This Friday, January 26th, TORRES – who we’ve seen over the past ten years headlining Boot & Saddle and Johnny Brenda’s, in addition to providing support for artists like Strand of Oaks, Tegan and Sara, Frightened Rabbit, and Superchunk at Union Transfer and The Fillmore – will release her sixth LP (and third for Merge), What an enormous room. However, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection will be treated to a preview of much of the album – which has already produced three singles that have drawn praise from Paste, Stereogum, and The New York Times — this Thursday, January 25th, when the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter (also known as Mackenzie Scott) headlines The Foundry at The Fillmore. Her current tour kicked off a week ago in Cleveland, with setlists comprised of about 70-80% of the album, in addition to some of the artist’s favorite tracks from albums 2-5. Last week I got a chance to chat with Mackenzie Scott via Zoom about just what you can expect of the album and her current live show.
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city, as you’ve played here a lot over the years. I’ve seen you at Boot & Saddle more than once and Johnny Brenda’s at least once, but I know you’ve also played a number of other places, as well.
Mackenzie Scott: Philly is always a good time! It’s a very comfortable place to play and the audience is always kind of surprisingly warm. The energy is always high.
Izzy: Yeah, I haven’t seen you post-pandemic, but back in the Boot & Saddle/Johnny Brenda’s days, I was always there, and it was always great, and it was always pretty packed.
Mackenzie: Yeah! I’m quite appreciative of all the folks that show up for me in Philly.
Izzy: You’re gearing up to release your sixth studio album (which seems crazy…), What an enormous room. How do you feel like the album compares to previous releases?
Mackenzie: I say this every time I make an album, and it’s always true, but I say it every time for a reason: I really feel like the album is very me. And specifically, this one. I don’t have any reference points for this one. I couldn’t tell you exactly where the sound of it even came from… I mean, obviously I’m just kind of an amalgamation of my influences. But, for me, the album just feels like it came right out of my guts. And I’m just really happy with the sound of it, sonically.
Izzy: You’ve already released a few singles from the album. Have you had any favorite reactions to the new music from fans?
Mackenzie: Yeah. I’m glad people seem to be “getting it,” ya know? The people that’ve sent me nice messages about the songs definitely seem to be feeling connected to them, which is all I could hope for!
Izzy: Your most recent single, “Wake to flowers,” has a really cool music video directed by Dani Okon, who I know you’ve worked with in the past. How did the concept behind the video come about?
Mackenzie: Dani is just a really smart person and knows how to be really effective with very little, so the treatments have been hers. Dani and I are close friends, so I feel like she especially knows what I’m going for, aesthetically, with the art directions and everything. She’s very talented.
Izzy: You’ve been on Merge Records for a while now, which is such an amazing label and home to a lot of our favorite artists. How is it working with them?
Mackenzie: It’s lovely. The people who work at that label are truly good people. And they care about their artists, not just their careers, but as individuals, as people. That’s really special. I wish I could say that every label is like that, but they’re not. So, Merge is really elevated in that way. I really appreciate that the label is run by people who are longtime musicians themselves. And a lot of the people that work at that label – Mac, specifically – is still touring just as much as I am, which is a real testament to how much he gets it from both sides of things, from the business side and then on the artist side, as well.
Izzy: While we’re discussing the label, do you have any favorite labelmates, whether artists that you’re especially close with or just especially big fans of?
Mackenzie: I’m fans of a lot of artists on that label, but recently I became friends with Eric D. Johnson, who is Fruit Bats, and we really like each other and are hoping to collaborate at some point in the near future.
Izzy: You’re about to kick off a pretty huge tour, really huge by today’s standards… Are there any dates that you’re especially excited about?
Mackenzie: I get excited about tour in general, but some of the surprising ones end up being the most exciting. I feel like last time Seattle and Denver really surprised me. Salt Lake City actually surprised me more than anything, just how fun it was and how energetic the crowd was. I always look forward to the New York show, and Chicago, and DC, but I wanna say I like it all!
Izzy: What can be expected of the live show on this run, in terms of setlist, production, and just general vibe of the night?
Mackenzie: It’ll be upbeat. And, like you said, I have six albums now, so I have a lot more to choose from, so it’s been really interesting building a setlist from a more expansive catalogue. But it’ll be a high-energy set!
Izzy: With a pretty decent size catalogue at this point, how do you decide what songs from your back catalogue you’re going to bring on any given run?
Mackenzie: I sort of looked at the new album and tried to build a setlist that was sort of in the world of those songs. I tried to pick songs from the back catalogue that made sense with the new songs, because we’ll be playing most of the new record. That kinda helped me dissect things and figure out the setlist, when I looked at it from that perspective of, “What’s gonna sound good with the new record?”
Izzy: You’re going to be on the road with Aisha Burns (who’s opening this show) and Liza Anne (who I’ve seen before and totally dig). How did you connect with the two of them, and what are your thoughts on their music?
Mackenzie: I’m a huge fan of both of those artists; it’s why I’m having them out with me! Aisha, I met through a friend and bandmate — J.R. Bohannon, who plays pedal steel – and also Julien Baker. Julien Baker is really the person who introduced me to Aisha; they’re close. So, I got to know her music through that relationship, and she’s really quite a talented musician and a really good person. Liza, I met through another close friend of mine. These were kind of organic relationships, I guess, that then became opportunities to tour together.
Izzy: Yeah, they’re both great. I haven’t seen Aisha before, so I’m excited for that. I saw Liza so long ago at Boot & Saddle, like six years ago…
Mackenzie: Okay! I think I remember what show you’re talking about!
Izzy: You play a pretty wide variety of venues, from barrooms and listening rooms, to huge nightclubs, major festivals, and a bunch of things in-between, which is sort of what The Foundry is. Do you approach your performances differently, depending on the setting or circumstances?
Mackenzie: I mean, yes, but sometimes it ends up being a surprising sort of inversion of what you would think [laughs]. Like, sometimes in a small room the impulse is actually to go harder, if that makes sense, and sometimes it’s not… And, sometimes in a big room, like a theatre or something, you might end up wanting to go a little less grunge, a little more ambient or whatever. Or you might wanna end up going huge! So, I do approach different rooms differently, but a huge part of it is just thinking about the acoustics of that particular room and also reading the room when there are actually people there, and sort of adjusting the energy accordingly.
Izzy: On a related note, do you have a particular favorite type of venue to play, or even just certain things that you think make a venue especially enjoyable to play?
Mackenzie: There’s always the feeling that if a room’s really good, you just know that it’s really good. But I can’t say that there’s some defining feature of a good room, necessarily. It’s kind of nebulous. Like, you know, maybe layout and acoustics have something to do with it, but then energy has so much to do with it, the P.A. system… There are so many factors to what makes a great room, but I tend to love like a 1,200-cap rock club.
Izzy: Finally, I know that these dates currently run through early April, but is there anything you’re especially excited about in 2024 after that wraps, that may already be planned?
Mackenzie: There are a couple things planned, but I’m not at liberty to speak about them yet [laughs]. But yes, there are things that I’m really stoked about! You’ll find out about them soon!
*Get your tickets here.