September 2013 “Band of the Month” – TORRES

TBI Band of the MonthWhen we started the “Band of the Month” feature last year, we had no idea we would be introduced to all the amazing artists that we’ve wound up working with. From a feature with now-indie-giants, Of Monsters and Men, to the beautiful bedroom tunes of Faye Webster, the site found community and excitement in this feature. We look forward to continuing to share these incredibly talented artists with you. 

Photo by Gavin Thomas

Photo by Gavin Thomas

Originally from Macon, Georgia, Mackenzie Scott made her way to Nashville in 2009 to pursue a degree at Belmont University. During the four years she spent living there she quietly developed TORRES, the moniker she released an acclaimed self-titled album under in January of this year. “Honey“, the first track released from the album, received the accolade of “Best New Track” from Pitchfork and numerous other media outlets have followed suite in recent months. TORRES spent time earlier this year touring with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and will be joining Okkervil River for a very special run of shows in the Southeast later this month – including a show at Variety Playhouse on September 21st. We’re thrilled for her success so far and feel confident fans can expect much more work from her in the coming months. 

Sean: Where does your timeline with playing music begin? Was it something that you picked up as a child, or later in church, or not until your high school years and the time at Belmont that would follow?

Mackenzie: All of the above, I’d say. My first introduction to playing music was when my parents enrolled my in piano lessons at age seven. At the same time, I was participating in the children’s choir at my church.

Macon has been a city caught up on its musical heritage for years now. It’s wonderful that there are so many performers who came out of the city in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, but things really slowed down after that. Did you feel that in order to make the fullest out of your aspirations, you had to move to a city with a more creative energy?

Yes. The town’s history is unbelievably good, but that musical richness has all but disappeared from the city. I knew I needed to be in a city where things were happening, not just musically, but in all aspects. Nashville, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York City are the cities that I consider to be suited for my particular way of living, personally and professionally. I thrive on chaotic surroundings.

How long were you in Nashville before you started playing music there and what do you remember from your first show in town?

It was really only a matter of months before I began to sign up for open mic nights and songwriter rounds at local bars and coffee shops. My first real “show” was on Belmont’s campus during my sophomore year of college in a little food court, the Curb Café. The place was complete with a dining area and stage. Pretty hokey, but the show itself was great and my mom surprised me by coming into town to see me play. I was about 15 pounds heavier then and totally awkward, but I felt so good up there. I got the same adrenal rush then that I do now every time I play music.

TORRES cover art

TORRES cover art

Right before TORRES was released, Pitchfork bestowed upon your song “Honey” the acclaim of “Best New Track”. What were you doing when you got the news and how did it affect your anticipation for the album’s release?

I wasn’t actually aware beforehand that Honey was getting Best New Track. My manager emailed me and told me that morning that there would be a write-up on the site, but I was certain it would be small and pushed back far into the archives. I was in Nashville getting breakfast at my local coffee shop, Bongo Java, when I got a slew of texts and emails all at once, so I checked the website. Lo and behold, there was this huge feature on the home page. I then experienced what I’ll deem the largest out-of-body moment of my life. I was so excited that I lost my appetite and had to throw away my entire untouched plate of food. It was such an affirming, perfect timing kind of thing. I had just graduated college in December and had only returned to Nashville the day before from the holidays in Georgia. I was a little discouraged in my anticipation of the album’s release because I had absolutely no reason to believe that people would hear it, much less like it if they did hear it. The response that Honey garnered after that day was the confidence boost I desperately craved.

It’s clear from the album that you have an incredible gift to share with people. Is there a particular track though that you feel like you want, or even need, to share?

I was most excited to share “November Baby” and “Jealousy and I”. I wasn’t initially even going to put “Honey” or “Waterfall” on the album, believe it or not.

From what I’ve read, the whole process with making the album came together without many hindrances – you’d been working on the songs during your time in Nashville, you went to Franklin and recorded, it was released, and people really loved it… Was there ever a time in that whole process where you felt stuck with what you were doing or is the story as beautifully fluid as it all sounds?

Only the good times—the fluidity—have been publicly documented. That’s all most people have seen. Only myself, my close friends, and my family witnessed the ugliness of the process. There’s just an unspeakable amount of pain and labor that went into writing these songs, moving to Nashville, putting myself out there, trying to find the time and money to record, etc etc. I’ve never felt “stuck”—I’m doing now what I’ve always wanted to do—but it has been anything but easy. Going to college and trying to find yourself is hard enough. Of course there was beauty in it all, too, but those were four tumultuous years of my life that I’m overjoyed to have put behind me.

Photo by Gavin Thomas

Photo by Gavin Thomas

One of my favorite interviews of the past few years was on I did with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper in 2011. I had just happened upon Aly’s music and was incredibly eager to share it with people and have been since..,and now I see that you two spent time on the road together out West?! What was the time on the road like for you?

We had fun. I love Aly dearly. She is so hilarious and kind, and it turns out we have the same sense of humor, so there were tons of inside jokes created on tour that I’ll always cherish. She’s such a skilled craftsman and performer, too. I had her entire album, Ripely Pine, stuck in my head every night after each show. She’s definitely someone that you need to see play live, if you have not. She’s been touring much longer than I have—about 6 years, I believe—so she taught me a lot about maintaining my stamina and keeping my voice healthy when you’re traveling in a cramped van for weeks at a time.

You’re spending time in September with Okkervil River! Congratulations on that! I remember watching them in Chicago in 2008 and thinking that Will Sheff had to be one of the coolest people alive…Are you expecting so see a hometown crowd make it up to your show in Atlanta at the Variety Playhouse on September 21st?

Thank you! I’m excited to meet Will and the band and to spend some time with them. I’m not sure what to expect of the Atlanta show. To be honest, I’m not sure that I have much of a hometown following. I could be wrong. We shall see. I know that my family will be there, at the least.

Everyone’s always asking you this, I’m sure, but what’s next on your agenda? Are there new songs to demo or are you heading back out on the road this Winter? We’re just curious…

I’m doing a lot of writing, currently. I have tour dates lined up until the end of the year, many of which will be announced soon. Beyond that, I don’t have many solidified plans.

Do you ever see yourself returning to Macon as your home?

Lord willing, no. I love Macon because I grew up there and my family is there, so it will always be home to me. However, I’m a city girl. Space and quiet simultaneously bores me and scares me.

Music City vs. the Song & Soul of the South

Photo by Bekah Cope

Photo by Bekah Cope

Favorite restaurant:
Macon: Natalia’s
Nashville: SATCO

Favorite outdoor adventure:
Macon: Roaming the woods behind my childhood home with a walking stick, a knife, and a walkie-talkie.
Nashville: Cliff jumping and swimming at Percy Priest Lake.

When you want to find a good book, you head here:
Macon: Barnes & Noble was always my go-to.
Nashville: McKay Used Books

Biggest improvement that you see needs to be made?
Macon: I wish there was more emphasis placed on the arts in schools and in the community. There are definitely pockets where kids can get integrated into theatre and music if they’re looking for it, but those pockets are so small in comparison to the Almighty Sports. Kids in Macon, especially the boys, are expected to participate in football, basketball, soccer, etc. at such a young age, and if they don’t want to, or if they’d rather pursue the arts, they’re teased for being sissies and unpopular. I’d just love to see some balance and diversification. But balance and diversification are four-letter words in a small Southern town… 

Nashville: I think Nashville is on a pretty fantastic trajectory. The food is delicious and diverse, the opportunities for all kinds of education are abundant, and the music scene is thriving. If anything, I’d say the public transportation system could stand to improve drastically. It’s practically nonexistent right now.

Your strangest memory from this city:

Macon: Once in high school, some friends and my favorite teachers and I went reindeer humping in all the neighborhoods over the Christmas holidays. We almost got caught. It was surreal and hilarious.

Nashville: There are too many to count or name. My friends and I used to go dumpster diving at the Krispy Kreme near campus. We would wait by the trash around closing time until we saw the employees bring the day’s leftover donuts to the bin—they always sat them beside the bin, never inside, so they were fresh and sanitary (that’s what I always told myself). Sometimes I’d wake up in the morning and go downstairs in the dorms, and someone would have brought multiple boxes of donuts from the dumpster and just left them there for people to eat. Breakfast! We were disgusting then. I attribute my freshman 15 to those donuts.

The first place you would recommend anyone visit here:

Macon: Downtown is beautiful and historic. The Cherry Blossom Festival is held downtown in the springtime every year and people travel from all over the world just to see the trees. They’re divine.

Nashville: Love Circle. I think it might be closed off to the public now since John Rich built his giant-ass house there (it’s an eye sore), but Love Circle is the best view of the city. It’s one of the first places I went when I visited Nashville. I fell in love with the view and knew I wanted to call it home.

Biggest misconception about this city:

Macon: People tend to think that the music scene in Macon is still thriving due to its history. It’s always sad to have to tell them that those days have actually long passed. I’m really hoping for a revival—I have faith that the city might make a comeback.

Nashville: That everyone in Nashville plays and sings country music, and that everyone in Nashville likes country music. That percentage is actually much smaller than people would believe. It’s true that Music Row monopolizes a huge portion of the music industry in the city, but there’s an enormous burgeoning underground scene of musicians that’s super punk and garage rock, and the folk scene is really huge too. That DIY facet of the industry is so overlooked in Nashville because all people see are the honkytonks and the Downtown lights and the television show, “Nashville”, which hasn’t really helped to improve the misconception.

Thing you love the most here:

Macon: My family and home I grew up in.
Nashville: Belmont Boulevard (also coincidentally the thing I hate most here).

AON Sessions – TORRES – “Waterfall”

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