When the quietly devastating track "Honey" by Nashville singer/songwriter Torres (real name Mackenzie Scott) emerged from the Internet ether a few weeks back, it was readily apparent that Scott's talent contradicted any notions of contemporary American folk music being boring. Throughout the course of the song, Scott's voice transforms from a broken whisper to a defiant howl and back again, her electric guitar slowly devouring any silence with stormy crescendos and snarling distortion and her lyrics painting vivid pictures of crippling isolation and the resignation that emerges in the wake of lost love. It's a slow-motion train wreck of a song, flaming out in dissolving memories and overwhelming remorse. At one point, Scott knows the song is fleeting and about to escape her grasp when she warns "What ghost crawled inside my guitar? / Don't move, just stay right where you are."
Undoubtedly, "Honey" marks the emergence of a new voice to watch (or listen to) in the Nashville scene. With a self-titled debut album released yesterday, the 22-year old -- and recent college graduate -- showcases her hair-raising voice, forest-leveling guitar work and emotionally obliterating lyrics on her first LP. We caught up with Scott as she was beginning to prepare her band for a national tour in support of her first album.
Did you grow up in Nashville and has the city been a big influence on your music?
I'm originally from Macon, Georgia, which is about an hourish south of Atlanta. I came to Nashville in 2009 for college and I've been here ever since. Nashville itself helped me hone in on the sound I wanted, and the community here has certainly been the best thing for me. There are people here I have been able to befriend and look up to in the industry but as far as my "sound" goes, my influence has come from a lot of different places and people.
Do you think Nashville is a good incubator for aspiring musicians?
I would say so. There's a pretty good mix. You can find just about any kind of music you want in Nashville. Obviously you've got the music row / country scene, which is kind of what Nashville is known for, but then you have the lesser-known music scenes like the acoustic folk scene and a really good punk scene and a really good rock scene that's more underground.
What scene do you think you fit into?
I've hopped around since being here. I started playing in the acoustic scene, folk music, Americana, so I was playing more coffee shop-type places early in my career, which was good for me. My sound has evolved since being in Nashville -- its more electric guitar-based, and I'm playing with a full band now. I still tend to hop around so I don't really consider myself a part of one of the music scenes in particular. But, you know, I definitely enjoy going to house shows and seeing some crazy punk band that I've never heard of.
When did you first start writing and performing music?
I taught myself how to play the guitar when I was in high school, when I was 16 or 17. Up until that point, I had written -- I'm a writer, I like to write short stories and poetry -- but when I started playing the guitar, that's when I started writing songs and I had my instrument to be the base for that stuff. But I didn't start performing until I came to Nashville in '09. It took a little while because it's really hard when you first come to Nashville. There's so much music and it's so hard to get people to pay attention. It took me a long time. There's still a lot of venues in Nashville that I still haven't gotten to play and I am by no means "in" yet. It's a tough town to break. I've been performing for about three years now.
What music made you want to be a musician?
I would say first and foremost Brandi Carlisle. I got into her records my first year of college. She's probably my hero of sorts. I tend to get stuck on a musician and don't really branch out a lot. I get really obsessive about my music and I will listen to one artist for a year or two, and then I'll have a new one. Brandi was the person that I listened to forever and more recently I've been on a giant St. Vincent kick.