ARTICLE BY JOY SHI
Earlier this year, a track entitled "Honey" caused ripples online, finding its way onto multiple "Best New" shortlists and track reviews across indie music's digital terrain. The song—by Nashville-based artist Torres—features raw, up-close electric guitar riffs layered over striking female vocals. It's a combination that will make you stop whatever you were doing and simply feel the music.
Torres is 22-year-old singer and guitarist Mackenzie Scott, who adopted the pseudonym from her grandfather as a way of carrying on his legacy. Released on January 22, her eponymous debut album reveals a repertoire that explores the stripped-down epicenter of emotions revolving around themes of identity, loss, and love. Torres is currently on her second tour, a skip through the Northwest, before heading across the ocean to play at the Latitude Festival 2013.
This past Saturday, Torres performed her first-ever L.A. show at the Bootleg Theater. After singing the leading album track "Mother Earth, Father God," Torres's intimate gathering of fans was bemused to hear Mackenzie Scott's soft-spoken voice—only seconds after traipsing through a powerful range of pitch and emotion. In conversation, she is the quintessence of sweet and polite, a demeanor that hardly betrays the forceful voice and performer she embodies as Torres. We sat down with Mackenzie Scott before the show to chat about touring and her latest album.
SS: How did the concept for your first album come about?
Mackenzie Scott: I don't think at first I actively pursued a theme or a concept for the album. It was really just what I was working on over the course of three years. And they all kind of ended up being about loss in one way or another. Maybe it's a subconscious thing, or maybe it's just what I like to write about.
SS: You majored in songwriting at Belmont. Was it always your intention to be a musician?
MS: I was never in it with the idea that I would write for other people. More people are enrolled at Belmont with that major—the intent to be songwriters, especially country writers on Music Row. It's a very lucrative industry. I was in classes with a lot of them, and there was just the few of us there that actually wanted to be musicians...I don't think the program was cut out for us. [Laughs] But I learned a lot about what I didn't want to do, the things I don't want to write, and the people that I don't want to work with, and it's important to know those things. I learned to stick up for myself when being criticized. When you're being criticized for your art, there comes a point where you say, "Okay I'm gonna go with my gut here, and I'm gonna keep what I have."
SS: Did being in Nashville and that surrounding musical environment influence you?
MS: Definitely. My roots are in Georgia. I'm from Macon, Georgia. A combination of the old country—Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, the legends, and church music, hymns—are definitely where my roots are.
SS: You’ve mentioned that you’d love to collaborate with St. Vincent. If you had a dream pop/R&B collaboration, who would it be?
MS: I guess she could be considered pop, but Lana Del Rey. Is she pop?
SS: There's a whole discussion going on out there about that, but I'd say yes.
MS: Then definitely her. I literally bought that album at midnight when it came out. I’ve gotten a lot of flack for liking her, but I think she's so great; her voice is so different.
SS: What music did you listen to in college?
MS: Joan Jett. She was a huge one for a long time. A lot of Brandi Carlyle. I'm still listening to her; she's my favorite. St. Vincent, a lot of Fleetwood Mac, a lot of Ryan Adams...those were my big phases, I would say. And by phases I mean I was all in. Like, I dressed like these people; it was the only thing I'd listen to anywhere I went. I just wanted to be exactly like them—especially Joan Jett. My freshman year was embarrassing. Not only would I would wear only black, but I would only wear these couple pair of pants, and this black shirt, and these Converse...That's when I bought a [Gibson] SG, because I wanted to be like Joan Jett. I don't regret it! [Laughs] She taught me a lot about performing. Just getting up there and draining yourself in front of people—giving it everything you have.
SS: Do you write as you experience, or does it come from a place of reflection?
MS: It's definitely a combination. When I'm experiencing something, I experience it for a very long time. So in that aspect, even as I'm reflecting, in a sense, I'm still experiencing it, just because I tend to live inside certain situations and dwell on certain things for such a long time.