Mackenzie Scott got her “dream guitar," a Gibson ES-335, as a Christmas gift from her entire family a few years ago. “I’d had my eye on it for a couple of years, but I never thought I’d ever have a guitar like that,” she says.
Photo by Jonny Victorsson.
When did you get your 335?
It was a collective Christmas gift from my entire family a few years ago. I’d had my eye on it for a couple of years, but I never thought I’d ever have a guitar like that. It’s my dream guitar. I don’t bring it out on the road as much as I’d like to because I’m terrified of something happening to it.
Did you mod anything on it?
No, I didn’t do anything to it. I’m thinking of taking off the Bigsby, though, because it makes it go out of tune so easily. But it’s a beautiful guitar, and I love the semi-hollow design. I love the way the neck feels. It’s a heavy guitar—it’s big and burdensome. But my 335 makes me feel like I have something massive in my arms growling. It’s a beast.
It must feed back easily.
Oh, yes. If I plug it into any of the pedals I have and turn my amp up, I can just hold it in the air, and it feeds back.
You really use that feedback on the album.
I did, yeah. I let that happen naturally.
You have a Jazzmaster too.
I do. I love the Jazzmaster. It’s a lot lighter than the 335. I love the neck on it. I like the range. And it gives me more room to get a little violent with it. My 335 has to be handled with care, but I just rip on the Jazzmaster. There have been times when I played it, finished a song, and then took it off and threw it on the ground.
And it totally holds up. It’s great.
You’re the second person I’ve spoken to recently who trashes Jazzmasters.
I don’t know why. The Jazzmaster is just asking to be thrown around.
You don’t play many open chords, yet you often use a capo. Why?
The capo allows me to get strange sounds when I’m fingerpicking. I experiment with the capo, fiddling around till I find some sort of hook that I can play repetitively. The capo gives me more options.
Are you looking for different harmonics, or different ways to use open strings?
I play with open strings sometimes when I’m doing that. It allows me to move more freely on the guitar without having to barre with my finger. It gives me a variation in notes and makes it easier for me.
You’ve said your goal is to become a better
and better player. What do you do to grow as a guitarist?
What I do is listen to records I’ve never heard before—that I never would have listened to—and expose myself to styles I didn’t even know about. As I am evolving, becoming an adult, my musical tastes are expanding. I’m listening to a lot of Robert Fripp and Funkadelic—stuff I never had any real appreciation for until the last couple of years. Captain Beefheart, too.
Trout Mask Replica—I guess it’s the most famous one. You’d think maybe I would have heard that earlier in life. But that’s the theme: Not hearing about the classics until I’m in my twenties.
How about Funkadelic?
Maggot Brain, the self-titled one, Free Your Mind ... and Your Ass Will Follow—all that stuff. I love it. I’m still obsessed with Nirvana, but I know what that sounds like. I’m trying to listen to stuff I haven’t before, letting it seep in. Once something slips into my subconscious, it’s only a matter of time before I start experimenting in that vein on the guitar.
Talk about your songwriting process. Do you craft music to fit your lyrics, or do you come up with riffs and write lyrics later?
It’s a little of both, but primarily the former: I have a lyrical idea that I then base a melodic hook around. But sometimes they come at the same time.
Does the meaning of your lyrics warp into something different once you put music to them?
The lyrics definitely take on multiple meanings. But the lyrics heavily dictate the melodies, which is the most effective way that I’ve been able to write songs thus far. I have a hard time writing melodies that aren’t dictated by a lyric.