At a young age, Mackenzie told her mom that she had music inside her “that needed to come out.” Her mother would check in on her at night to find her fingers playing the piano in her sleep. She wrote her first song as a four-year-old, and at age eight she would go to the movies and come right home to figure out the score on the piano. Always at the mercy of the muse inside, Shivers has continued honing her craft ever since. Music is more than just a listening experience, and Shivers’ music brings life to her sound by painting a picture of a colorful world where spirits can run free.
Art moves us, it puts a fire beneath our soul and creates imagery in our minds that connects to the beautiful things around us. Some of the boldest women in music like Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell have done this, and so has Shivers. The experiences that submerged Shivers into her craft include a degree in music composition from Vanderbilt University, which also gained her access to Nashville’s vibrant country scene. You can still hear this influence of the South when pedal steel floats amongst her trademark piano skills, while her Irish and Scottish heritage lends a distinctly Celtic flavor.
As with all true artists, Shivers’ sound is both constantly evolving yet instantly recognizable. On her newest album The Unkindness, she underpins her classical training with an emotional essence that blossom together like bright buds as they bloom atop a proud and prolific tree. The Unkindness stands like a powerful army, a collection of songs with resilient soldiers on the battle lines fighting against the “unkindness” that appears in the world. Songs like “Believe”, “The Unkindness” and “Better” were forged in the fires of feminism after major cultural and political shifts including the Me Too movement and the 2016 election. While “Tears to Keep Me Warm” serves as a comforting reminder that pain heals and anger turns to action. The album as whole pledges a therapeutic commentary on the harsh realities that surface and spread like wildfire on the world. Like coping with the “unkindness” all around us, Shivers conveys the realness and rawness of hands joining in unity and marching forward.
This is Shivers’ first time being listed as a producer on a project, further injecting more of her own personal creative vision into the heart of each song. Although the album is deeply personal, her production contributions and passion for songwriting allowed for a very specific and cohesive mood. Rather than focusing on making each take perfect, Shivers emphasized the importance of capturing the story being told. The sound is alternately robust—with horns weaving in and out of bass, drums, and organ, “pounding the keys with the reckless abandon of an 11-17-10-era Elton John” (The Village Voice)—or delicate, with two simple, ghostly vocals. No matter how large or small the arrangement, each musical element is branch of that mystical blooming tree, lining each side of a path she paves for the listener to get perfectly misplaced in wanderlust.
Like her influences Aoife O’Donovan and Olivia Chaney, Shivers’ voice is clear and unmistakable. She takes each sound, each vocal utterance, and nurtures them in their simplest form, leaving a lasting impression on every listener. With The Unkindness, she invites you into a realm where you can escape, dream, grieve, believe, and even dance. Listening to her work leaves you in no doubt that you’ve entered the vibrant and imaginative world of its creator. Like individual colors on an artist’s palette, knowing which pieces to blend together and which to lay side by side, Shivers has a discernible skill for being able to distinguish contrast and focus all in the same view. The colors, textures and the entire landscape itself allures and charms the listener, pulling them into the stunning musical terrain.
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Paul Corsi, Green Light Go: email@example.com