Recently, we were able to catch up with Nashville-based musician Torres, aka Mackenzie Scott, fresh off her debut album release. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter has been making waves with her raw, electric sound and the album is a fantastic reminder of the kind of gems that are hiding inside the often-oversaturated Nashville scene. Below, we talked to Torres about her history as a musician, why going electric proved to be the best decision she ever made, and what “Spoonerization is.” We wrote about her song, “Honey,” here, but you can check it out in the Soundcloud below as well.
SM: Where are we finding you at the moment? Are you in Nashville?
TORRES: I am. I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop inhaling an Americano.
SM: What’s it been like seeing your first album release? It must be gratifying to see that hard work pay off in printed vinyl.
TORRES: I’m ecstatic. This process has been unexpected in the most humbling and surprising way. I’m so thankful for everything that’s happened since the release.
SM: I have to say, 22 is a very young age to be releasing an album, especially such an emotionally sophisticated one. Was this the plan from a young age, or did music find you recently?
TORRES: I began to take my music seriously when I came to Nashville in 2009 for college. That was when I began to envision a career path and a long-term goal. I knew that I wanted to start sooner rather than later because I have youth on my side, but at the same time I knew I needed to be wise and wait until I had discovered myself and developed as a person so that the songs would be developed, cohesive, and mature.
SM: Has the Nashville music scene influenced your sound at all? We’ve talked to a lot of bands who seem to be influenced by outside artists — London doing American Soul, or New York doing Brit Pop. Would you say your Southern roots are your strongest influence?
TORRES: Probably. My sister used to play country music in the car when she’d drive me around, and that’s the first time I can remember listening to music as a child. My roots are definitely Southern by nature. However, I’m also heavily influenced by all sorts of other types of music—artists/bands like Joan Jett, Fleetwood Mac, Johnny Cash, Nirvana, The Cars, The Rolling Stones, etc. I have an eclectic palette.
SM: Do you find it hard to be in Nashville, with such a large congestion of musicians in one place, or is it supportive to be around such a large musical hot bed?
TORRES: Yes. It gets tiring and, unfortunately, I’ve become a bit jaded in a short amount of time. I don’t go to as many shows as I used to. It’s a bummer, because I never want to get to a point where I stop being excited about music. I don’t think that will happen, but I have to be careful not to oversaturate myself with shows here in Nashville. Every now and then I’ll take an extended hiatus from live music, and sometimes even from listening to records altogether, just to allow myself to reflect, breathe, and draw inspiration from other places for awhile.
SM: If I’m in Nashville, what are the three places I absolutely need to visit? Could be food, music, you name it. Also, which do you prefer: Bourbon or whiskey?
TORRES: 1. Bongo Java Coffee. 2. Local Honey. 3. Grimey’s New and Preloved Music
[re: bourbon/whiskey] Don’t make me choose. If we’re talking bourbon, I love Four Roses Single Barrel served neat. For whiskey, give me a double of George Dickel Black Label and I’m a happy lady.
SM: You’ve mentioned that your sound really came into focus once you started playing electric. Was it an “a-ha” moment where you knew this would change everything, or did your sound evolve gradually?
TORRES: A little of both. I knew that I’d found something that had been elusive up until that point, but I was also quite aware that I’d only scratched the surface. I still don’t think I’ve evolved to a point that I could say, “THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR!” I haven’t gotten there yet. I’m still growing and figuring myself out as a writer and a musician, and most importantly, as a human.
SM: What sound did you have before electric? Was it similar, but acoustic, or were you doing another genre entirely?
TORRES: Similar, but much more tame. It was less adventurous and less dynamic. Part of that was because I was playing an acoustic guitar, and part of that was because I was playing solo without the help of a band backing me.
SM: What about going electric appealed to you?
TORRES: It bites harder and it gives me the ability to be more dynamic and versatile with my live show. I also have become obsessed with the power it gives me—it screams like an acoustic guitar never could. I got sick of having people talk over me at shows. I’m a sensitive person, and it became a little heartbreaking. I got to a point where I knew there needed to be a change if I wanted to get peoples’ attention. Folks tend to shut up and listen a little more when you make it too loud in the room for them to hear themselves talk.
SM: “Honey” reminds me a lot of a Jeff Buckley track — the kind of desperate, isolated sound electric guitars can sometimes offer. Did you have any artists or bands influencing you going into the album, from a musical or lyrical standpoint?
TORRES: Brandi Carlile, Johnny Cash, Joan Jett, Ryan Adams. These are all artists that exude hunger. I drew inspiration from their records and from their live performances during the writing process, the pre-production, and the recording of the album.
SM: Vinyl is so interesting because all the little pops and imperfections are what makes it real and alive — your album makes similar choices, like the raw, live guitar and the choice to cut a song off when the tape stops. Were those conscious decisions? How important to you was it that the record feel real and alive?
TORRES: Those choices were as conscious as the songwriting itself. It feels like I ripped a body part from my being and molded it into a record. I would never release a body of work into the world that I didn’t think resonated on a human level.
SM: What other bands are you into right now?
TORRES: Sharon Van Etten and Austra are my essentials at present.
SM: What books, if any, are you reading right now? What are your all-time favorites?
TORRES: The Handmaid’s Tale. I just finished reading No Country for Old Men and loved it. Two of my favorite books are The Bell Jar and In Cold Blood.
SM: How has your English minor and interest in literature and storytelling affected your songwriting, if at all?
TORRES: It has everything to do with my command of the language and my love of words and semantics therein. I’m grateful that I have parents who encouraged me to begin reading books at a young age. Growing up, I was also inundated with audio books rather than music, and I fell asleep listening to them every night for a significant portion of my life.
SM: Where do you plan to go from here? Are you the kind of person that’s already planning your second album, or do you want to spend a significant amount of time touring?
TORRES: I’m compartmentalizing in my brain. There’s definitely a part of me that’s eager to begin writing the next record, but I know I need to tour for awhile before I can do that, so I’m really trying to focus on practicing the songs I already have so I can go on the road and put on the best live show possible.
SM: You self-released your debut, and your band Facebook page still says “unsigned” – would you sign with a label if the right offer came along, or do you prefer to self-release? Do you feel inspired by the likes of Macklemore, an unsigned hip hop artist, who recently shot to #1 on the Billboard charts?
TORRES: If the right label offer came along, I’d definitely take it. It’s just a matter of selecting a label that’s going to benefit my interests and my long-term goals. I’m being extremely discerning. I don’t know who Macklemore is, but that’s quite the feat.
SM: Lastly, are there any questions you’d wish I’d asked, or anything you’d like to sound off on here? Feel free to answer however you’d like!
TORRES: Are you familiar with the art of Spoonerization? Spoonerize. Roonerspize. I do it with nearly every phrase or sentence that I hear. Example: your name, Spoonerized, would be Mill Swerchants. My name Spoonerized is Scackenzie Mott. It’s so fun. Good luck trying to stop once you start. It’s a disease. Here, here’s another one: do you like Snickerdoodle cookies? I prefer Dickercoodle snookies.