Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Torres talks of toska, catharsis, and Johnny Cash

Torres is the stage name of Mackenzie Scott, a hugely talented twenty-three year old singer-songwriter from Macon Georgia. Torres is also the name of her debut album, which, independently released, has won deserved critical acclaim with its ten tracks that display a rare talent and maturity. Jayson Greene, reviewing the album for Pitchfork, wrote of the album that it is ” an overwhelming rush of feeling, and it connects with throat-seizing immediacy”. We’re in full agreement here at TMO – having been hypnotized by her debut single Honey, a song with a razor-sharp and essential text, a raw and captivating delivery, all rolled up in a tune that lodges itself firmly in that instinctual non-thinking part of the brain.

Torres answered some TMO questions via email for the following interview:

There’s a great book called The Novelist’s Lexicon, where various writers are asked to sum up their work with one word. Let’s steal the concept, and ask you if you had to associate one word with your work what would it be, and why?

Toska. Vladimir Nabokov described toska as a deeply-rooted sadness or melancholia with an unidentifiable source. I’ve experienced that feeling since I was young – the first time I remember it was when I was five years old. It came on like a wave one morning and never really left. There’s no equivalent for the word in the English language. I actually almost named my first record Toska, but I figured the name may be a bit heavy for a debut.

You studied songwriting at Belmont School in Nashville – how much did that influence/affect your songwriting? Can great songwriting be taught?

It didn’t affect my songwriting, but it affected my process and my discipline. Songwriting cannot be taught, but discipline and sharpening can.

Catharsis is usually why I write. It’s a selfish thing. I write for me first, and others second. I can’t do it any other way and I don’t want to.

We’re always interested in the effect of geography on songwriting – did Nashville influence the songs and the album, or is it a case that you could have written/recorded them anywhere?

I probably could have written them anywhere, but my experiences are what shaped the songs, and my experiences took place in Nashville. So I likely could have written somewhere else, but they would’ve been different songs.

I read that you recorded the album in five days – was that an advantage/disadvantage to the end result? If you could turn back time and go into the studio for 6months to record it, would you?

I’d say the five day recording time was just what this first album needed. I didn’t require any more time; if I’d had six months, I would’ve ruined the songs. I would have driven myself mad with perfectionism and imposed flourishes on the songs that weren’t necessary. I cannot imagine spending six months to record an album, unless the recording was sporadic and spaced out. But a consistent six months? That’s unnecessarily daunting.

It’s a really raw album, both sonically and lyrically – to what extent, if any, is your songwriting autobiographical? Glen Hansard, in interview with TMO, talked about his own songwriting as cathartic – as something that he does when he needs to, almost as a healing process – is that something you can relate to?

Catharsis is usually why I write. It’s aselfish thing. I write for me first, and others second. I can’t do it any other way and I don’t want to.

Music, good and bad, gets under your skin like nothing else; If there was one song in the world you could forget, what would it be and why?

Anything by Justin Bieber. I can’t stand that runt.

Let’s playfully imagine that you are forced to choose one song to represent the album Torres, what would it be and why?

It would probably be Waterfall. It ties in most of the themes represented on the album, namely resignation in the midst of dire uncertainty.

Let’s do the dreaded ‘influences’ question – who are some of the artists that have influenced you the most lyrically and musically?

Brandi Carlile, Johnny Cash, Tori Amos, St. Vincent, and Ryan Adams are a few. Those are my heroes.

What’s the best musical advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t ever put a cigarette to those lips.” I never have.

Mike Scott from the Waterboys has written ‘ I figured music wasn’t worth the air it occupied if it didn’t change both its makers and its listeners’; do you agree? Can you tell us how one of your own tracks, or someone else’s has changed you?

“Change” may not necessarily be the best word, but I do agree for the most part.. I liked what Annie Clark (St. Vincent) said recently about musicians and the current industry. To paraphrase, she emphasized how the industry is inundated with “dabblers” and half-hearted attempts that ultimately are depressing pieces of rubbish. Brandi Carlile’s Looking Out really saved me in a time when I needed it. That’s what it’s all about–connecting and feeling less alone.

If you could write/record with any musician – alive or dead – who would it be, and why?

Johnny Cash– I think we could’ve written a solid musical epitaph of some sorts. Something nice and gloomy.