Singer/songwriter Mackenzie Shivers has garnered acclaim for her Celtic-inspired, piano-driven folk. Get to know our TALENT SCOUT Artist of the Week.
NAME: Mackenzie Shivers
HOMETOWN: New York, NY
MUSICAL TRAINING: I earned my degree in music composition/theory from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, where I also studied orchestration and songwriting. Piano lessons started at age five and continued through college. High school was when I started taking voice lessons. I grew up doing musical theater and singing in choir, but I never really knew where I fit in as a singer, because I wasn’t a belter and I wasn’t an operatic soprano. But through lessons, I discovered how to sing in a mixed voice which was really illuminating for me. It was a definite “aha!” moment.
FIRST GIGS: When I was 13 years old, I started getting hired to play piano at various parties and events around Tampa (where I grew up). My repertoire was made up of songs I learned by ear. The Peanuts theme song “Linus and Lucy” was a favorite, sprinkled with various movie scores and a healthy dose of Jewel songs.
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: I always mention Tori (Amos) and Joni (Mitchell), but I’m also really inspired by Olivia Chaney, Bon Iver, Debussy, Phoebe Bridgers, Philip Glass, Elton John...the list goes on and on.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: The new boygenius EP
MY BIG BREAK: So far I’ve had several small breaks, or stepping stones, versus one big one. Playing at the Paste Magazine studio with Bellehouse was a moment for sure. As was playing bodhrán beside Gabriel Kahane and 60 other musicians for a project called The Apartment Sessions. As was getting accepted as a voting member of the Recording Academy this year. It’s all made up of moments - I try to appreciate each one of them. If I ever feel like I’m not making headway, I think about the fact that I had never even been in a recording studio five years ago.
LATEST PROJECTS: The Unkindness, out February 8
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? A Muppet Babies keyboard was my first instrument at age three, so that will always hold a special place in my heart. Nowadays, I really love Yamahas. I find the feel of the keys and the piano sounds quite authentic. I have a simple P-115 88-key and an old 76 key that I’ve used in studio sessions for some of its pre-programmed sounds. For example, I’ve used the French horn as a warm synth. I'm also looking to buy a Nord Electro HP that I can bring to gigs in NYC. Taking a keyboard on the subway is not an easy feat. I like that the Nord Electro series has piano, organ, and synth sounds, portable hammer action keys, and MIDI compatibility.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? Releasing my new album and playing shows here in the US and in Japan.
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Don’t worry if you don’t fit neatly into a specific mold or genre. Be true to who you are - having an authentic voice will never go out of style and will always make the best art. It can be harder to market yourself if you fall outside the clear lines of “pop," “folk," “classical” and so on, but don’t let anyone convince you that it is the most important thing. I really believe genre is becoming less important and that music is most exciting when lines get blurred. No matter how you define it, it’s music, and it’s your voice.
Find out more at mackenzieshivers.com