At age 17, Quinn Tsan left her Minneapolis home for Chicago to sing backup vocals for folk singer Joe Pug.
Since then, Tsan has claimed a spotlight of her own, forming a band herself in 2014. The singer-songwriter plays guitar with fellow guitarist Michael Golas, bassist Tim Young and drummer Raul Callejero. So far, the group has played gigs around Chicago but has also ventured to Minneapolis and New York. This Sunday, Tsan revisits the Twin Cities for a show at 7th Street Entry.
When Tsan first arrived in Chicago, she found a job with a quality assurance company and worked her way up to a manager position. By night, she sang for different bands.
“I’d reached sort of just an acceptance of being a backup singer,” Tsan said. “I didn’t think that I’d ever pursue anything solo, and I was OK with that. I was happy to work with other musicians and be there for them.”
But after her favorite singer to work with moved away, Tsan felt the need to perform on her own.
“I was just like, ‘Well, I don’t want to wait around for someone to ask me to sing with them, and I don’t want to sing in silence, so I’m gonna buy this guitar and have something to keep me company.’”
After spontaneously playing at an open mic to a receptive audience, Tsan ditched her day job and took her solo act beyond open mic nights.
One night, while she was performing with a group called Medicine Women, she did a song by herself. Golas was in the crowd and immediately wanted to work with her.
“It was just one of those things that was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful, I just want to do a song with you,’” Golas said. “It was kind of nerve-wracking. It was like a musical crush.”
Soon after Golas and Tsan started playing music together, Young and Callejero joined.
Prior to the band’s formation, Tsan created an EP titled “Good Winter” and released it last November.
Since Golas, Young and Callejero entered the picture, the young band’s sound has evolved.
“I think what we’re doing now is a lot darker,” Young said. “In parts, they’re more somber and melancholy. But we still have retained some of the blues rock and some of her folk and country aspects on the EP.”
The track “Love of a Painter” captures Tsan’s beautiful, strong vocals and her acoustic folk style. On the other hand, “Oh! The Places We’ll See!” exemplifies her wistful tone and blues rock side.
Tsan penned the tune after a cross-country road trip through the western United States.
“That song is kind of like, ‘I’ve seen all these things, but the one thing I haven’t experienced is sharing all these beautiful places with this one person that’s really on my mind,’” she said.
The title, which she says derived from the famous Dr. Suess book, came later.
“I think when I named it, I was trying to lighten the spirit of it for myself,” she said.
The band aims to have a new record out sometime this year. They’ll spotlight their newly developed sound with 12 pieces of new material at the Minneapolis show.
“I’ll bring the structure of the song, and we’ll just jam for a while and come up with our own ideas,” Tsan said of the collaborative process. “Everyone is equally involved.”
She added that because everyone contributes to the project, she wants to eventually rename the band.
“It’s exciting and it’s interesting,” Young said. “It’s one of the more collaborative bands that I’ve been with for a while.”
Tsan said the band’s Minneapolis show at the Kitty Kat Club last summer remains one of her favorite experiences. The group shared the stage with her brother’s band, Jones, and her high school friend, Johnny Lewis.
“A lot of the crowd was like our mutual friends and family and people from our past that I hadn’t seen in a long time,” she said. “It kind of made things a reality.”
Quinn said that seeing her friends and family motivated her to play in Minneapolis again.
“I wanted to be able to share this stepping stone or this benchmark with people who I’ve known or who have been close to me my whole life,” she said.
In Minneapolis, Tsan plans to visit old friends and show the band around.
“I know it’s freezing right now, but similarly I want to go on a drive and explore,” Tsan said. “I’m so nostalgic, I get so sentimental. I’ve lived in over a dozen houses in Minneapolis, so I might make them come with me and see the houses I used to live in or my old school or something stupid.”
What: Quinn Tsan
Where: 7th Street Entry, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis
When: 7 p.m. Sunday