There’s a layered story behind the cover art for Silver Tongue, the fourth album by Mackenzie Scott, the NYC-based artist who performs under the moniker TORRES. Hypnotizing, enigmatic, and cryptic, a painting of Scott in a black turtleneck illustrates her delivering a self-assured stare, and positioned in front of a UFO with her hand extended, seemingly, inviting the viewer aboard. “It’s an invitation,” she describes over the phone from New York City of the painting created by her girlfriend, artist Jenna Gribbon. “An invitation to join me on my trip.”
For the last seven years, Scott’s blend of personal narratives, upheld by tight riffs that highlight small details, are what has made TORRES albums feel distinct, like you’re reading a secret diary or listening in on someone conversing with themselves. Even the moniker of TORRES comes from Scott’s grandfather’s name, which she explains is both “arbitrary and meaningful.” “A family name but also meaning nothing. Ungendered,” the 28-year-old Scott clarifies.
For Scott, who’s always told her own story through the vehicle of powerful and intimate confessionals, Silver Tongue is an exercise in diving into new depths, and towards a deeper truth which was aided by finding a new home on a different label.
It’s been a long journey for Scott to get to where she finds herself now. After garnering critical acclaim for her self-titled debut album in 2013 (which she recorded in just five days), Scott’s music continued to evolve. While releasing similarly acclaimed albums — Sprinter (2015) and Three Futures (2017) —Scott toured with acts like Sharon Van Etten, Garbage, Brandi Carlile and Tegan and Sara.
Just two years ago, she peeled back the curtain of a broken industry when she tweeted: “My former label, 4AD, has decided to drop me from a 3 album deal for not being commercially successful enough. I wish them all the best. Also, fuck the music industry.” The future of TORRES seemed uncertain.
“It’s been a really hard couple of years,” Scott remembers, her voice hesitant while recalling a difficult time. “I really think that suffering, hopefully, makes us more resilient and resourceful beings. I’m relieved and grateful for the support I’ve had, but I’ve also fought tooth and nail to get here, so I’m proud of myself.”
Scott’s situation was far from unique, and labels severing ties with their artists is far from new. Even pop superstars like Taylor Swift aren’t exempt from similar issues, who is confirmed to be re-recording her entire discography to gain ownership of the songs from her previous label. And more recently, in 2019, alternative R&B singer Tinashe celebrated the release of her recent independent album after years of being trapped in a controlling label that eventually dropped her. “I think it probably happens more than people realize,” Scott muses. “But most artists are smart enough not to tweet about it.
“My publicist definitely wasn’t happy,” she ends with a laugh.
There’s a fine level of discipline to Silver Tongue which is likely due to the album’s conception.
The album title itself refers to the powers of persuasion. “‘Silver Tongue’ as a phrase really stood out to me,” Scott explains slowly, meticulous about selecting the right words to describe it. “This idea of wanting something very specific and pursuing it. Getting and not getting.”
While it’s her fourth record, it’s also her first time producing it completely by herself, which offered a greater degree of autonomy and new levels of freedom. It underscores how organized and tidy of a project Scott can create with complete control over production. “It felt like the one thing in my life that I could control,” Scott admits. “I absolutely loved producing solo. There’s always that initial moment of trepidation when you step into the studio, but those fears quickly dissipated. We just started blaring.”
Blaring might be a harsh way to describe it, but speaks to the album’s sense of urgency. Silver Tongue is a beautifully lush, dark and enveloping record, weighted carefully by Scott’s deep, haunting vocals as she sings about new love, gloom, and self-mythologization. Songs like “Good Scare” and “Dressing America” represent the anxiety we get from a new and powerful love, scared we could lose it in an instant. While on “Gracious Day,” the album’s quiet and passionate standout, Scott’s convictions are evident. “I don’t want you going home anymore,” she sings, her voice close to quivering. “I want you coming home.”
With a new album and tour on the horizon this year, Mackenzie Scott is eager for the expedition. While touring may seem like an exhaustive process to some, Scott looks forward to the mental and physical workout. “Touring is a totally extroverted process, completely physical, not cerebral,” she finishes, her excitement evident over the phone. “I love what a strong tour makes me feel.”