Mikael Temrowski was pleased with the musical alter ego — Quinn XCII (or Quinn 92) — he created when he studied composing at Michigan State University.
He and his producer pal Ayokay carefully sketched the charming 2017 Columbia debut “The Story of Us,” using simple acoustic guitar bars, reggae-breezy vocals and warm, neighborly conversational lyrics.
“Authenticity is important to me, so onstage and offstage I try and carry the same values wherever I go, and I think my fans can sense that this is genuine,” says the Detroit native. ”But that’s what the Midwest does — through family and other things, it kind of shapes you.”
But as the deadline approached for his sophomore album — the recent “From Michigan With Love,” which he’ll tout in The City this week — Quinn began to consider how he could maintain that feel-good persona and tap into the new theme of mental illness that he wanted to explore.
He chose an unusual method. In January, he took new unreleased material (like “Werewolf,” “Autopilot,” “Sad Still” and “When I Die”) across America by bus, from Boston to Los Angeles, surprising fans by stopping by their houses for private listening parties along the way. He filmed the whole heartwarming journey.
For serious Quinn acolytes, it might as well have been a visit from Publishers Clearing House. The secret itinerary of a dozen stops only leaked once, giving one mom enough time to cook a lavish feast for Quinn’s crew and her family.
“I really wanted to see my fans up close and personal, because there’s a lack of that with all this social media and technology, just a lack of real human interaction,” he says.
In one particularly memorable moment, he met a young follower in Denver who was battling some serious depression.
“He’d had some suicide attempts, and we got to talk very deeply about his struggles with it,” says Quinn. “He said that my music was the only thing he could listen to when he was out there in the middle of nowhere trying to get is mind right.”
Since his early university days, Temrowski’s private bete noire had been crippling waves of anxiety, which he’s addressing through therapy sessions, many over the phone due to his rigorous touring schedule.
Through Quinn XCII, he was finally brave enough to explore the sensitive topic.
He adds, “But talking about mental illness isn’t a taboo subject anymore, and I think that’s great. And through this all, I’ve learned that there’s a lot of power in what I’m making and I’m impacting people for the better. And I never want to lose sight of that.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Masonic, 1111 California St., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. April 3
Tickets: $24 to $40
Contact: (415) 776-7454, www.livenation.com