects— the good stuff and the bad stuff—and I spin it in a way that it sounds happy. The melodies and the songs feel good but I can still speak on things that aren’t necessarily happy to sing about. At the end of the day, I like the music to sound good enough so you can sing a lyric, and even if it’s not about a happy story, it still feels good.
Q: Does the performer that you’re opening with or performing with have any impact on the material you choose to perform?
A: I don’t think so. I think Lil Yachty is awesome. He’s a total character and brings excitement to music in this day and age. I think our music is totally different…which creates a cool show.
Q: Whom else are you touring with? What does the rest of your tour schedule look like?
A: I’m finishing up the end of my tour, and I’m on the East coast currently. I have about five or six more shows left, and I’m headlining all of those shows.
Q: What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you on tour?
A: I don’t know, honestly. A lot of people ask me that. I love sightseeing and going to different cities and other places I probably wouldn’t be able to see if I wasn’t doing music full time. So, whenever we go to cities, I like to roam around. Definitely, the best part [of being on tour] is getting to meet fans and see people face-to-face.
Q: As a young up-and-coming artist, what would you say about the role of social media in your career?
A: I think it’s so big. Social media in this day and age is so important, whether it’s by a musician or a company or a student. You can use it to your advantage in so many ways. For me, I always want to interact with people and promote my stuff online to the masses. It helps so much. It’s a great tool to use to expand your fan base.
Q: Who are the major influences on your music and why?
A: I grew up listening to Motown music, actually. You might not think that listening to my music. But, Michael Jackson and… Kid Cudi…Chance the Rapper are major influences of mine. I could tell you 5,000 people. I like to take influence from a lot of other genres and melt it into my own music because I love so much different stuff.