Mike Temrowski (better known by fans as Quinn XCII) is at the start of a very busy year ahead, but as he plots it out, he says he's "just pumped."
Temrowski's new album The People's Champ is out Friday, and it comes just two weeks before he starts an incredible year of touring, jetting off to the land down under and performing dates in Australia before a number of festival performances and a European trek before he comes back stateside for a North American run.
The singer-rapper, whose Change of Scenery II project arrived nearly two years ago, says he gave himself more breathing room with this new record, allowing himself not just to be more vulnerable but perhaps more honest, as exemplified by the song "The Lows," which he released this month ahead of the album and subsequently performed it on CBS's The Late Show with James Corden.
"I think we're just so conditioned to only celebrate our high moments," says Temrowski, speaking with Variance following the Corden performance, acknowledging social media further encourages such behavior. "Like, that's great. That's beautiful. But I think we don't cherish the negative moments as much as the highs. And I guess that's understandable, but I'm trying to come to a place in my life now where I'm sort of looking at everything from a neutral standpoint and accepting whatever comes my way."
He says that song and the album itself are reflective of that state of mind, one in which he's decided to "take everything that life gives me and trust that it's for my betterment."
Adding that he believes "it's OK to welcome bad things in your life," he says his own journey has reminded him that while you may aim for the best and the brightest, "there are things that are out of your control and it's how you respond ... I think I struggle with that, probably like most people."
The new album features just a handful of collaborations, including Adrian Cota and Temrowski's longtime collaborator Chelsea Cutler, the latter of whom appears on the standout "Let Me Down," their sixth overall collaboration together, a nod to the duo's comfort working together, something Temrowski says is a sign of their willingness to be honest and critique each other as artists and still be friends.
But another notable feature on the album is "Common," with Big Sean, one Temrowski says he tried to get years ago. "I definitely shoot a lot of my shots that don't land," he says with a laugh before reflecting on how that team-up came about.
"We share the same business manager," says Temrowski. "His name is Josh and I've always joked with him, 'Hey, man, you've got to get me linked up with Big Sean,' because we're both from Detroit and he's always known he's one of my favorite artists ever. And he's always like, 'Yeah, we'll get there, we'll get there,'" politely hinting to Temrowski that he wasn't ready yet.
"This was sort of years back," he recalls. "But this album cycle, I mentioned to Josh I had this song that I thought Sean would sound great on. And one morning I was driving in my car and I get a text from Josh and attached is this number I don't know and it's Big Sean's number. So I texted him and we just started talking, and it was really, really natural. He's a great guy."
Five albums into his career, after getting off the road in the fall of 2021, reflecting on a stunning run of shows after much of the live music industry shut down in 2020, Temrowski says he began working on new music without a clear idea of what would ultimately become The People's Champ.
"Looking back at that now, I think I was making the album I wanted to make the entire time. I just didn't realize it," he says, recalling the weeks and months in the studio simply writing and recording with no agenda. "I was just focusing on being. And being present. And making music just to make music, rather than trying to become something or build out this really thought-out narrative and have all these songs and intertwined with them, and there's like this big message behind it."
He continues: "I wanted to remind myself that, you know, you're already your own 'people's champ.' I think we're so accustomed to trying to become something rather than just sit with who we already are."
Temrowski, who had previously been on Columbia Records before signing to Republic Records ahead of this album, says another change this time around is how he forecasts his career or even the benchmarks for which he aims.
"I would have given you a scroll of [my goals] last year," he says. "And sure, there are things I would love to do in upcoming years. But I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself. I think in the past, I've always been so set. Even on tour, I'm thinking about the next tour. And I don't even get to enjoy the tour that I'm on. That future-type of thinking," he quips before throwing out he would still love to Madison Square Garden one day.
"If that happens, it happens," he says with a laugh. "I think I've made peace with that. A word that resonated with me this year has been 'gratitude.' Just reminding myself to be grateful for what I have ... That's what I'm trying to do with this album, man. Just remind people that, you know, right now is already pretty damn good, and you don't have to become something else or look to the future too much, and just what is."■
Quinn XCII's new album The People's Champ is out Friday on Republic Records.