Upon first glance of Kevin Quinn’s Spotify profile, the first seven of his top ten songs all come from the soundtrack for his 2021 Netflix film A Week Away. A mashup of the traditional church tune “Awesome God” with for KING & COUNTRY’S “God Only Knows,” led by Quinn and his co-lead Bailee Madison with ensemble vocals from the rest of the cast, comfortably sits on top with over 25 million streams.
Quinn, now signed to Capitol CMG alongside contemporary Christian heavyweights such as Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Chris Tomlin, and HILLSONG United, is confident that if he were to remove those Netflix-era songs from his streaming catalog, he would be able to maintain his current audience. “The music I’m making now doesn’t feel removed from all of that stuff, it feels like a mature extension of it,” he said. “A lot of the themes are similar. Themes of soul searching and prayer… there is the faith undertone. The expectation was that I was going to make inspiring, hopeful music. But it’s still pop music.”
Christian pop-leaning tracks like “Wildfire” and “I’m Still Breathing,” off 2022 EP It’s About Time, clear standouts of his discography thus far, perfectly capture those themes, and have given him significant credibility as a solo artist. With his new album Real Me, out now, his sound shifts once again. Still, within the Christian pop framework, he adds more singer-songwriter and modern pop-trap-infused elements to a project that hits closer to home than any of his previous work.
My Kind of Town, Chicago
A proud Chicagoan, Quinn credits his upbringing in the art-centric city for diversifying his interests. “Chicago has a huge theatre scene… like, second to New York,” he said. “I feel like any actor starting in Chicago does the rounds in the theatre scene. There are some really well-known theatres I’ve done productions with, like Chicago Shakespeare and Steppenwolf. I feel like a lot of my training come from my early experiences.”
Despite Quinn’s background in theatre, along with a love of The Beatles that has been public knowledge since his teen years, he has come to adapt contemporary music into his repertoire. He recently performed “Blessed,” the R&B-trap leaning lead single off his new album Real Me, on The Kelly Clarkson Show.
“One of my favorite artists of the past decade has been Post Malone,” he said on his genre-bend, citing Justin Bieber’s Purpose album as well. “I don’t know if people would expect that, but I am a religious Post fan. A lot of his stuff has that R&B and hip-hop cadence. I knew I wanted to experiment with that at some point.” On “Blessed,” more Khalid or Giveon than Post Malone in nature, Quinn tries his hand at a sweeter, more subtle delivery as the pitch-shifted vocal sample that opens the track sets the aesthetic before letting the adlibs fly at the tail end: “God knows where the road goes / So when we so low, we ain’t solo / All the troubles… they keep me humble / So when they ask me, I’ll tell em’ that lately, yeah, I’m feelin blessed.”
Other tracks on the project share a different sentiment. “Rise Above,” the emotional centerpiece and overall best of the project, and “Learning To Let Go” focus on fighting through tough situations with his head held high instead of letting himself be overcome by them: “When things fall apart / Like a weight on my heart / The world will keep on turning / but I’ll never stop learning… learning to let go.”
“I feel like the centerpiece isn’t so much one song, but rather the journey as a whole,” he said. “’Rise Above,’ for me, is the pinnacle of the soul searching. Then you have songs like ‘Way Up’ or ‘Give You Up’ that don’t have that kind of depth and vulnerability. They’re just kind of fun pop songs. The way I organized the track listing was that I wanted it to be this cohesive story of what I went through leading up to this.” “Way Up,” about losing your way but eventually clawing back to the right path, perhaps reverts back to a more mid-2000s Disney star solo project-like sound, while “Give You Up” is reminiscent of early Why Don’t We.
While in the midst of these hard times, he found solace in this music. “There was a piano where I was staying,” he said. “As soon as I was going through something, I’d rush over to it and start writing. That’s how soon the turnaround was… it was immediate. It’s therapy for me.” In his quest to find answers, the listener can likely assume that some of the ‘you’s’ and ‘he’s’ throughout the lyrics can be capitalized, based on his religious history.
“It has been a lot of ups and downs man,” said Quinn, in a conversation just days before Christmas. “2023 has been quite an eventful year… it hasn’t been linear like it has in the past. A zigzag of not really knowing what to expect.” Part of the uncertainty was due to the SAG-AFTRA writers’ strike that sent Hollywood into a spiral for the better part of half of the year. “I had… rumblings of offers,” he admitted with a small smile, not wanting to reveal too much. “That was the extent of it. There was no concrete offer… it was more like if the strike had NOT happened, I might have been working on something.”
Balancing careers in both music and TV/film is challenging and intensive, but it seems to have only strengthened Quinn’s skin and molded his work ethic. “I feel like I’m always exercising my creativity, albeit in different ways,” he said. “The muscles that I use to exercise acting are a lot different from the ones I use to exercise music. But, at the same time, the storytelling themes of writing a song and telling a story on camera are very similar. So, I definitely get that creative fulfillment. In music, you have a three-minute song versus a 100-minute movie. It’s very different. If I’m filming a project, I can’t do music. If I’m doing music, it takes me out of my game in the acting world. I keep progressing them both at the same time.”