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. This included a degree in music composition from Vanderbilt University, which also gained her access to Nashville’s vibrant country scene.
She underpins her classical training with an emotional essence that is uniquely her own. Though she’s lived in NYC for a decade, Shivers’ music reflects many different landscapes. You can hear it all, from the influence of the South, where she spent her childhood years visiting family in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, to the Irish and Scottish heritage which lends her music a distinctly Celtic flavor.
Her new EP Ravens marries whimsy with raw emotion. Inspired by playing sessions in Ireland, the recording centers around collaboration and heart. The arrangements are stripped down and haunting, yet contain warmth and character aided by string arrangements courtesy of Sarah Elizabeth Haines (violin, viola) and Yuka Tadano (bass). Cody Rahn, Mackenzie’s long-time drummer, produces the songs with aplomb, and Kevin Salem (Rachael Yamagata) mixes and masters with a sensitive and skilled touch. Ravens contains three original songs by Shivers and closes with an austere yet emotive rendition of the Scottish traditional “The Parting Glass.” Citing the time during which she wrote these tracks as both harrowing and hopeful, Shivers succeeds in creating a collection that is uplifting and mournful, sometimes in equal measures.
Like her influencers Joni Mitchell, Aoife O’Donovan, and Olivia Chaney, Shivers’ voice is clear and unmistakeable. It seems especially suited to this group of songs and their well-captured intimacy. Listening to her work leaves you in no doubt that you’ve entered the vibrant and imaginative world of its creator. As with all true artists, Shivers’ sound is both constantly evolving yet instantly recognizable. With Ravens, she unquestionably makes her mark on the world of folk and traditional music, leaving a lasting impression on every listener.