“It’s hard for me to have nothing recent out there. I get really stir-crazy whenever the last thing I released was two or three years in the past.”
Mackenzie Scott never holds back in her music as Torres. Whether its through her stunning guitar playing, powerful arrangements or lyrics that cut to the bone, she brings a rawness and connectivity to each and every track. With her rhythmic new album, Silver Tongue, Torres writes about the highs and hazards of love. It’s a record not just on the exhilaration of a relationship but also the work and dedication needed to make it last. You can hear that commitment in songs like “Gracious Day,” where she promises, “No surprise, honey I’m/ Gonna love you all my life.” I spoke to Torres about self-producing, how her albums reflect the four elements and learning how to receive and give affection.
I read that this album is about desire. What led you to explore that subject?
Being in love. I’m not sure how much of it was a conscious choice, it just happened. But I fell in love, and documented the various levels of treachery throughout.
What do you feel you discovered or uncovered while writing this album?
I learned that if anything, I both am and am not in control. I saw myself as impervious to the loss of control that so many people experience whenever they really fall in love with somebody. I saw myself as somebody who could have the upper hand if I wanted to in a situation like that. But it turns out that I’m whipped as they say! (Laughs) I’m not special in that way. I’m somebody who falls and falls really hard.
I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, whenever you’re trying to get something that you want. A lot of the ways I used to try to get what I want weren’t really working so well in this pursuit of a relationship. They may have worked for me in other aspects of my life but they weren’t working so well for me – my aloofness and my steeliness. All of these things I prided myself on really were no match for this person that I am in love with. I had to humble myself and learn how pride is something that gets in the way. I had to learn about what hinders affection, and how to receive affection and how to give it.
Last summer, you tweeted that Silver Tongue was your water album. Could you expand on that and how it compares to the other three in that way?
(Laughs) That was kind of a funny tweet. But yeah, I was thinking about it and there’s the four elements: water, fire, air and earth. I was thinking of my albums in that way and what I would assign each of them. My self-titled was really my earth album. It expressed longing for comfort and for a type of physical and emotional affection that I hadn’t received. They were very grounded desires. Sprinter, that album was all fire. I was mad and it was obvious. I think people liked that. Then, Three Futures, that was my air album. It was a really removed, cerebral piece of work that was tied up in thought and concepts, rather than being grounded in the physical body, which is ironic because it was so much an album about the physical body, but in concept. It was my aloof, icy album.
When I think of water, I’m also thinking of astrological water signs, and they’re associated with a major overflow of feeling, and the expression of that feeling. Driven by all emotion is what water signs are, but also not so quick to trust and not so willing relinquish control. That’s the theme of this album, my most forthright overflow of love. That just felt like water to me.
You’ve been playing some of these songs live for a couple of years. How do you feel they have evolved from the stage to the record?
I think it was to the fortune of the songs. You find out in the live setting what works a little better than when you’re just recording it by yourself in the studio. It takes on a completely different life when you’re actually singing these songs out to people and you’re feeling them react and seeing how they connect.
Specifically, I think a couple of the songs didn’t have bridges whenever I played them live initially. There were just certain parts missing because I didn’t know what they needed. When I performed them live, I thought, “oh, this needs a lift here,” and made a mental note. There are all sorts of little things that make their way in.
Sometimes, I’ll even add things that aren’t there to the songs after I’ve recorded them. In the live setting, I’ll change them still. I think it’s fun that you can edit in that way, post-recording and album release. It leaves room for the songs to always have a new life breathed into them. I like for the live show to feel like something you couldn’t have just by listening to the record. I love that they’re different mediums and there’s still that ability to surprise people. I find a lot of thrill of that.
“Gracious Day” is an absolutely magnificent song. Can you speak to the story behind that track and how it came together?
The song itself is pretty self-explanatory. I’ve been pretty open speaking about my relationship. The relationship I’m currently in is one that was pursuing with everything I had at the time I recorded that song. [The song] was one I was working on for quite some time actually. I was trying to figure out what it needed and it wasn’t really coming together. I just had these lyrics.
Then things sort of went south in my relationship. Essentially, I was about to get left. I won’t say that writing and recording that demo saved my relationship but it definitely had something to do with my girlfriend coming back and giving me another shot to be the better version of myself that I knew I could be. It came together very quickly in that moment of desperation. I took all the lyrics I had been working on for six months and the melody just fell out all at once. That demo that I released last year was the first recording ever of that song. It came out the first time that way.
Yeah, the demo feels like it was fully-formed from the first go.
That happens quite a bit actually. I’ll think this doesn’t have any potential to be a great song and then one morning, you wake up and sing it and play the melody for the first time. Then all of the sudden you have something that feels like it could be somebody’s favorite song. It’s miraculous in that way.
While “Gracious Day” is very sparse, “Good Scare” is very rhythmic. What else can we expect musically from this record?
You can expect a lot more of the rhythm that you’re hearing on “Good Scare,” which is one of my favorite aspects of the new record. It’s something you can really move to, which I think is really fun because it’s not something I had as much on my first two records.
There’s a lot of sonic exploration on this one where I feel I’ve found a sound that sounds like nothing else, which is great. I’ve been in the past worried that I was going to get compared to this or that. I know when this album comes out, I’ll be compared to somebody else. You’re always compared to somebody else, which is fine. But at least the sonic palette feels like all my own, or an amalgamation of so many different influences that there would be no way to pinpoint one major influence above the rest.
I believe this is your first time self-producing a record by yourself, correct? What was behind that decision and what was that experience like?
It was great! I like when I’m control. (Laughs) This felt like one thing that I could control, the production of my record. The other side of that is there are a lot of aspects that are really challenging about being the sole producer. You can’t really bounce ideas off other people. There’s an immense amount of trust I had to place in myself to know what I was making was not just something that sounds good to me but something that would sound good objectively to other people. That is a completely instinctual choice that was made. I had no real way of knowing what the truth was. That’s a little scary. But all in all, I found it to be a surprisingly good experience. I was able to get in the studio with my engineer and work pretty quickly and get the sounds out that I was hearing in my head, instead of all the pontificating and discussing what’s coming next. Studio time is expensive!
Last year, you reissued your debut album on vinyl. What was it like looking back at that record and did that lookback impact your thinking in any way for Silver Tongue?
This is funny, I didn’t go back and listen to the first album! (Laughs) I have such a hard time listening to that old music. It’s not because I’m ashamed of it. I’m still very proud of that record. It’s like listening to a five-or-seven-year-old voice recording of yourself. Like, who is that?! There’s a lot of that at play with that first record. Obviously, there were test pressings I had to approve and I very quickly listened to the first 30 seconds of each song and said, “Okay, it’s good!” (Laughs)
That being said, I still look at the whole process, the way I went about pressing that first record and getting it out. One thing about that was I was not on a record label at that point. It was a lot harder to get that record pressed and get it out there because I was not backed a team of people helping me. I shipped every one of those records out by myself, by hand. It took such a long time! I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it and I’m grateful to have fans. But if I had to personally send out every single record, I would have no time to make records. It really put a fire under my ass to get another record label and make sure I was going to be surrounded by a team of people who could help me with these things, so I can focus on the art.
Do you have a favorite song on Silver Tongue that you can’t wait for your audience to hear?
Yes! It’s called “Dressing America.” For one, I think it’s my best pop song ever. It’s the most danceable, light-hearted thing I’ve maybe ever put out there. It’s a totally different world I’ve stepped into. That was also one of those songs that took me a really long time to write. It was one of those songs that had twice the amount of lyrics initially. Over several months, I whittled away to get what I ended up with. It’s funny, I actually whittled away so much that I eliminated the part of the song that contained the lyric “Dressing America.”
What are you most looking forward to for this album cycle, both releasing it and the tour?
I’m really looking forward to the tour. I hope that people show up! I’m really excited to see how the songs take shape in the live sphere. That’s always one of my favorite aspects of an album release, is to see how the songs evolve on-stage.
Generally speaking, I’m just excited to have it out there. It’s hard for me to have nothing recent out there. I get really stir-crazy whenever the last thing I released was two or three years in the past. It makes me anxious and I get really jittery for people to hear the new thing I’ve been working on. I’ll just be glad that it’s out there.