Before her show at the Earl, I sat down with Torres, the stage name for Mackenzie Scott and her backing band. And yeah, we’re pretty much buds now, she even lent me her Mac charger during the interview when my laptop was nearing death. Professionalism is thrown out the window when you’re running 10 minutes late.
After we got past the obligatory, Flinstones versus Jetsons question (the band was divided), we hopped into dissecting her songwriting craft, inspiration and all those cliché things you got to discuss with a brooding, singer-songwriter.
WUOG: Is it weird to play your material, which is a lot of intensely personal narratives in front of a large audience?
Mackenzie Scott: I find it easier to play these songs in front of people than to talk about the things that revolve around those subject matters with people. Opening up when I’m singing the songs is fairly easy for me, I prefer to do that than talk about them.
WUOG: Is your songwriting a cathartic tool to deal with your emotions?
Mackenzie: Yeah that’s kind of how I deal with everything. Everything I write about, I just do it to figure out what’s weighing on me. It helps me to look at situations from a more objective perspective and helps me to remove myself from a little bit just so that I can see it a bit clearer. It just helps me to, cliché, get over what I’m writing about.
WUOG: That’s interesting because writing these songs about certain subject matter and being forced to play them over and over again might lead you to stew in whatever’s bothering you.
Mackenzie: I tend to stew in it more when I don’t write it down. I think that getting it out and crafting or making something constructive, if you could call a song constructive, out of whatever it is that I’m writing about helps me to move on.
WUOG: What was the first album that really inspired you to get into music?
Mackenzie: Oh man, alright, I’m just going to say it. I was a huge Taylor Swift fan and I still am, I said it, there it is, it’s leaked. No I love Taylor Swift and in high school that first album she put out was a middle school slash high school girl’s life right there. That was the first time I actually ever thought about writing as opposed to singing, because I’d written poems and things but that was the first time I ever thought about writing and singing at the same time, to craft songs. She totally inspired me. My favorite, as I got a little older and to this day, is Brandi Carlisle. She’s my biggest, all-around inspirations as far as writing, performing, singing and just showmanship in general.
WUOG: I feel like there are a lot of similarities between you and Sharon Van Etten.
Mackenzie: I love Sharon. Sharon is actually a new friend of mine. I was a huge fan and I met her a couple of months ago and she’s a friend now. It’s an honor to get that comparison.
WUOG: I want to be friend’s with Sharon Van Etten.
Mackenzie: She’s a good friend to have.
WUOG: How was getting interviewed by Pitchfork and getting that sort of attention?
Mackenzie: It feels like every other interview when it’s happening but it goes on Pitchfork.com when it’s finished. The interview’s the same, so everything feels relative in the moment, I never expect it to show up on a big website, I’m just having conversation and then when it shows up on something like Pitchfork, oh my god.
WUOG: Do you ever worry about losing the emotion or inspiration that you write from? Obviously you’d be a happy person if you didn’t have any sorrow to work from but maybe you wouldn’t have your song craft as well then?
Mackenzie: I do worry about that. I guess worry isn’t the right word, I just wonder what the next album or next few albums are going to come out like. With this first album, it took me three and a half years, to just sit on it, lots of late night strumming and writing in my journals. I labored so much over that last record, over what felt like such an extended period of time while I was doing school and it was just very much something I did on the side late at night, it was just my thing that I did to stay creating. But now, I very much feel like…I don’t know I guess I feel a little bit of pressure or expectation with whatever I’m going to write next and what it’s going to sound like and if it’s going to hit as hard. Obviously I will never put anything out there that I don’t feel is 100% me and honest. I’m never going to lose that emotion or whatever it is, that drove me to write that first record but I won’t have as much time.
WUOG: Because I guess in the past you wrote when you needed to write and now you have to write.
Mackenzie: I mean I don’t have to write but sometimes I feel that I do, I think I should be writing and then I’m like ahh, that’s a bummer. I never want it to feel like a job, because that’s when the songwriting gets bad.
WUOG: What was the last concert you went to?
Mackenzie: Last week I saw Marnie Stern in Nashville, and it was mind-blowing. My world was just flipped, it was incredible. I was so nervous to talk to her, but I said hi after her set. She’s just one of those people you have to see live, I mean her records are incredible but until you see what she’s doing with her guitar live, it translates so much better live, completely shredding on her guitar. And we ended up at the same karaoke bar after and sang some karaoke.
WUOG: I knew you would be a karaoke person, I was about to ask if you had a go-to karaoke song?
Mackenzie: I have two go-to’s, my go-to’s are Dreams by Fleetwood Mac and Crimson and Clover by Joan Jett. Marnie sang too but I don’t remember what she did.
WUOG: Thanks so much for sitting down with me and good luck at your show tonight.
Fun facts: Her parents were going to be at the show (which made her nervous). Parents that quite often walked out of movies to protect her childhood innocence (“I’ve seen half of a lot of movies”). And, most importantly, her favorite cereal is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. If her love of the “Taste You Can See” isn’t enough to go check out her lovely debut album, Torres, I don’t know what is.