A Conversation with TORRES
Mackenzie Scott has had a pretty good year so far. Last month she released her self-titled debut album under the moniker TORRES. And so far the response has been phenomenal. The Fader, NME, BBC Radio, Paste, and Paper, among others, have all written about TORRES. Pitchfork even gave her album an 8.1, along with a “Best New Music” tag.
TORRES is the best album of 2013 so far, in my opinion. It’s a unique body of work unlike anything you’ve likely ever heard. It’s austere, tragic, intimate, and completely novel. Her voice is full of character, and her musical formula is refreshingly simple. There’s no real climax to the album, and her songs lack any conventional structure. Everything just sort of happens, from the first track to the last.
Raw vocals, brilliant lyrics, true emotion, and an electric guitar. That’s TORRES’ entire recipe.
I recently linked up with Mackenzie for a photo shoot. We also took a minute to discuss her art, her new record, and her personal style. I’ve been a big fan of her sense of style for some time now, so I was eager to see what connection, if any, that it had with her music.
First off, congratulations on your debut album! The response has been overwhelming positive. Are you surprised at all by how enthusiastic everyone has been about your record?
Thank you so much. I am overwhelmingly flattered and grateful. I’m elated to know the record is striking some sort of a nerve with people.
How long has this album been in the making? And how long did it take to record?
Technically, you could say this album has been in the making for four years, as I began to write the material for the record in 2009. The recording process lasted all of five days, which was quick, albeit exhausting.
Your music is defined by its simplicity. The minimalism goes hand-in-hand with your lyrics. Was that a deliberate move when recording, or was it more a result of working with the resources that were available?
This is a funny topic. I graduated from Belmont University recently, so I suppose you could say I had ample opportunity to go a more slick, polished route, recording and production-wise. My decision to track to tape was as deliberate as the songwriting itself, and the major reason my engineer/producer Ryan McFadden and I chose to record at Tony Joe White’s home studio in Franklin. He had the analog resources that are not so readily available at your typical Nashville recording studio. It almost felt like I was running away from all the polish for which Music Row has become known. Maybe I was.
Do you do any writing outside of music? Because your songwriting is incredible.
Thank you. I do, actually. I write a lot of poetry and short stories, and have been doing so since I can remember. Those were the formats that originally inspired my love affair with words; songwriting didn’t come until later. I think I was halfway through high school before I wrote my first song.
Your music is deeply existential, and rather melancholic at times. Do you try to stay in one area thematically, or do you just say what comes to you?
The themes portrayed in my songs are merely concise, linear versions of what I only wish I could convey in everyday conversation. It’s my medium of communication; if I didn’t have it, I would explode or rot or something. I never “try” to write anything anymore. I did that for such a long time and would constantly beat myself up over it when I failed. Ultimately, the result is horrible when I try to say something that I don’t mean. I hate when I listen to artists sing about things I know they don’t care about. If you don’t care, chances are others aren’t going to care either.
Is it all autobiographical?
Whether it is or not, it’s all relevant to the universal human experience.
Why play with an electric guitar instead of an acoustic?
I have more fun. It’s more diverse. It screams in my hands.
It’s hard to pinpoint your style musically, but you remind me of those early folk heroes. You have this raw, intimate voice and an idiosyncratic sound. Everything seems like your personality. Who/what are your musical influences?
Johnny Cash, Joan Jett, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Tori Amos, Brandi Carlile, St. Vincent, Imogen Heap, and Ryan Adams are just a handful of bands/artists who have influenced me at one point or another. There are a lot more that I’m probably blanking on right now.
How do your musical style relate to your fashion sense? I see a little of Johnny Cash, both in your music and your fashion sense. Is that intentional?
I suppose they’re correlated somehow. I wear what makes me feel good. Johnny is one of my heroes, and he’s certainly influenced me in all aspects, musically, fashionably, and otherwise. Fashion isn’t necessarily something that appeals to me, though, at least not in the way that it’s been portrayed in America. I think it can be beautiful and is a really fantastic medium of expression, but consumerism kind of bums me out and ruins the fun a bit.
How does Nashville influence your sound? There’re so many different scenes and so many different sounds here.
I’m not actually sure Nashville has influenced my sound a great deal. There are a couple of bands here that I’ve certainly taken cues from in terms of showmanship, but the influences on the music itself come from a myriad of places and span an impossibly wide variety of genres and eras.
What’s next for you musically?
I wish I knew! I’m going on a tiny tour in the next couple of weeks here, so that’s a start. Humble beginnings.
Any music videos in the works? I’m dying to see some visuals for “Honey” haha.
Nothing as of right now, but it’s probably safe to say there’ll be a video of some sorts in the near future.