Interview: Torres Talks Songwriting, Literature, and Her Love for Johnny Cash

Torres Interview: Torres Talks Songwriting, Literature, and Her Love for Johnny Cash

Torres is the performing name chosen by 22-year-old Mackenzie Scott who recently released her debut self-titled album entirely on her own. While she was finishing her degree in Songwriting at Nashville’s Belmont University, Scott was simultaneously recording the record, but the songs certainly show no sense of distraction or double-mindedness. Originally from Macon, Georgia, there is an intense amount of wisdom, experience and sorrow contained in Torres’ first foray into music. Lines like “this skin hangs on me like a lampshade/keeping all my light at bay” reveal a writer skilled in compelling metaphors and innovative ways to convey the confines of physical bodies and spiritual longings.

Influenced by elements as diverse as Syliva Plath’s poetry, Girl, Interrupted, and Johnny Cash, Torres writes about an amalgam of experiences — from wrecked relationships to her own attempts at strength despite the failures of the past. Torres spoke with us about why she identifies herself as a writer, her dream musical collaborations and the venue she’d most like to perform at in the future.

By Mustafa Abubaker

How was your 2012 leading up to the release?
It was very busy. I finished up my last two semesters of college and graduated and while simultaneously recording an album… so I was pretty busy.

How did you get to Torres from Mackenzie Scott?
Well, I wanted a moniker. I wanted it to mean something. That name is actually a family name, it was my grandfather’s last name, and I like the way it sounds. I like the way it looks on paper.

Do you have a musical family?
Nope, it’s just me.

Did music have anything to do from leaving Macon, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee?
I went to Nashville specifically for college. I went to Belmont in Nashville. It was music and school simultaneously.

Walk me through the process of crafting and releasing the album.
I had the songs written. We went through pre-production with my producer and we talked about the direction we wanted to take with the recording process and I decided I wanted to track it live. It was a recording process of about five days. It was in Franklin, Tennessee. We wrapped it in five days, it was pretty quick.

Are there any plans to release music videos? If so, which ones do you think you would like to visualize?
I think right now we’re looking at doing a video for “Chain.” I’m looking to put out a couple pretty soon.

Have there been any particular instances in your life which inspired your lyrics or is it just about trying to connect with as many people as possible?
It’s a little of both. I think that probably the best way to answer that would be to say I’m sort of taking these experiences that I’ve had and tying them into more universal concepts. I’m just making them a bit more relatable on a wider scale, if that makes sense.

What have you learned, specifically, in the making and the release of this album?
More than anything, I learned that making a record is not as cut and dry as it sounds. There’s more detail than you can possibly imagine until you actually do it. It takes a lot of time and a lot of money that I didn’t necessarily have at the time. It just takes a lot of resources that you don’t necessarily realize it’s going to take to make a really good record and put it out there for people to hear it. But definitely time-consuming more than anything.

Who and what are you influenced by, both musical and non-musical?
I have a lot of musical influences. Brandi Carlile, Ryan Adams, Fleetwood Mac. It’s a pretty wide array. Non-musically? Sylvia Plath, whose my favorite author. I was really inspired by musical theater and Broadway which has definitely inspired at least my performing style. I tend to perform pretty dramatically and I think that stems directly from my experience with musical theater.

Are you surprised by the amount of praise you’ve received? How does it feel?
I’m just completely grateful. I am surprised. I don’t think I was expecting all this popular feedback so quickly anyway. I definitely was just shocked that Pitchfork even decided to review my album. So, yeah, I think grateful and shocked would probably be the best way to describe how I felt about that.

By self-releasing the album and receiving all this attention, would you even consider signing with a label? Why or why not?
I think it depends on the situation. I would certainly sign to a label if I thought it was a right fit. Things are a lot easier for an artist when they have a label backing them. I would have someone doing distribution for me, I’d have someone doing promotion for me. It would take a lot of pressure off of my shoulders. But it would have to be the right label. I wouldn’t be fine with just anybody. I think that there are probably a lot of really good labels out there that have a lot to offer, particularly for my style of music.

What advice would you give to other artists to get noticed?
Write really good songs and meet everyone that you can meet. Networking. I don’t mean online social networking, that’s obviously part of it, but you have to get out there and shake peoples’ hands and look them in the eye and tell them your name. You have to make a lot of interpersonal human contact that may be uncomfortable and scary but it’s just necessary.

torres223 Interview: Torres Talks Songwriting, Literature, and Her Love for Johnny Cash

How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before?
The most generic description would probably be somewhere between electronic rock and indie folk. But I don’t necessarily think it could be described in those words. I would probably use a lot of descriptions that wouldn’t even make sense. I would probably say warm but depressing.

What music are you listening to these days?
My most record that I bought was Brian Eno’s Another Green World. I’m listening to that one. I’m always listening to St. Vincent. I’ve always playing her records. Actor and Strange Mercy.

What was your major in college?
Songwriting and my minor was English.

Favorite books or films?
My favorite book is The Bell Jar. I just finished No Country For Old Men and I really loved it. That’s probably going to go on my list. In Cold Blood is probably one of my favorite books by Truman Capote. Movies? I really love Girl, Interrupted. These are all so disturbing. I’m painting such a cold picture of myself. You know what? Napoleon Dynamite is one of my favorite movies. I can watch it so many times and never get sick of it. I really like the movie Closer with Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts. Phantom of the Opera. I’m going to go with those.

I read that you identified as a writer as well – do you still write short stories and poetry just for the sake of creation or is your focus entirely on music?
I still do write poetry. Not as many short stories. I tend to write short pieces, fiction, non-fiction, etc. Writing a novel is actually something that has piqued my interests quite a few times. I don’t necessarily know if I had the dedication for that. It would obviously take a lot dedication and time. I would not rule it out, there’s potential for that.

What is your earliest memory of music?
That’s a good question… my mom used to play “Fur Elise” on a grand piano when I was really young. She loved playing that song on the piano. That’s probably as far back as I can remember.

If you could work with any artist on a song – from any genre – who would it be and why?
Dead or alive… I would probably say Johnny Cash because he’s the man in black. He can do no wrong. I wish that Johnny Cash was still alive so I could shake his hand and sing a song with him.

If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
You know what, I would really like to perform at Red Rocks in Golden, Colorado. It’s literally a stage that is built into some red rocks and the entire venue is just outdoor stone. It’s really crazy.

If you had to explain your current situation to your 18 year old self, what would you say?
I would just say hang in there.