Meet Quinn Christopherson, Winner Of The 2019 Tiny Desk Contest : All Songs Considered Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, Christopherson is a thoughtful songwriter with a powerful sense of perspective.
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Meet Quinn Christopherson, Winner Of The 2019 Tiny Desk Contest

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Meet Quinn Christopherson, Winner Of The 2019 Tiny Desk Contest

Meet Quinn Christopherson, Winner Of The 2019 Tiny Desk Contest

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Quinn Christopherson is this year's Tiny Desk Contest winner. In the video he submitted for his song "Erase Me," the proud Alaskan sings and moves in a vintage periwinkle blue suit in front of a beautiful painting of Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ERASE ME")

QUINN CHRISTOPHERSON: (Singing) I used to have long hair. I used to smile when I walked. I used to be someone I hated.

CORNISH: Quinn told me that as a transgender Native songwriter, he feels like he has to be vulnerable.

CHRISTOPHERSON: Being who I am is political, so I just - I got to be out there, and I think every time I play a live show, I just kind of come out to every audience. I kind of just hope for the best.

CORNISH: Yeah.

CHRISTOPHERSON: But I'm never not going to do that, you know? I'm always just going to be here and let people know.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ERASE ME")

CHRISTOPHERSON: (Singing) I used to think I was a woman, so I got used to pulling the short stick.

So it's been about a year and a half since I transitioned, and that year and a half has been really eye-opening for me. I would just hear terrible things that men would say when they think women aren't around. And that is what started the process of writing this song.

CORNISH: You write about this idea that that now you have power.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ERASE ME")

CHRISTOPHERSON: (Singing) I got a voice now. I got power that I can't stand.

CORNISH: Is that something that you thought about as you were going through your transition? Did you think, oh, that's going to be an aspect of being a man that I have to reckon with?

CHRISTOPHERSON: I had no idea what was to come. Before I transitioned, I was just a masculine woman, you know? And I just didn't realize how terrible people were to me as that until I wasn't that anymore. And I don't know. I just got so many more responsibilities at work just handed to me. Like, people were just asking me questions I didn't know anything about.

CORNISH: People invited you to mansplain.

CHRISTOPHERSON: (Laughter) Yeah, exactly - righty tighty, lefty loosey.

CORNISH: When you talk about having a voice, though, it's a howl.

CHRISTOPHERSON: I know. I just get kind of into it - telling my story, screaming it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ERASE ME")

CHRISTOPHERSON: (Singing) Yeah, I'm tired of people trying to erase me.

CORNISH: This idea of being tired of people trying to erase you - because if people see you on screen, they're going to see an image of what looks like a white man, and is there something you're trying to kind of fight against - that assumption?

CHRISTOPHERSON: Yeah. You cannot assume things about people. I don't know about the whole man thing, but I am not white. I'm an Indigenous person. I'm Athabaskan, and I'm Inupiaq. You know, those are communities that I claim and that I'll always claim.

CORNISH: Well, you have power now, (laughter) right? You're also winner of this year's Tiny Desk Contest. What do you think the next year is going to hold for you?

CHRISTOPHERSON: Well, I'm working on an album right now.

CORNISH: Going back to your day job?

CHRISTOPHERSON: (Laughter) I love my job.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

CHRISTOPHERSON: Yeah.

CORNISH: I didn't actually ask what your day job is. What is your day job?

CHRISTOPHERSON: I'm a counselor for Alaskan Native youths...

CORNISH: Oh, cool.

CHRISTOPHERSON: ...Here in Anchorage.

CORNISH: Any of your kids heard your music?

CHRISTOPHERSON: Yeah, they have. They are hilarious. I love it. They're so - you know, kids - well, teenagers especially - they'll just tell you exactly what they think right when they think it, so it's a really good soundboard for getting critique.

CORNISH: Oh, yes, please give me a sample.

CHRISTOPHERSON: I've played something live for a couple of them - like, a new song. You know, you get a new song, and you're still working out the kinks. And I just remember one of them going, it's not my favorite, but I keep working on it.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: You've got a future, kid.

CHRISTOPHERSON: Yeah (laughter).

CORNISH: Well, Quinn Christopherson, congratulations. Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your music and sharing your story.

CHRISTOPHERSON: Thank you so much - appreciate it.

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