Quinnell is an emerging singer/songwriter from the Pacific Northwest. After watching some of his recent live sessions, we loved his music and were intrigued with his story. We caught up with him before he makes his annual trek up to Alaska for the Summer to discuss his background, music, Alaskan fishing, and more. Check it out below along with “You Are Mine” live from Village Hall.
How long have you been playing music? What was the subject of the first song you ever wrote?
I starting writing my own material around 8 years ago, however, at the time I was only writing a couple random songs for fun while still in college. The first song that I ever wrote was called “I 5” as in the Interstate Highway 5. It was loosely based off a relationship with a girl.
The Village Hall Sessions have been great so far. The songwriting is great and the sound quality is perfect. How many songs in total did you record for the series and when can we expect another video?
I recorded 2 songs in the first installment of the Village Hall Sessions. While I’m not positive on a date for another video from Village Hall, there is a possibility that I will find myself back there this coming fall. I would definitely like to keep the Village Hall Sessions going.
I really dig the song “You Are Mine.” I read that it was written with your Great Grandparents in mind. Can you give us a little insight into how the song & story came together?
My Great Grandmother was around 80 year old and I was 12 when she told me the story of how her and my Great Grandfather met. At the time, I never had any musical aspirations, and never really thought twice about it. However, about 2 years ago, that story popped back up as I was writing some new material. The song seemed to flow pretty smoothly and I’m just glad I was given the opportunity to remember them in through song. They both moved to Canada from the Ukraine shortly after WWI. My Great Grandfather owned a farm and heard their was a “young lady from the old country” working at the little farm store in town. His simple courtship was, “You’re from the old country, so am I… we should get married”… and they did! They lived in a remodeled grain bin while building their first home on the property, no money for a ring, etc… All around, a great love story and a look into what life was like for poor immigrants working to make a life for themselves in North America (which they definitely succeeded in doing).
Not many people realize Walla Walla is home to some great wineries. What do you love about the area? If I were to find myself in Eastern Washington, what is one thing I must do or one place I should visit?
I like the wide open space in Eastern WA. It really has that folk vibe to it, and life is just a little quieter. While the area I live in has around 250K people, it definitely has a small town feel. If you were to end up in out in the eastern side of the state, you should probably check out the Columbia River Gorge and take in a concert at the Gorge Amphitheater.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about your journey up to Alaska to do commercial fishing in the summertime. Having been to Alaska and seen its immense beauty, I can understand the appeal, but not many people could logistically do something like that. What made you want to do that? How long are you typically there and what part of Alaska do you fish? What is the best part or biggest takeaway of spending time in Alaska for you?
I didn’t want to have to work part time jobs during the year while playing music, and it just so happened that some good family friends of mine owned fishing boats. The pay is pretty good compared to any other work over the course of 2.5 months and I get some awesome days off in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The best part of being up in Alaska would be days when I can get out in nature. I love Kayaking, hiking, writing new material out in the mountains, and just enjoying my time out in the fresh northern air. It’s definitely not an easy job, but there are aspects of fishing in Alaska that make the rough days not so bad after all.
Are you planning on writing music while up north? What are your plans music-wise when you return?
I always pack a guitar up to Alaska with me. I usually find myself writing a handful of songs throughout the summer and some of those find their way into rotation at my shows. Inspiration can come from many different sources, and working up in AK through the summer definitely leads to new material. I am currently booking a solo tour for the fall of 2016.
What is your dream music venue to play?
The Gorge Amphitheater
What city/country would you love to visit that you haven’t yet?
Not sure, my buddy and I went backpacking right out of college and made it through 19 countries in 3 months. Covering most of Europe and over to Instanbul and Israel. I guess I would have to say Thailand… Some beautiful scenery out there and relatively inexpensive to travel.
What 2 bands/artists would you love to perform with?
John Mayer (huge musical influence) and James Taylor
What has been the hardest part about starting your journey in music?
Being persistent… There is no quick way to become successful in the music industry. You have to have the talent, the material, and a pretty impressive track record to get noticed in this industry.