Earlier in May of this year, Mackenzie Scott, aka Torres, released a new album titled Sprinter that won the hearts of music critics all over the blogosphere, including the tough achievement of swaying the hearts of the ever-so-hard-to-please Pitchfork review with a whopping 8.0.
Sprinter is an album of emotional pain, intensity and pure, visceral feeling. After listening to what will probably be one of the best albums to come out this year, we decided we had to step inside the mind of Torres—find her inspirations and learn a bit about her songwriting process.
Last week, we visited one of the NoFomo parties on a rooftop in Bushwick, who graciously hosted a pleasant meet-and-greet with one of our new favorite personalities in music.
It was a warm night; strings of lights were strung all around, there were couches and rugs on all areas of the roof, a DJ was in the corner playing some killer Hot Chip remixes (the Percussions edit of “Need You Now” is now one of our favorite Hot Chip remixes). There was a delicious blackberry whisky mix that was provided for the crowd, and everyone was in top spirits, dancing this beautiful summer night away.
Torres came on the roof a bit later, her blonde top knot tied tight on her head, shyly making her way around the rooftop. It was funny to us, how someone so insanely powerful in music could be so reserved.
Congratulations on your new album Sprinter, it’s an incredible piece of art, yet it doesn’t really fit into one category or have one distinct sound. Can you talk a bit about what the process of writing/recording the album was?
I wrote the album here in Bushwick, in my apartment about three blocks away. That took about six months, and it was very steady, consistent six months of writing. Then I contacted my friend Rob Ellis who produced the album and ended up playing drums on the record as well. And I recorded in Dorset, England with him—that’s where he lives. And now we’re here!
It’s a very emotional album, and we’ve seen before that you’ve quoted Sylvia Plath. Who were some of your other literary influences that helped you write the record?
Salinger. Franny and Zooey was a major book for me when I was writing. As well as Nine Stories. Joan Didion. I was reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem that ended up being crucial to me as well, especially “Goodbye to All That,” which sounds so cliché. But they’re really important essays that resonate with a lot of people. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale also.
The album is really emotional, very visceral. It sounds like you’re putting your heart out there for everyone to hear. Does being extremely vulnerable and honest in writing music translate into when you perform? Or when you get up on stage to perform, does it become harder?
The writing process is an interior experience because I’m sitting, I’m alone, I’m zeroed in. It’s a cathartic process, but its a very internalized process. Whereas, the performing requires me to be an extrovert for an hour.
So they’re two completely different head-spaces. One is completely introverted and the other one is the complete opposite.
When you quoted Joan Didion one time, she said “writing is always selling someone out.” How do you figure out where crossing the line is?
I struggled a good bit, a lot, before writing this record because it honestly implicates a lot of people in my life, present, and past.
I think ultimately the conclusion I arrived at is that it’s better to sing these things every night and get them out. It’s better to sing about hate every night than to foster a hatred internally. And what I do every night by singing about hate is externalizing it, exercising it, and ultimately, I forgive that way.
I do consider it to be a very healing process, and it’s always better to channel those feelings into the art, than to live them out.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
It’s a recurring memory. On Sunday mornings, my dad used to wake me up before church whistling and singing quite loudly, and then my parents would take me and wrap me up in their sheet and swing me back and forth and flip me around. I loved it.