Last week, 24-year-old Mackenzie Scott, better known as TORRES, released Sprinter, a home-run of an album that locks you in a chokehold with its first few lines (“Heather, I’m sorry that your mother/diseased in the brain/cannot recall your name”) and doesn’t let go until you’ve ridden backwards, blindfolded, through every shade of darkness you’ve ever felt. We chat with the Georgia native about singing in the shower, taking criticism and Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice.”
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When did you start writing songs?
I started writing songs when I was about 16. The first song I ever wrote was called “You Miss Me,” and it was definitely about my ex-boyfriend.
How do you go about writing songs? What’s your process like?
Usually lyrics almost always come first, and I guess I just start writing around a hook that I already plan to write around, or I’ll write everything but the hook and save that for the end until I know what I’m getting at.
Do you generally write from a personal perspective or do you like to take on characters when you write?
I think it’s both. I mean, there’s no way to de-personalize something. I can only see it through my own eyes, so in that sense it’s probably going to be my perspective. I write my perspective of other peoples’ perspectives, so in that sense, I do take on characters.
Do you co-write or mostly by yourself?
I don’t really co-write. I tried a couple times in college and it didn’t really work out well.
Who are your biggest influences as a young writer vs now?
I was really influenced by Taylor Swift as a teenager, as well as Joan Jett and Brandi Carlile.
Do you prefer to work under a deadline?
It’s definitely a lot of both. I like to keep a notebook everywhere I go so I can scribble down quick ideas, phrases that I like, word pairings, just a single word that I like, or some sort of hook lyric that I think of. I like to keep a record of those sorts of things, but as far as efficiency goes and getting something done, I definitely work better under a deadline. I work well under pressure.
Which of your songs was the most difficult for you to write?
A song called “The Exchange” that was the last song I wrote for this album. I spent months writing that song. I would write then come back to it, scrap it, come back to it. So that one was the most difficult for me, I think.
Which song of yours do your fans seem to reach to the most?
“Honey” always seems to be one. If anyone knows the songs it’s usually “Honey.”
Are you afraid to show your work to people are have you pretty much conquered that fear by now?
I was never afraid to show my work to people.
How do you usually handle criticism when someone doesn’t like your music?
I laugh. I mean, that’s what you have to do. I went to school and got a degree in songwriting, I had teachers shit on songs I wrote. It’s nothing new to me.
Who are your favorite songwriters?
I have so many! I really love Brian Eno. He’s more of an obsession of mine from the last couple of years. Kurt Cobain, Johnny Cash, Annie Clark. St. Vincent [Annie Clark] is a brilliant songwriter.
What do you think is the best song ever written?
Oh my God, I don’t think there is one, but I’ll have to check through my music. My most played song is Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice,” so do with that what you will. I don’t think it’s necessarily the best song ever written, but it’s the one that’s been striking a chord with me recently.
What do you like about it?
It just makes me feel like anything is possible, I guess. That song makes me feel not very nice but in a good way.
What songs do you sing when you’re alone?
Hymns and “My Girl.” I feel like every time I’m in the shower I end up singing “My Girl” completely unintentionally.
05/11 Scottsdale, AZ @ Pub Rock Live
05/12 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
05/13 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill
05/15 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
05/16 Seattle, WA @ Barboza
05/17 Vancouver, BC @ Electric Owl
05/20 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
05/21 Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
05/22 Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory
05/23 Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
05/27 Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right
06/25 Allston, MA @ Great Scott
06/26 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
06/27 Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
06/28 Washington, DC @ DC9
06/30 Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
07/01 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
07/02 Chattanooga, TN @ Rhythm & Brews