The people’s champ, singer/songwriter Quinn XCII sat down with Atwood Magazine to tell us about dealing with anxiety and notoriety, his musical and cultural influences, future plans, and the experiences of the past that have influenced him as an artist.
Stream: “Georgia Peach” – Quinn XCII
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Mikael Temrowski has been building one of the most loyal young fanbases in the world of indie pop for many years.
His artistry has evolved steadily over the years from his early days rapping at college bars on Michigan State’s campus. From his first EP, Change of Scenery, to his latest album, The People’s Champ, Temrowski has brought along his young fans on a journey of self-discovery and artistic evolution.
Some of his projects are perfect for chill backyard-hangouts with friends, and others are high-tempo, synth-heavy apartment-party anthems.
While creating songs that have playful and upbeat rhythm, Temrowski still manages to make a sincere connection with his fans while speaking of relatable struggles and experiences of youth.
His closest supporters arguably know him best for his songwriting and storytelling of deeply personal experiences dealing with young love, anxiety, friendships, and the growing pains that we all must learn from.
Temrowski has collaborated with incredible artists over his career, constantly challenging himself to elevate above one genre or sound and really amplifying his artistic expansion. He has worked with the likes of Jon Bellion, Ashe, Elohim, Noah Kahan, Louis The Child, Illenium, Logic, Chelsea Cutler, Big Sean, MAX, and more.
For how much of a veteran he is in the music world, Temrowski has managed to stay completely down to earth.
Constantly interacting with fans all throughout his career and being vulnerable to the aid of his followers; Temrowski has remained a genuinely nice guy.
Quinn XCII recently announced a run of late summer and fall tour dates he’s affectionately calling his “Dadchelor Party” – he recently revealed that he and wife Macy will be expecting their first “Baby XCII” this January! – starting on August 31 in Brooklyn, New York, and running throughout the fall. More info here, and dive deeper into Quinn XCII’s music and artistry in our interview below!
Stream: ‘The People’s Champ’ – Quinn XCII
A CONVERSATION WITH QUINN XCII
Atwood Magazine: How are you doing today? Thanks for chatting with us!
Quinn XCII: I’m good, I’m good. How are you? I’m out in Holland, Michigan. Just a little lake house that my wife and I have that we kind of chill in over the summer. It’s a nice little getaway bungalow before I have to leave for Europe in like two weeks for tour. So definitely a nice, needed break for sure.
Sweet, I was actually just near there, I was in Rothbury, Michigan.
Quinn XCII: Oh were you at Electric Forest? Yeah, that’s about 30 minutes from here, I would say.
Yeah, it was awesome! You played there, right?
Quinn XCII: I want to say maybe just before the pandemic, maybe like 2019 or 2018. That was a fun show, man. Yeah, it was my first time being there and seeing the whole atmosphere. I kind of had an idea of what to expect when I got there, but like, finally when we were walking around, I was like, ‘this is insane.’ It was a really good time, yeah. Did you enjoy yourself? Was that the first time you were there?
It was my first time, so much fun!
Quinn XCII: We were actually at a wedding this weekend, and we were driving home here, and we were passing Rothbury, so we saw the tents and everything in the parking lot and it just looked out of control, like even on a Sunday. Looked fun though!
It really was! So, the first question I love asking artists is, what kind of music do you listen to? Are you a playlist guy?
Quinn XCII: Yeah totally, I’ve been listening to a lot of Action Bronson, and it’s weird, I was gonna follow that up with an artist I thought would be compatible, but now that I’m thinking about it, it’s very, very random, it’s like Action Bronson that’s a little more like grimy New York hip hop. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Domenique Dumont, who is like this French DJ, like Polynesian style, very chill, sort of like tiki music, I guess is how you describe it. And then there’s Leon bridges. This is all in my recent playlist I just made. I don’t often make playlists, honestly, But I found that when I was on tour, I really enjoyed listening to music when I was showering after the show. It was a good way to come down, so there’s also jazz on that playlist. So just random stuff to kind of get my attention off the show that I just played and just sort of decompress.
So yeah, those are like a few guys that I have on my recent playlist that I made. But being from Michigan though, I grew up on a lot of Motown and stuff. My parents played that around the house, and I feel like that was sort of embedded into my DNA, as far as taste in music. So anywhere from like the Temptations to Diana Ross to Michael Jackson to you know, The Jackson Five and everyone in between. So, an eclectic mix of people that I listen to, but I think it’s good for someone that makes music to have a bunch of different people to listen to because there’s so much inspiration out there to pick from. So, for me, I think that definitely fuses into the stuff that I write. So yeah, right now it’s Action Bronson.
Have you seen his show before?
Quinn XCII: Yeah, his cooking show? ‘Fuck, that’s delicious?’ It’s my wife and I’s favorite thing. We were just watching it last night actually. He’s definitely like a hero of mine, I get a lot of, not only just music inspiration from him, but just fashion and food and culture in general. So yeah, he’s the man.
I mean, he’s ‘Big Baklava’ – how can you not love him?
Quinn XCII: [laughing] He’s great, the best.
So, you've worked with some awesome artists over the years. Sadly, not Action Bronson, yet, but some huge names. Speaking of Electric Forest, you had a song with Illenium pretty early in his career, and he just had that massive record-breaking arena show in Denver. So how did your collab come together?
Quinn XCII: Yeah, you know, it’s funny. His name is Nick, and this was back when I think he was really just prevalent on SoundCloud, basically, as far as like a streaming platform. This was like pre-Spotify and stuff, or like, right when Spotify was still sort of coming up. And I was in the same boat, and I remember he reached out to our management, he sent me the song “With You,” which is what it’s called. And he just asked me to write something for it, and I wrote something for it. I didn’t even know it was gonna come out, I hadn’t even heard of him before. And it ended up being on his first or second album. Yeah dude, and we’d stay in touch but then like every year I just saw his name get bigger and bigger. I was like, ‘holy shit, this dude is skyrocketing right now.’ But yeah man, it’s a cool song for sure. It was a little different from what he’s known to put out. I thought that was also unique, that I was on a song that I think people maybe were surprised to hear from him, but he’s a great guy. He’s absolutely crushing. It was really fun, and I’m really happy for him!
Are there any genres that you are secretly a fan of, like are you secretly an EDM head from working on that song? Or anything like that, maybe you like a good country song?
Quinn XCII: Yeah, I’ve been slowly getting into country, actually. It’s taken me 31 years to finally like, get into it, but I’m starting to enjoy it. [laughs] I started working more with people that are songwriters from Nashville, so I think I’m around it more often now and definitely have an appreciation for the songwriting. But as far as stuff that I think people would be surprised to hear from me that I listen to, I don’t know if it’s surprising, but the Motown stuff I really enjoy.
I think jazz also, like I was mentioning briefly. I listened to a lot of jazz, and I listen to jazz mainly because it’s just like a free fall of music, essentially. There’s no lyrics typically, just randomness all the time. It’s like a really good way for me to, especially if I’m leaving the studio working on something that is like a very structured pop song, when I listen to jazz after that, it sort of washes everything away. It’s like a good palate cleanser, in a sense. So yeah, I think people will be maybe surprised to hear that I listen to a lot of jazz. But I listen to it more because it’s more therapeutic rather than anything, like I do really enjoy it, but it’s more like a medical reason [chuckles] like I do it because it gets all the crap out of my brain and just gets me back to zero.
That’s awesome, I love all the different answers that artists have given to that question. You never know what your favorite artist listens to, it’s so cool to learn that. So, speaking of artists that you’ve worked with that are blowing up, what was it like working with Noah Kahan on “Tough”?
Quinn XCII: Yeah, Noah is great. He’s awesome, man. He’s just like such a normal guy, and he’s so funny. I remember tweeting about his song “Hurt Somebody,” which I still think is one of my favorite songs by him. I know he’s put out other great music since then, but I still love that one. That was I think around like, 2017 or 2018, and I tweeted out that I love that song, and I tagged him, and he had like, a couple thousand followers at the time. And so, we stayed in touch and then I sent him that song “Tough,” and then he wrote his verse. I remember he had to film his end of the music video in a different location, because I think he was still out in Vermont, and I was somewhere other than that, and we had to just like, last minute, get him in the video, but he wasn’t there. [laughs]
So he filmed the whole thing on his own. He was a huge trooper in that sense, but yeah, we put that song out and just stayed in touch. And like you said, it’s just amazing to see what he’s doing right now. He’s absolutely crushing it and I feel like his songwriting has gotten so good, it was always really good, but somewhere along these last couple years, it really took leaps forward. I think really, it now stands out as some of the best lyrics in music in my opinion, and he’s just, he’s awesome. He’s so talented, but also, more importantly, just a great friend and a normal guy and definitely deserves everything he has. So yeah, I’m really stoked for him.
That's so cool that you have famous friends like that.
Quinn XCII: [laughing] Well it’s funny because I don’t think about it that way at all. What’s good is I think Noah doesn’t give off like famous vibes at all. You know, he’s very much still the same guy that he’s always been, even with his success. It’s not someone that I look at like, ‘oh my gosh, I’m friends with Noah Kahan,’ you know, it’s more, like someone I’ve known for a while who is getting more notoriety and stuff. So, yeah, it definitely happened to the right person, I would say.
So I was looking at your Instagram for a little research, and I saw that Ed Sheeran called you out saying he liked your song “Coffee,” that must’ve felt great.
Quinn XCII: [chuckling] No, no, that’s so funny. I’m so glad you said that; did you think it was Ed Sheeran?
Wait, was that not Ed Sheeran?
Quinn XCII: No dude, it was a lookalike from England that we hired from Cameo. I’m glad that we fooled you, yeah, Ed Sheeran is definitely not giving me shoutouts. [laughing]
That’s so funny, he looks and sounds identical!
Quinn XCII: Yeah, the dude looks just like him, which is so funny. [chuckles] Ya, we just hit up a bunch of people on that app, Cameo, for like shout outs, and there’s a bunch of celebrity lookalikes and we reached out to this Ed Sheeran look alike, and then Andy Dick, like the actual Andy Dick, the comedian, he was on there. We got the guy from Tiger King, like one of the guys in the show. We got some pretty crazy people that gave us shout outs and promoted the music, which was really fun. It was just a very random assortment of people. But no, I’m glad we fooled you, that was the point. I think there were comments on that video too, like, ‘oh my gosh, you got Ed Sheeran. How did you pull this off?’ But he’s doing a good job apparently because clearly, it’s not Ed Sheeran. [chuckling]
That’s genius, so funny that you guys pulled that off. So, I wanted to talk about some of your songs. My first Quinn concert, actually my first concert ever, was your show in Chicago back in 2019.
Quinn XCII: Damn, that’s crazy! I was your first concert?
Yup! So, I’ve wondered for a long time, on your song “Look How Far We’ve Come” when you kind of remixed the ending, did you sample the beat from “Another Day in Paradise”?
Quinn XCII: Totally, yeah. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the whole album, but the intro of that album is called “We Made This Album in Newport.” There are these little synth plucks at the start of the song, and they’re from a song called “Native Tongue” that I put out like years ago on the EP that “Another Day in Paradise” is on.
That was the first song off the EP, so because the album’s called Change of Scenery II, we thought, ‘Why don’t we sample the first song from the original EP on this first track of the album, and then do the same for the last track of the album?’ Yeah, it’s funny, I don’t think people are as aware of what we did, so it’s cool for you to have asked that because I wish it was more obvious.
So, tell me about your latest song, “Georgia Peach.” It’s slowly becoming one of my favorites, what’s the story behind it?
Quinn XCII: Yeah, thanks, man. It’s funny, it was actually a song that was meant to go on the album, The People’s Champ, but because of some unforeseen reasons and legal stuff, we had to wait a little bit. But it ended up being a really fun sort of post-album summer song, and I think it was actually better that it landed on like, I don’t even want to call it the “deluxe,” but it just ended up being a later addition to the project.
It’s basically about my wife and just the fact that she and I have been together since college, and it’s just kind of an ode to the girl next door essentially, and someone that’s always been by your side through thick and thin and even before things for me got more popular. She’d always been around me and encouraged me to do things and so I just felt compelled to write a song about her. I mean, I’ve written tons of songs about her but this one was more like, ‘you’re the shit’ type of song [chuckles] and just like full of compliments, basically. Some of the other ones are a little more sad and emotional, but this was more like an ego booster, I would say. I thought the term ‘Georgia Peach’ was really interesting, and we kind of interpolated the original “American Pie” song from Don McLean a bit and wanted to draw inspiration from that record.
We wanted to make something that felt very like Americana and very true to the US and everything. With the summer coming up it was good timing with all that. But yeah, it’s basically about my wife and just how much I appreciate her and stuff. And everyone thinks she’s from Georgia, which was the mistake that I made. She’s not from Georgia, she’s from Michigan [laughs]. That’s pretty much it.
You definitely got some brownie points for that, right?
Quinn XCII: [chuckles] Yeah man I hope so.
I didn’t know that you guys met in college. You went to Michigan State, right? I just graduated from the University of Illinois – we used to play you guys all the time. Tell me what college was like for you. What did you study and when did you start realizing that music is what you wanted to do?
Quinn XCII: Congrats man, that’s awesome! I studied advertising.
I came into college as an advertising major too.
Quinn XCII: Oh no kidding, no way! Wow ya, so Michigan State didn’t have a music program. So, I was like, ‘I’ll just do music on the side’, I guess, and I’ll just get a degree that feels really creative. I went to the creative side of advertising, but I’m happy it didn’t work out because I still wasn’t that good at it. [chuckles] I mean, it’s funny, like, college was such a fair mix of so much anxiety and stress because I wasn’t a good student. The entire experience of college I felt was just like a lot of stress, and I just needed to get by because I know what I want to do and I just want to make my parents happy and get my degree and then hopefully pursue this other endeavor that I have as like a real career option when school is over. So, I say that because like a lot of my time at school, and it was more towards the end of my time at Michigan State, was like skipping classes and driving to University of Michigan where my buddy Alex, who goes by Ayokay, who is a producer, and he made all my music with me. He went to school there and he was in the School of Music there. And so, we had access to all the studios and everything that they had on campus. So, I would cut class like three times a week and go to Ann Arbor and write music with him. And my grades obviously took a big dive because of it. I literally like barely graduated college; I skated by like a 1/10th of a grade point that got me above the average that I needed to get my diploma. [chuckles]
Yeah, so I think in hindsight, I can laugh about it, but at the time, like my parents weren’t that pleased with me. But yeah, most of my college, it was funny man, I think I made so many great lifelong friends and like I was in a fraternity and I did the whole traditional college stuff, but I always knew that whatever I was getting my degree in wasn’t going to be what I was going to do with my life, and that I really needed to like take advantage of the downtime I had in college because I knew that once college was over, I wasn’t going to have the luxury of like free time anymore. I always tell kids in college even though you have a degree, it’s also the best time to try what you’re really trying to go for in life, even if it’s not what you’re studying. Because, you know, those four years are very rare in the sense that you don’t have much responsibility. It’s just, you know, you go to class and stuff and that’s it. I tried to look at it that way and just take advantage of that time that I had.
And I think your second half of the question was like when did I think it was going to become like a real thing? I mean, I wasn’t even thinking it’d become a real thing, but I got more confidence, I’d say, towards my senior year when we put out my first project, my first EP and put it on SoundCloud and like all my fraternity brothers were sharing it with their friends back home. And so, I was starting to kind of garner this Midwest sort of fan base kind of, but it was basically because of Michigan State and just people sharing it on campus and everything, and then we would play gigs at shitty bars on campus and stuff. And just seeing people come out to the shows, like even random kids. I was like, ‘Oh, maybe this is, you know, something that I can really do for a living.’ Like I knew I wanted to do this, but that kind of gave me the reassurance that it could actually happen, so yeah, that’s pretty much it, man. All that being said, I wish I was still there, college was fun. [laughs]
Dude that’s so funny, sounds like you had an amazing experience and really took some chances. So, I know you might not consider yourself that famous or like a big celebrity, but on the topic of anxiety, I’m curious what it’s like being out in public and getting recognized, but also maybe having your social battery draining at the same time? Do you ever wish you were at home watching a show like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia instead of being at a media event?
Quinn XCII: I love It’s Always Sunny, so glad you said that – it’s like my favorite show! Always Sunny and The Office are my two go-to’s. It’s funny dude, I think I definitely am a bit more like, conscientious of walking in somewhere nowadays. And especially if it’s in Michigan, like where I’m at now, or somewhere in the Midwest where I think I’m more well known. It’s funny, now having this button that goes off in my head. I’m more aware of people looking at me, I guess, rather than like years ago. I would just walk in and be an idiot and order drinks, or whatever I’m doing. [laughs]
Now I’m a little more aware of my surroundings and it’s probably for the better, because it’s made me a little sharper and more mature. It’s probably for the best, but it is bizarre though. I mean, to get to what you’re asking, it’s weird to, you know, be approached in public and be approached by strangers and everything, but for the most part, everyone’s really, really polite and respectful and if anything, it’s really awesome and I love getting to talk to people and have them say nice things to me. It’s funny, like I only really feel that pressure mainly in the Midwest. It obviously happens, kind of in chunks everywhere, but I feel like when I’m in Michigan, for example, it’s really heightened, and I’ll definitely be aware that I’m probably going to get talked to. But I would say for the most part it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s too bad. Yeah, I’m definitely not at Justin Bieber’s level yet. [chuckles]
That must be tough having zero anonymity like him.
Quinn XCII: Yeah, man. Yeah, I feel for him. Even the slice of fame that I have, like, I can already see how they can start to get to you a bit. I totally understand how you see videos of those guys slapping the paparazzi’s camera away.
I’d love to take it back to Ayokay really quick. Tell me a little about your guys' relationship, has he been on every one of your recent projects?
Quinn XCII: No, he hasn’t been on every project. He produced the first two EPs, Change of Scenery and Bloom. He was the first person that ever worked with me as a producer, and so we just naturally stuck together. And we grew up together, we went to school together since like the third grade. So, we’d always known each other, but we both moved to LA, and he continued into his own artist project and started doing his own stuff. We actually didn’t work together on the first two albums after moving to LA and then after that, we got together, and he was doing a little bit for me and then eventually we made the entire Change of Scenery II album together.
But yeah, it’s great and kind of crazy to have a friend like him that I’ve known forever and see him, you know, actually have a legit career in music as well and do what he’s doing and touring and putting out stuff and producing for other people. It’s really cool, and definitely makes you feel less awkward in LA when you’re with people you’ve known forever. [chuckles]
I’m sure, very cool that you guys have that relationship. I’ve always wanted to ask you; how did you start your ‘Mustard Mike’ Instagram account?
Quinn XCII: [laughing] That reminds me dude, thank you for saying that I gotta post one today. It’s just like A: the name comes from me just loving mustard. My parents and my friends called me ‘Mustard Mike’ growing up as a nickname. [chuckles] And B: I’m a big foodie. I love cooking and eating, like most people, and I’m very aware of people that do these cooking shows and stuff. I follow some pretty serious blogs as well and I kind of wanted to make a parody account that just sort of ripped on people taking it too seriously, and just presenting food in a really outlandish way. I think some people can be a little snobbish with how they describe certain cuisines and everything and wine and all that stuff. I wanted to just sort of come into it like that and do it my way. So, thanks for saying that, glad you enjoy it! [chuckles] For as dumb as it is, it’s surprising that so many people actually enjoy it. Thanks dude.
Oh yeah, my friends and I love it. Last question for you, is there a plan on some new music coming out? And follow up, are there any genres that you want to experiment and maybe try in the future?
Quinn XCII: As far as music goes, I just got off tour so I’m kind of in a weird limbo stage of working on stuff. But I was working on things prior to the tour starting, so I’m sure that it’s gonna be reworked and eventually released at some point. We’re still trying to figure it out the upcoming year as far as projects and stuff. I’m hoping to have new music by the end of the year though, so I think I can confidently say that something will probably be coming by the end of 2023. As far as genres and stuff, I would love to make a soul album – like a jazz-inspired, sort of like blues record. I think that would be really cool.
I’d love to get back into more like actual rapping and stuff and just kind of having fun with it again. Rapping was sort of the shit that I started off my career with as just a way to get comfortable in front of the microphone, and so I think it’d be funny to go back to that. But yeah dude, I don’t know, I’m really not trying to overthink it honestly. I’m really hoping to make some more stuff that I like, and hopefully it translates to some people enjoying it as well.
That’s funny, I feel like your Google page finally says “singer-songwriter” instead of “rapper.”
Quinn XCII: [chuckling] Yeah, it’s been ‘rapper’ for many years, and I was always saying we gotta change it.
We can’t wait to see what’s next for you. This was absolutely an honor and a dream come true, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us!
Quinn XCII: Thank you dude, that means a lot. Let’s stay in touch, have a nice day!
Watch: “Let Me Down” – Quinn XCII, Chelsea Cutler
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