TORRES Wants More of the Good Stuff (And You Should Too)

TORRES Photo by Shervin Lainez, courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR
Mackenzie Scott went to work on the latest TORRES album last year amid the throes of the global lockdown. She admits the timeline affected the music she created during the process, but maybe not in the way you’d expect. Rather than capture the confusion and angst of the moment, she took a different route to listeners’ hearts. The latest TORRES album is titled Thirstier and it’s a heartwarming glimpse of an artist who is wholly grateful for the wins in her personal and professional life.

“I’m porous so I felt like the world was just for a long time, even pre-pandemic with the presidency and all of the BS from the last several years, I was feeling like everyone was just about to lose their minds,” Scott said. “While I was making these songs, I was anticipating where people would want to be a year from then or whenever the album came out. I thought about it and was like, yeah, people definitely don’t want to hear a sad album from me. People don’t want to hear a bummer album from me. Maybe they wanna hear an angry album, which maybe they’ll get next, but I don’t know, I just wanted to make something that felt life-affirming rather than something that encouraged people to lean more into their depression.”

Mission accomplished. Thirstier, which released in late July of this year on Merge Records, is a chronicle of this moment in Scott’s personal timeline, but its peak optimism and expressions of joy burst through so that anyone not living her life can appreciate and connect to the songs. Scott, who records and performs as TORRES, a tribute to her grandfather’s surname, will be showcasing songs from the album at House of Blues Thursday, October 7.

Scott has been building momentum professionally over the past decade. She’s gotten to perform with some of her music heroes, artists like Brandi Carlile and Tegan and Sara. She’s developed an avid fan base over five albums of material. She’s also engaged to her partner, Jenna Gribbon, a rising star by her own right in the art world. She painted the cover art for Thirstier which depicts Scott wielding a guitar, her power against any vulnerability. The album title is perfect because Scott’s tasted success and happiness and has rightfully decided she wants more.

“It’s not me being discontented. It’s not me being unhappy with what I’ve got. It’s more of like this is awesome, I just want to keep this going. So, more of the good stuff,” she explained. “I wanted to spin it in a very sustainable kind of way. I’m not reaching for the next best thing, what I’m actually reaching for is the thing that I already have. Just more of that.”

If Thirstier is an introduction to TORRES for some, the first thing they may notice is Scott's booming vocals. She was a theater kid growing up in Georgia so she clearly was taking notes during those lessons about reaching the back of the auditorium.

“I do actually feel like I leaned on my musical theater skill set way more on this album than any of the ones I’ve made before. I love that world. I think when I was younger making records, I didn’t really trust my singing voice as much as I do now and especially I think I shied away from pushing myself vocally on recordings because I was afraid that maybe I wouldn’t be able to hit the notes live,” she said. “Just becoming more trusting in my own abilities has gotten me a long way in the last few years.

“And, I also am aware of the fact that when you’re recording music it’s actually really difficult to capture energy in a performance. Music – at least the magic that you feel from music – it has a very interesting way of resisting being recorded, which is why it’s so amazing when recording magic does actually happen. I just thought if people are going to feel this, if they’re going to feel me really coming through the speakers, whether it’s a great big sound system or it’s a little, dinky iPhone speaker, I need them to be able to feel me in this. That made me want to go really big vocally and really overdo it so what was actually captured in the recording was pretty energetic.”

click to enlarge TORRES hits Houston's House of Blues Thursday, October 7 - PHOTO BY SHERVIN LAINEZ, COURTESY OF PITCH PERFECT PR
TORRES hits Houston's House of Blues Thursday, October 7
Photo by Shervin Lainez, courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR

“If you could have seen me recording,” she said, inviting us all to paint a picture of her in studio, “I was wild. I was swinging my arms around. It was really wild, doing these acrobatic vocal takes.”

We imagine we’ll see these acrobatics at the live show and asked about the vibe of an in-person TORRES set.

“It’s high energy and, I think, really fun. I think people who come to see a TORRES show are usually surprised by how much of a rock show it is,” Scott said. “At least in the past I’ve had people approach me and tell me that they were surprised that it was so high energy and such a rock show. It’s pretty loud and I move around a lot. I would definitely say that the theater comes through again in the live performance.”

TORRES has been on the road for a few weeks now. Scott said the COVID safety precautions are noticeable.

“It is a weird time. I will say, it’s been weird,” she said thoughtfully. A pause and then she said, “but, it’s also been really life-affirming, once again, to be out on the road. The people that are coming to the shows, I can just see that they’ve been starved for live music, just as I have.

“The energy has been different, but despite the uncertainty I’ve really enjoyed the shows so far. This will be one to remember. I’m honestly just grateful to be out here doing it and obviously hope that a year from now, or less than a year from now, things will be more normal and people will have less to fear.”

Thirstier gives listeners some solace against the fears. Songs like “Constant Tomorrowland,” which feels like a 1960s hippie anthem — and even invokes the age of Aquarius — remind anyone stalled by restrictions, pandemic-related or otherwise, that there is a future out there and hopefully a bright one. Because she’s in love, many of the album’s songs hit for anyone also experiencing those wondrous feelings. There’s always some doubt even in these most hopeful moments and songs like “Don’t Go Puttin Wishes in My Head,” speak to brushing past love’s and life’s uncertainties to be open to their best possibilities.

Scott said it’s important to her to also make the distinction that these songs express sentiments by and for an LGBTQ perspective. Even if they don’t always overtly speak to queer issues, the songs from Thirstier are presented with such confidence and promise it gives every track more meaning for certain members of TORRES’s fan base, listeners who have been ignored for too long, as Scott sees it.

“Queer joy specifically, yes, is absolutely a focus of this album and something that I’m really trying to project into the ether because queer joy is something that in my opinion has been really sorely underrepresented for at least all of recorded history. Yeah. I want to change that. I want to change it significantly.”

click to enlarge Scott said the new album expresses and encourages "queer joy." - PHOTO BY SHERVIN LAINEZ, COURTESY OF PITCH PERFECT PR
Scott said the new album expresses and encourages "queer joy."
Photo by Shervin Lainez, courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR

The album finds her in a perfect place to try for those lofty goals and maybe inspire the same from its listeners in the process. We note it takes a very self-assured person to create and foster those notions. Scott reflected on how she grew into this role as an artist.

“The obvious answer is I’ve been doing this now for many years. My first album came out the day after I turned 22 or something, so I was really young in the beginning. I’m still fairly young, but I have five albums now and have not only performed live for that long but I’ve also been recording and producing and writing for that long and exploring different parts of my vocal range and building my career in a way where it’s amazing that some people I’ve looked up to for a long time I can now call my peers.

“You just start to kind of believe in yourself naturally as a result of all of those things kind of falling into place. But also, there’s a great deal of fake it ‘til you make it that kind of always comes through for me. I guess if you’re going to pursue a career doing this you just have to be always more confident than you actually feel. You have to at least appear that way. I guess after doing it for so long and just trusting that no matter what goes wrong nothing terrible is going to happen – even if everything goes awry during the set, I can at least laugh about it afterwards and say, well, tomorrow’s another show. It’s just rock music.”

TORRES performs October 7, 2021 at The Bronze Peacock at House of Blues Houston, 1204 Caroline. With Ariana and the Rose. Doors at 6 p.m. for this all ages show. $19.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.