Let’s get straight to the reductive bits, shall we? Quinn Christopherson is a singer-songwriter from Anchorage, Alaska, the youngest of four children born there to Native parents—his mother is Ahtna Athabascan, from the state’s interior; his father is Iñupiat, from the Northwest Arctic. Quinn is also trans, a man who first endured a lifetime of strangers trying to reduce him to this gender or that. To summarize: Quinn Christopherson is a trans Native singer-songwriter from the largest city in the 49th state. Fascinating but that can’t be it, right? As with anyone else in the world, Quinn is more than the sum of some othering demographics.
To wit, Quinn’s electrifying and important debut, Write Your Name in Pink, squares up to this quandary again and again: How do you own the parts of your identity that make you who you are while also acknowledging that they are all mutable and that you are ever-new, always in flux? Each of these dozen arcing and engrossing pop wonderlands reveals another facet of who Quinn has been, is now, or might still be—a daughter, a son, a kid, an uncle, a spouse, a bandleader, a singer in search of songs that remind we are all capable of evolving in fundamental ways. Maybe that’s his mom, Tawny, becoming Celine Dion for a night down at the local karaoke joint during (what else?) “Celine.” And, of course, it’s Quinn himself becoming enough of an adult to long for the relative innocence of his difficult teenager years, as he does during the guileless “2005.” All these songs are wrought from assorted pains of the past, notes on hardships given to ecstatic melody; together, they point to the possibility of what’s to come.
Quinn came to storytelling long before music, per se. As a kid, family gatherings were extended story swaps as much as anything else, his relatives exuberantly sharing their experiences; storytelling is a core component of Quinn’s culture, a way for one generation to impart values and history to the next. He began funneling his own tales into poems, a practice he pursued contentedly until his father, Glenn, gifted him a guitar when he was 20. Local dive bars and open mics offered entrée into a scene and, better still, a longtime partnership with fellow songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Carpenter, who remains his closest collaborator and bandmate. (A new classic in the pantheon of touring anthems, “Take Your Time” is actually Quinn’s loving ode to Carpenter, as they eat oats and crack jokes during late-night, long-distance hauls.)
Perhaps that slow arrival explains the effortless sweep of Write Your Name in Pink, where songs so entwined with deeply intimate experiences bloom into communal anthems. During “Evelene,” Quinn empathizes with the growing pains of a childhood neighbor giving herself to suspect older men, noting he’s had those same empty feelings. “You don’t need a man to have a good night/I watch your hair blend in with the sky,” he sings in a chorus that launches itself like a rocket into danceable heights. “True Friend” begins as a somber piano reflection on the dangers of fleeing your childhood home, from postage-stamp-apartment landlords to those “nice” dudes who turn dangerous. But the hook is a thankful celebration of solidarity, of the transformative magic of showing up for one another. Write Your Name in Pink puts Quinn in league with Perfume Genius and Majical Cloudz, songwriters who have also used intricate and absorbing pop to explore tangles of identity and experience. Quinn, though, is more bright-eyed, the benefit of always turning toward the horizon. You can hear it when he talks, and you can feel it when he sings.
Quinn writes with the precision of Joni Michell or the Mountain Goats, his exacting details giving the songs a depth and believability that’s relatable, though your own circumstances will no doubt be different. Opener “Thanks” is Quinn’s winning love letter to his partner, Emma, so specific he confesses to arachnophobia and bouts of crippling self-doubt above sequenced synths that blossom like love itself. “Simple” is a heartfelt ballad of hoping to provide for someone who once did their best to provide for you—in Quinn’s case, his mother; he puts you in a motel room with her, down on her cash and luck but still trying to match anklets to toe rings above “those nice jeans.” You pull for her, for them. You pull for her, for them. There’s the sweetly winning “Kids,” a wishlist for future progeny that includes cooking, rollerblading, forgiveness, and gratitude. You’ll recognize bits of your life here, because Quinn is so candid about his.
Quinn first emerged in the national spotlight in 2019, when he won NPR’s coveted Tiny Desk Contest with “Erase Me,” the glorious culmination of Write Your Name in Pink. It is a song about his transition, sure, but it is also a frank examination of the complications of identities, of the privilege that can simply come through new pronouns. For Quinn, though, they are somewhat arbitrary, anyway; now that he’s seen as “he,” he is more comfortable with his femininity, into the dawning feeling that men can write their names in pink, too. These 11 new songs bear out a deeper premise of “Erase Me”—that is, we’re never done becoming who we are going to be, even when the world wants to reduce us into who it thinks we already are, like a trans Native songwriter from Alaska. “I don’t know who I am,” Quinn sings guiltlessly during the weightless chorus of “Bubblegum,” a life-so-far chronicle of errors, obsessions, and achievements. Doesn’t it feel good to admit that none of us know that, either, let alone what we might become?
Publicity Contact: Grace Jones