When QUIÑ enters the VIBE headquarters a little after the scheduled interview time, the petite bombshell with a blonde pixie cut is only flanked by a team of two. She hugs nearly everyone in the small office (which admittedly seems a little unusual at first), but as she begins to shed the layers she’s built up in defense of New York’s brisk weather and even colder attitude, it’s clear to see that warm and embracing aura is just a part of QUIÑ being herself.
It doesn’t take much to get QUIÑ talking. With just one question, the artist, hailing from Cali’s Bay Area, erupts into a long-winded story. And although it’s hard to get a word in at times, it’s actually refreshing to hear more than one-liners.
She wasn’t always so vocal, though. Many years back, when she was just a voice among many in gospel choir, QUIÑ was a soft-spoken child with a phobia of attention. Despite realizing she had a voice that could master runs that only Brandy and Aaliyah had attempted at the time, she wasn’t willing to share it with anyone else. Her humble beginnings don’t sound like a story for a star in the making, but after years of confronting her biggest fears and embracing her insecurities, she was able to blossom into the singer-songwriter that she is today.
Now, QUIÑ is a talent to watch. In a matter of years, she’s been able to distinguish her own sounds, pulling jazz, electro and R&B influences from her musical pocketbook. No longer taking a backseat to her fears, she’s already dropped electric singles like “Over Again” featuring G-Eazy and “Math.” And that’s only a taste of the strong sense of confidence in and self awareness that she has to offer on her debut EP, GALACTICA. “I gained enough trust in my tastes that I could say this is good,” the singer says. “And if you don’t agree, that’s good too. You don’t have to understand my point of view, but it’s love and respect anyways. I could see why you might think that’s weird, but I think it’s tight.”
QUIÑ, finally cozy in her element, opened up about her relationship with music, embracing her fears, and what’s to come on her GALACTICA.
VIBE: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with music and how that has shaped your career path thus far?
QUIN: I’ve always had a very personal relationship with music to the point where it was so personal with me that I didn’t notice it as a thing. It was such a normal thing like a freckle on my face. Growing up, my dad had jam sessions; he played the congas and the trumpet. My mom was an artist in her own way. She did all types of dance. I was around all these really cool artistic adults in their 30s, and I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t have siblings until I was six. So growing up with that, I never really noticed it was anything special. In kindergarten, I sang in an Episcopal choir. It was a lot of heavy falsetto going on, harmonizing in different languages, and I think that naturally instilled this comforting thing, harmonizing with other voices.
[But] I didn’t show emotion ever, so no one could ever tell I was enjoying anything. It was something I programmed myself to do. I don’t know why, but I was a very shy child. I kept all that joy to myself, but inside I was loving every single second of being able to sing with these voices, but never thought of singing alone. It wasn’t one of those things where there was this dream that I was going to be this superstar ever; it wasn’t a dream of mine. Attention was not something I loved at all. So moving forward into high school, I did gospel choir, and that really forced me to have to meet my diaphragm and learn how to use that. It was a whole opposite thing of what I was used to. So I was subconsciously getting all of this training that I didn’t realize that I was going to need in the future. But it’s cool that I have that. That was kind of the beginning of me. I was really quiet and spent my lunch times in the choir room. My choir teacher loved me and I loved him, Mr. Douglas. He pushed me really hard. He’s half the reason why I am who I am honestly because I was so scared of myself.
You mentioned your dad and your choir teacher pushing you to showcase your talent, but when did you realize you had a gift?
I always knew I could sing. It’s not one of those things where it was so hidden that I didn’t know. I was very aware, and I loved it, but I didn’t like people noticing. It was just for me, and I wasn’t going to share. I was such a Scorpio baby. My mom knew me very well, and she was always like ‘don’t look at her; don’t touch her. Don’t go over there.’ I would sing at the top of my lungs, but it was all about being in a bubble and automatically feeling invisible, which was comfortable for me. Once I got to the seventh grade and I was able to stay up on my mom’s computer and practice on GarageBand, I was obsessed with my recording voice. Listening to Beyonce’s runs or Brandy’s, I was like I can do that. I was obviously born with this, but I had such a fascination for it. I always knew [I had a talent], but it wasn’t until I was 19 years old [that] I was like ‘alright, get over yourself.’ I’m glad I was able to live a life without being pressured by it. Now it’s like ‘boom, now you’re ready!’
Who are some of your influences?
Sound-wise, I’m really influenced by my feelings. But in the beginning of time, it was really whatever my parents listened to. So Chicago the Band and Evita the soundtrack was one of my all time favorites. Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Yentil, Brandy, Erica, TLC and Aaliyah. Aaliyah and Ciara, interestingly enough, they were the ones that let me realize that belting your voice doesn’t prove that you can sing, and using falsetto doesn’t mean you can’t sing. I learned this meaning of tone. And you know who I also loved who is super underrated? Keri Hilson because her runs are freaking crazy!
You describe your sound as Fantasy Soul. What does that mean, and what drew you to that category?
Everything that I’ve ever made up is for convenience for myself, like hair or make-up or outfit or genre. For a minute I literally didn’t know what to say [when people ask how to describe my sound]. So I was like you got to come up with a better answer than ‘I don’t know’; it’s not cute. [Fantasy Soul] sounds like what it looks like and what it is. I realized it was a perfect projection of myself because I’m projecting what I am on the inside. And there’s no other questions because it’s infinite; it’s totally versatile. It’s as many things as you want it to be without putting it into a box. I think that people need one more genre to relate to. Clearly I made it up because I needed that, but it’s not just mine obviously. People need to relate to something. Let me just make this box that now we can all climb in when we don’t know what to say. My brain does live in fantasy land. I have had all these theories for myself in a pretend world in my head that slowly throughout this little journey, I’ve been confirming. I just tell stories, and it’s coming from my soul because my soul knows best, and I’m just kind here trying to catch up to that.
So you have a new project out, GALACTICA, and that seems to be the next phase of introducing Fantasy Soul to large audiences? Can you talk a little about the album?
[GALACTICA is] going to be the first chapter of this whole universe that I created. It’s based in space and I created this volcanic space island setting that might have other lands in it. I teamed up with one of my good friends Nielson Nichol and he brought it to life.
How did you come up with this concept?
I had a vision about it, and I went there in my mind you could say. That was trippy, and it was kind of like a lucid dream. I had this vision and the way that this vision was handed to me, it was like from all different types of vantage points and so I was on the island but I also zoomed out so far that I was able to see a little Neverland. I was like ‘whoa, that was crazy.’
What does the writing process for this fantasy soul (and GALACTICA) look like?
It’s my favorite thing to do; it’s the perfect puzzle. Probably anybody who creates for themselves makes fantasy soul music. So I’m pretty sure there’s a lump of us that do it like this. There’s multiple ways, but lately I’ve just been really blessed to have people around me that automatically know what I like. My [friends], they’ll play me something and the sound inspires melodies and melodies inspire syllables. And the syllables inspire the words because you can go in with syllables and lay down a complete gibberish track and it’s perfect. For example, on “Math,” it’s a perfect example of my creative process because by the end of the song, [it’s] the gibberish that I never put where it’s due. That’s how I make all my songs. I’ll just do flows like that, and then in the flow will be clues to what I’m either trying to talk about or what I should talk about. It’s a clue to a story. I’m really playing a game with myself all the time, and it’s so fun. I love the rhythm of words, and I love filling in the blanks because I’m a word nerd. After you fill in the blanks then you’re like holy sh*t this is really cool song.
You and G-Eazy have teamed up a number of times. How was working with him?
We’re cool. It started with Tumblr girls, and then it was like oh sh*t you make music and it’s really good. We were always just homies. And then it went from that to doing the “Think About You” record that me and Gnash originally did. I was playing it for a friend, and they were like ‘play it again!’ It’s so funny because it’s this love song and [G-Eazy] was like, ‘this song is dope; I want it on the album.’ Then I made “Over Again” a year ago, and it was just really smooth. I was like I’m going to call G because this is a really good song, and I can’t picture anybody else on it. I wasn’t even thinking about who could I feature [on it]. He just popped in my head. I never want anything to be unnatural because I want a feature or anything like that. It’s like if you f**k with this song, which you probably will because it’s a good one, get on it. And if you don’t, it’s all good. He hit me the next day with a verse. So that naturally worked out really well.
Who would be your ideal features?
Kendrick. Shoot, if Jay Z jumped on a song that’d be dope. Me and Syd [tha Kyd] got some songs. It’s fun to create with another woman because when do you ever get to do it? There’s so many boys around. So it’s totally a breath of fresh air. We can actually brainstorm together and write the whole song.
What are you most excited for people to hear on the project?
I’m just excited for people to get a good story. Not for once, but I feel like at least they have something to listen to. It feels good, it sounds good. It’s fun and it’s a story. It’s like a space ride, and I’m just trying to take us there.