You walk into a dimly lit diner. The sweet smell of a hefty stack of blueberry pancakes tickles your nose. You hear the clinking of a coin dropping into the jukebox and the silence before the music clicks. A groove percolates like a pot of fresh coffee over the speakers. It makes you want to get out of your booth and move, while simultaneously tugging at your heartstrings, nearly wanting to cry into your 2am breakfast. The flickering neon lights seem to be dancing to the song. You steal a glance and everyone, from the surly waitress and construction workers to the drunken college kids in the corner are nodding their heads to the beat. This is what a Q Marsden song looks like in my head. Nostalgia tinged with nuance, hope and longing intertwined. The musician, originally from Pembroke Pines, Florida is an R&B singer and songwriter, but he is better known as a storyteller. When people hear Q’s music it’s near impossible to hide the feeling of euphoria. “I like the initial reactions,” the artist shares, “no matter how young or old, or how tough or receiving you are, it’s always a smile that comes across. Initial reactions cause so much inspiration in a lot of people’s lives, that spark. That’s what I like. Just spark.”
It’s 2018. The moment when Q breaks into the R&B scene. He releases his self-produced project, Thoughts. Raw, edgy, and heartfelt, now the world knows about Q, and they can’t live without him. In 2019, we’re given Forest Green, where he adds in drums and sings at a low key. We love it, and he gives us more. Q makes it known that he is switching up his music, evolving and adjusting. Then the critically acclaimed, self-produced and written project, The Shave Experiment, is released. Q is exploding onto the scene.
And now we’re here, and Q, all of 23 years old, has just gifted us his newest album, Soul,PRESENT, created in the confines of his Florida home. Q’s process followed a methodical routine.“I was waking up at six in the morning,” he says. “I would work out. Then I would watch TV, walk my dog, eat protein, and pray. At around 10 o’clock, I just started making music and I finished around three.” The routine begs the question: how does an artist know their work is progressing? Some might ask a friend, a producer, or listen to it over and over, but not Q. After creating music all afternoon, he shares, he would get hungry, for both food and reactions. Pulling up to the drive-thru of the Florida food chain, Pollo Tropical, Q would roll down his window while he waited for his order and play a track from what would become Soul,PRESENT. “I would just casually see people start nodding their heads,” he says of the taste test, “or just see their responses naturally. A lot of times people would be like ‘What song is that? That’s fire.’” And that’s how he knew his music would create that spark he strives for.
Q’s relationship to music is that of a family heirloom. His father produced hits for reggae and dancehall icons, Wayne Wonder and Sean Paul, and his mother was a former keyboardist for Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, and Dennis Brown. Q taught himself how to play piano, and after hearing Drake’s 2013 album Nothing Was The Same, began focusing on production. During the creation of his latest album, the artist wrote and produced much of the music in his hometown in Florida, reconnecting with his musical roots. “My dad was staying with me for a month so I told him I was making music and I just said, ‘Let me do my thing and don’t give me no opinions,’ but then I’d make something, and he’d just come in and say, ‘Yo, that’s fire!’ So I was like, ‘This must be fire because he’s such a good critic.’”
If Q’s music was an abstract shape, he says it would be two silver, gold, and red rings intertwined like an infinity symbol, forever spinning and moving. Stuck in time and space. Perhaps it’s a bit of foreshadowing for what he has to say in regards to what the message his music tries to convey, “Honestly, if I can influence anything, it’s the importance of patience and just slowing it down.” He continues, “When things get rushed, you’ll see over time that it’s not as polished or not as put together, sometimes it may take longer to build something, but if you make sure that it's solid it’s not gonna move for a long time.” No doubt without coincidence, the theme of Q’s music aligns with the titles of the songs on Soul,PRESENT: “UNDERSTAND,” “LUV,” and “PRESENCE” are all a nod to what Q finds critical in life.
Laced within the soul-stirring songs on the album, you can hear a deep voice in the background, which resembles that of a god-like figure whispering the truth beneath the groovy flow of Q’s lyrics. In “STEREO DRIVER,” you can hear the voice sing, Wow. How’s your mind, body, and soul? And in “UNDERSTAND,” it declares the words: And even when I don’t understand I’ll still try I’m here for you. The deep voice motif is Q’s way of reminding us that his album is not a linear story, but instead each song is an individual narrative that connects his project as a whole. “It’s narrating the whole thing,” he shares,“It represents the truth to each situation.” With regards to the deeper voice interacting with his own, he says, “There’s always two sides to something.”
Q released a few early tracks from Soul,PRESENT. “I had to figure out a way to make people digest my music.” he says about the early releases, “I chose ‘STEREO DRIVER’ because I knew it was a segue from the past album. This time around, I was more concentrated on what I wanted to write about. Lyrically, I was more intentional, my words were more clear, you can hear what I’m saying and I’m not using all these effects on my voice.”
Creating something alone and sharing it with the world sounds daunting enough, yet Q does not emanate fear—instead he pours out confidence and ease from his cool tone of voice to the rhythm of his music. The making of Soul,PRESENT took around two years. The artist remembers it being an intimate process that involved becoming comfortable with being alone and finding the lyrics deep within himself. “It was just me and my house, thinking that it’s good, thinking that it’s not, thinking that I’m alone in making this type of music, the brain just going all over the place.” But as Q recalls, “The core of the album was the reminder for me to keep going, which was an active process of just working and having faith.”
Later this spring, Q will be going on tour in North America with R&B artist Baby Rose who also features on his track “UNDERSTAND.” The tour is titled Through the Soul, a clever mix of both artist's new album titles, Q’s Soul,PRESENT, and Baby Rose’s Through and Through. Q plans on finding new ways to interact with his instruments and his fanbase when performing live. “I always make my music with the intention of it being played live,” he says. “That’s how I gauge music: if it will sound good live. So it’s a very important aspect that I've grown to love.” With regards to the fans lucky enough to enjoy the live presentation? “They actually came out of their way and bought a ticket, and they want to just come and enjoy the music with me, and I’m able to give them a show as a gift, like a matter of saying thank you.”
Asked when he feels the most invincible, Q just smiles a bit and shakes his head. “You wanna know something?” He says, “I never feel invincible. The minute I do feel invincible, I get knocked down.” Although many, in response to such a question, might list the times in which he felt he could conquer the world, all Q can muster up is complete and sheer honesty. A truth that we all perhaps need to hear—one that he sings about, produces about, and plays the keys about. That we need to listen.“You can learn a lot on your own, but you could meet one person, and they tell you something and you have to restart your whole thinking,” Q considers. “Two ears, one mouth. That’s what my grandma always said.” So instead I rephrase the question to: when do you feel the happiest? This one is easier to answer. “I feel the happiest when I’m with my friends, when I’m just doing the things I love to do. Like if I’m bowling or I’m just hanging out with my family. We don’t have to do anything, just be sitting in the back playing some dominoes.”
Maybe it’s his approachability or perhaps his attention to love and patience that we hear behind Q’s melodic music. Maybe it’s his devotion to dreaming big that makes so much of his music feel intimately familiar—almost like nostalgia for a time when we were free to hope. A time in which we could put a coin into a jukebox and let the memories soak into us, lost in time and good grooves.
Photographed by Mía André
Written by Eloisa de Farias
Styled by Von Ford
Groomer: Luisa Duran
Creative Producer: Mui-Hai Chu
Flaunt Film: Isaac Dektor
Photo Assistant: Jamie-Lee Boyd
Styling Assistant: Pascia Sangoboudi
Production Assistant: Mckenna Matus