Mackenzie Scott alongside co-guitarist Cameron Kapoor owning the Mohawk Outdoor stage in Austin, Texas, on 3/18/15 during SXSW at Paste's official showcase. Photo by Chris Kies.
Do you use effects as songwriting tools, or do you search for specific sounds only after the songs are written?
It’s more the latter, especially for this record. I wasn’t writing with the pedals, but as soon as the lyrics were written, I was working on the sounds. I had the melodies—I was just trying to get the sounds for the recording. A lot of times I had the sonic palette in my head, and I was fiddling with the pedals to get the exact sounds that I heard.
Robert Ellis coproduced your new album. Was part of his role helping you to figure out some of those sounds?
The guitar sounds were mostly established before I went to England to record with Rob, but he definitely helped me to solidify the sounds of the other instruments on the record.
Did he play on the record, too?
He played drums, synthesizers, and some random toys. His primary role was producing with me and playing some killer drums.
What’s the cool effect at the end of “New Skin?”
There are a few layers there. I played my regular part, and then we detuned a couple of guitars—one sharp and one flat—and played them over the top to make everything sound warbled and out of tune.
You can hear a lot of finger noise on “A Proper Polish Welcome,” but it seems obvious that you did that on purpose.
I wanted to create some subtle atmosphere. On that song I’m sliding my hand across the strings because it’s the smoothest transition I can make, but I didn’t see the string noise as something to be eliminated.
What guitar do you use in the video for the solo version of “Cowboy Guilt?”
That’s a vintage Silvertone—I believe it’s from the ’50s or ’60s. A friend put it up for sale, and I immediately replied, “I want it.”
Do you take that on the road?
I haven’t yet. I have some setting up to do—it has a few broken knobs and things that need to be fixed. It hasn’t been tampered with since it was originally made. After I make some updates, I think I will be taking it on the road.
Scott leads her band (including co-guitarist Cameron Kapoor) through a dynamic rendition of title track from Sprinter.
The solo version of “Cowboy Guilt” is very different from what you put on the album. How do you get those tones on the album?
That’s mainly the Earthquaker Devices Organizer pedal. For the live solo version I chose to play it as it was originally written, before I added the effect.
You can see how you use the capo in that solo video. The open strings create a nice little dissonance.
Yeah. That was one of the things I was talking about when I said that using the capo gives me a bit more freedom when I’m trying to figure out a melody on the guitar. I got a sound using the capo on the second fret that I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d played that song in standard tuning without a capo.
Live, you augment your lineup with a second guitarist. Do you have a specific role in mind?
Yes, I do. I often switch from playing rhythm to lead guitar in the middle of the song, and I have the second guitarist pick up the rhythm part.
Are you specific about what you want, or do you give the other guitarist room to be creative?
A lot of times I have a specific part that I want each band member to play, and sometimes there is a little more freedom. Cameron Kapoor, the guitar player on the road with me now, is an extremely innovative player, and he really works well within the sonic world I created on this album. I was able to give him a lot more freedom than I’ve given players in the past because I trust his instincts. I tell him if I don’t like something, or give direction if I want him to switch gears.