Quinn XCII on meditating for his mental health and building healthy habits on tour

July 28, 2023

Interview by Alyssa Goldberg

From a cottage in Northern Michigan, platinum singer and songwriter Mikael Temrowski – better known as Quinn XCII – pops into our Zoom call repping a yellow “it’s pronounced 92” hat that contrasts against the lining of green trees outside the window behind him. The scenery is a welcomed change for the Detroit native, who just wrapped up the North American leg of “The People’s Tour” – a 27-show run in just under two months.

Since his debut in 2015, Quinn XCII has remained one of pop’s most personable stars, characterized by his down to earth demeanor and happy-go-lucky stage attitude. The tour, which has now made its way to the UK and Europe, follows the release of his latest album, The People’s Champ, via Republic Records. On his sixth studio album, Quinn XCII reflects on societal pressures, self-doubt, and appreciation for the world around him. The songs all fall just below the three minute mark, yet overflow with deeper meanings and lessons for listeners to walk away with. 

These themes are best represented in “The Lows,” which holds Quinn XCII’s favorite lyrics from the album: “My highs don’t stand a chance without the lows.”  Representing the classic metaphor of yin and yang, Quinn XCII emphasizes the stability that can be found in this balancing act. “It’s all a matter of embracing everything that life has thrown at you, and I’ve definitely gotten better at that,” he shared.

Standing out from the record is also the closing track “All That You Need” that “encapsulates the message of the album in the best way possible. In a heartfelt, ballad-like tone, he sings: “All that you need is what you can’t see / but you’ve always had it.”

The song aims to strip labels and remind both himself and his listeners that you don’t need to be anything other than who you already are. “You’ve never not been your authentic, highest self,” Quinn XCII explains. “We’re so taught in society that we have to have a goal or put all these layers on top of us to prove to the world that we’re worthy. But I think the irony is that those things actually cloud our vision of who we really are.” 

Since taking the album on the road, Quinn XCII has set measures to protect his mental and physical health – including continuing to practice meditation and mindfulness. 

Quinn XCII first turned to meditation after his move from Michigan to LA following the success of his debut album. In 2017, his sophomore album didn’t receive the same levels of praise, propelling Quinn XCII into a “notably rough period” where he questioned his future as an artist. At first, he’d laugh at people turning towards meditation, but came to realize that “you don’t need to sit on a pillow, close your eyes, and uncross your legs to meditate.”

“You can simply notice what’s going on in your everyday experience, and that is meditation, just letting what arises arise and not judge it,” Quinn XCII shared. “That’s been my way of approaching life now, just letting it take whatever course it takes and not getting too hung up on if it’s negative or positive.”

“I find that I can still help my mental health every day of my life. Rather than just putting ten minutes of couch time aside with my eyes closed, there’s a way you can meditate 24/7 by just not analyzing things too much, letting things come up naturally, and observing.”

On tour, he finds these practices helpful for navigating foreign environments that bring up anxiety and stress. 

Quinn XCII uses these tours to connect with his fans without a phone screen serving as a middleman. His first tour after Covid-19 lockdowns was in late 2021 was a “weird refresher” on in-person interactions, but was completely needed after a two-year break from interacting with his fans IRL. “I get DMs from people who like my music, but being able to finally talk to them in person and hear what it means to them and how it’s helped their battles with depression or anxiety or a loved one that passed away just makes those conversations much more meaningful,” he said. “Obviously traveling is great, but the fact that it becomes such a more personal experience with people is really why I love to do it.”

Lockdown also helped Quinn XCII slow down and explore self-inquiry and spirituality. He got into the habit of setting aside quiet time in the morning to start his day on the right foot, which has extended into his tour routine. “Whenever I am on the road, I always make sure that I still give myself a little bit of time when I wake up to just focus on me and observe my thoughts,” he said. “If my mind is racing, I just let everything come back to the surface and settle down before starting my day rather than just hopping out of bed and getting to work.”

This last tour, Quinn XCII has also had to take steps to prioritize his physical health, canceling four shows due to vocal issues. Going forward, Quinn XCII and his team have decided to book fewer nights in a row rather than performing up to four or five nights in a row. His doctors referring to him as a “vocal athlete” (which was “flattering” to Quinn XCII, who expressed that would not describe himself as such) reminded him that our bodies are very fragile. “Realizing that I’m not invincible was a sad wake up call,” he said. “But as I get older, I realize the importance of it. Being healthy on tour can be very hard, but it's worth investing your time into at least trying. If I'm healthy, and I feel good, that just means the show is going to be better.’

His fresh perspective has also spilled back into his creative process, allowing him to focus on making art for the sake of making it, without an ulterior motive attached. “As creatives, at least in my mind, I can definitely spiral very quickly. And I have to get myself back to square one more often than not, and this new practice of observation and not getting too entangled with my surroundings help let the bad days be the bad days and know that they’re there for a purpose,” he said. 

Going into his most recent album, he steered away from “blowing every day nuances out of proportion,” which he felt “hindered the art.” He was making music out of his love for creation – “purely for the sake of making music.” “And the outcome was an album that I really love now. It’s a good reminder that I can do everything in life for the sake of doing it without attaching an end goal to it,” he shared. 

For people interested in embarking on their own mindfulness journey, or just wanting to implement a couple practices into their daily life, Quinn XCII recommends approaching it in smaller steps. He shares an analogy of a river: “Let your thoughts go by as they do. Just let the river flow and observe it and let it pass. If you try to grab on to a river, for example, and find the answer, it just vanishes in your hand.”

“For me, I’m always like, why is this happening? And that’s me trying to physically grow onto the flow of life when it just goes right through my fingers. So all I have to do is let it go and trust that it’s doing something for the better. And even if it’s not for the better, it’s just doing what it’s doing. The second you get in the way of it is when it gets complicated, and the second you start to judge it is when you start to suffer and the issues arise. So just try to get out of your own way a bit, and let things take their course naturally.”