COVER STORY: A Detailed Detour Through the Creative Process with TORRES

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“I find I’m at my best, creatively speaking, when I’m most consumed. It just means I have a lot to write.”

The beauty of music derives not just from the relatability factor and multifaceted, demonstrative sensations it bestows upon person to person, but also the surprisingly sweet dissimilitude exerted and consequent discoveries made. Mackenzie Scott, known to listeners as TORRES, is a prime example of this quintessentially divergent depth; with voraciously authoritative vocals, it’s vividly apparent that Scott is in utter control of her aesthetic. However, there’s a softer and more buoyant layer of her that’s just as enchanting and thought provoking. Performer had the chance to catch up with her and learn more about the makings of her latest album, Sprinter, creative endeavors outside of music, and her equally distinct sweet tooth.

You were enriched with music at a young age and encouraged by your parents, but at what point did you know that you really wanted to pursue music seriously?

I was a junior in high school when I visited Belmont University in Nashville. I was interested in their songwriting program, and after I went to the campus I fell in love with [it], as well as the idea of being in school for something I loved. I think that’s when I made the decision that I wanted to commit to making a career in this industry happen. It’s hard to say exactly how I’ve evolved…college did to me what it does to most people: it broke me, but it was one of the best things I could’ve done.

Sprinter explores darkness, alienation and ultimately questioning oneself.  How exactly did these feelings and themes surface in your writing and album, and how were you able to control working with them without allowing them to take over you?

I wrestled (and continue to wrestle) with the existential dread. It doesn’t really ease up with time. I do find, though, that I’m at my best, creatively speaking, when I’m most consumed. It just means I have a lot to write.

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You reference poet John Donne in your song “Son, You Are No Island.”  How did he become an influence to you and this latest material?  I also read that you “wanted something clearly stemmed from [your] Southern conservative roots, but that sounded futuristic and space-y at the same time.”  Can you elaborate on this?

To be honest, I haven’t read THAT much Donne. I’d read his ‘No Man is an Island’ piece and fell in love with it. Beyond that, he didn’t have much of an influence on the album.

It became clear during the writing process that [the album] would have some of its lyrics roots in the American South. Texas, Georgia, Tennessee. I then became obsessed with the idea of creating a sonic atmosphere that sounded more like Outer Space, something unfamiliar and Other. I didn’t want the music to sound derivative of any particular culture or region. I believe it all worked together as a singular album because of my voice.

What was the recording process like for this album?

It was fun and relaxed. You wouldn’t know it, but anytime we weren’t recording, we were joking and laughing. It was so nice to be away from everything familiar and focus on the project. We didn’t even have Wi-Fi in the studio, so there weren’t any distractions (other than the cakes we ate every day).

What recent challenges have you faced as a musician, and how have you or how are you working to overcome them?

My challenges as a musician at this point are almost exclusively financial. Everyone’s struggling, though. I really can’t complain, and I don’t want to complain. I love my job and my quality of life.

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You’ve said that you enjoy the chaos of the city.  What is it about it that you like, and how, if applicable, does it influence your music?

It keeps me out of my head and allows me to externalize my thoughts more frequently than when I was living in Nashville. There’s so much to do and there are so many people to watch. Observing other people’s lives daily on such an intimate level is one of the best things about the city. It causes me to empathize and wonder about their stories. I love when everyone seems grumpy and then some small funny thing takes place, causing everyone in the line at the post office to laugh at once. A few months ago I saw a mother on the subway put some ChapStick on her sleeping son’s lips and it brought me to tears. There are moments of unexpected kindness literally every day, and I get to see it and experience it myself. All of it makes its way into the music, because it changes me as a person and affects what’s happening in my brain.

Do you have any other creative outlets beyond music?  Is there an ideal environment when and where you get your best work done?

I like to write short stories and poems, and I love to cook and bake. I read constantly to carve new thought pathways into my brain. A new book always does the trick if I’m feeling stunted. I also find that depression keeps me from feeling creative sometimes, so I’ll bake a pie or cook a great dinner to lift my spirits. It’s a serotonin trigger for me. I think it’s because baking stimulates all of my senses at once. As well as being a quick and satisfying way to accomplish something constructive when I’m feeling down on myself.

When I was writing this album, I was waking up every day and cooking myself breakfast. I’d give myself an hour or two to drink my coffee and read a book or catch up on an episode of True Detective or something. Then I’d write all day until 5 or 6 pm, like a day job. It wasn’t easy to do every day and I became frequently discouraged and frustrated with myself, but it was good for me to have the self-imposed schedule. I needed to do it; eventually it felt unnatural.

How do you know when a song is complete?

It’s more a matter of deciding that you’re going to put your pen down and cease to make changes. I could edit a song forever if I wanted to, but I really don’t want to beat the life out of it that way. It often comes out right the first time.

How do you define success?

For me, it’s getting to tour the world and meeting and working with artists I respect.

What do you think is your role in the music industry, and what do you hope to accomplish that you haven’t already?

I just hope I get to keep making records and playing shows. I’d be thrilled to make it to Japan to play someday.

Is there anything you’d like to add or want others to be aware of?

Turns out I’m addicted to sugar.

Follow on Twitter @torreslovesyou

photography by Shawn Brackbill

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