The Network317 sits down with Strange Main’s debut artist and the worlds latest purveyor of “dark pop” music. Get to know this fiercely focused Mackenzie Nicole and find out what it’s like to grow up in StrangeLand as we discuss being a big sister, having coffee with Albert Camus, growing pains and having your face tattooed on somebody else’s body
In your own words who is Mackenzie Nicole?
Mackenzie – I have no idea so I’ll give you my best attempt. I’m an opera singer attempting to do pop music on a rap label inspired by a rock band. I’m the converse of the archetypical “music executive who secretly wishes they were an artist” — I’m an artist who secretly wishes they were an executive. I’m 18 and trying to grapple with my first job ever being the job of a recording artist with intense executive involvement. I’m like 85% goth at heart but not like, visibly goth, more recreationally goth. I really like lasagna and sushi but not together. I’m afraid of alligators and crocodiles but I pretend not to be when I go to the zoo with my little brother because I don’t want him to fear anything.
How old were you when you started singing and at what point did you really know you wanted to be an artist?
Mackenzie – I hummed melodies before I could speak, so singing was immediate once I had the power of speech. While I have been singing opera since age 6, I began recording professionally at age 9, and debuted as a solo artist at age 16.
Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Mackenzie – My musical influences include but are in no way limited to:
-Marina & the Diamonds*
-My Chemical Romance
-The Front Bottoms
My non-musical influences include but are in no way limited to:
*I include Marina twice, both as a musician and a non-musical entity, because she has inspired my life very deeply
You have a time machine and you can pick one place to go for one week…. you would?
Mackenzie – MI WOULD GO BACK AND SEE THE DOORS LIVE. I would love to hang out with Jim Morrison in 1960s LA.
The songs on your debut all seem like they come from a very personal place, so when you listen to them today do you relive the moments you wrote about or do you think writing about them was a way to release them?
Mackenzie – Those songs were written at a very dark time for me about other very dark times for me, so I try not to relive those moments. However, it is inevitable. The one song that stands exempt is “Only With You”. It is the only song that was rewritten almost 6 months after the rest of the album. It was written from a different place, a part of a different narrative from the rest of the album. So, in that way, “Only With You” has become a lighthouse and a little personal sign for me in the project that I am not limited to the story the rest of the album told. “Only With You” is my sign that the story does not end, it evolves.
You have a song called and you named your debut album The Edge, do you live on the edge?
Mackenzie – YES. I’m a very extreme, no boundaries, over the top person. I push things as far as I can to the edge without falling off. Sometimes I do fall off, and those moments are in the album too.
If you could change one thing about the world today… you would?
Mackenzie – If I could change one thing about the world today, I would reform education worldwide. Sexism, racism, poverty, institutional oppression, and most the world’s plights are results of lack of education. The reform of present educational systems and the creation of educational systems where they lack would so greatly impact so many of the aforementioned “big picture” issues.
Describe your show, visual and musically.
Mackenzie – In my show, you see a female pop artist who has grown up watching thousands of my labelmates’ rap shows. I grew up knowing a performer as someone whose music could incite mosh pits in a crowd of thousands. My music is not that type of music, so I compensate for that with what is sometimes borderline-masculine stage presence with vocals inspired by the rawness of Janis or Stevie. Sonically, I am still learning how to give that raw emotion to the audience. I conduct my stage show like a conversation between myself in the audience. I like it informal and personal like that. I want the audience to walk away feeling like my friends.
If you could have coffee with anybody dead or alive who would it be?
Mackenzie – I would LOVE to have coffee with Albert Camus. He is my favorite philosopher and my favorite author, and I’ve read every work he’s ever written. I identify deeply with his school of philosophy, absurdism. Absurdism basically states that there is no purpose in living, so there are two rational responses to our state of being alive — kill yourself or make up a purpose for yourself to pursue to give your life some form of personal meaning. I love that, but I botched the explanation, so please look up my man Camus if you’re unfamiliar.
What’s your non-musical claim to fame?
Mackenzie – MI love to write. I want to write novels, screenplays, lifestyle blogs, anything. No matter what, I will always write.
Walk us through a day in the life on Mackenzie Nicole.
Mackenzie – I’m travelling all over the country right now, so I’ll describe my average day when I’m back home in KC:
I wake up much earlier than I want to, probably 6ish, give or take an hour. Ideally, I do some quick morning yoga and meditate for a few minutes.
Shower, get dressed, probably wear all black. Creature of habit.
Before work, I stop by my favorite place, Post Coffee Company. I have been going to this coffee shop at least once a day for 2 years. I get the iced seasonal latte. Yummmmmmyyyy.
I roll up to Strange Music HQ with iced latte in hand. I have an awesome cubicle where I do all my executive work at. I’m deeeeepllllyyyy entrenched in the business side of my label, and my core team here at Strange will tell you that I spend a lot of time at my cubicle working on like thirty projects at a time.
After work, I grab (another) coffee at Post and go home to work on one of my side projects, whether it be writing album reviews or doing my freelance graphic design. My best friend Kelly is probably at my house, and we’re watching horror movies while I work.
What would you pick to be your last meal?
Mackenzie – Appetizer: some fancy exotic sushi
Main course: Fazoli’s lasagna
Dessert: ice cream with hot fudge, which my dad will stir up into homemade chocolate ice cream (he used to do this for me like every night after dinner when I was little)
Beverage: all the coffee beverages I can stomach
What advice would you give the 13-year-old you?
Mackenzie – Oh wow.
At thirteen, I was just starting high school. I was grieving the loss of several of my friends who all passed separately around the same time. I had very low self-esteem and was wrestling with severe OCD and very overwhelming depression/anxiety. I struggle with these issues still, but the difference is that I now have the tools to cope with these issues. I would encourage my 13-year-old self to find the tools.
If you don’t like the way you look, change it. And, stop comparing your weird 13-year-old body to 22-year-old models. You’ll lose weight and gain weight periodically, it’s normal. You’ll learn how to do your hair and makeup. Everyone goes through an ugly period, some better or worse than others.
People love you, people care about you, don’t make it hard for them to do so. Be open with people. Being alone gets old. It sucks to be lonely.
Trust the process, not the plan. The plan is just your attempt to control the process. Sometimes the road that you’ve been walking on is going the wrong way. Of all the pains you will experience, growing pains are the best kind
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Mackenzie – I have a lot of pet peeves, ahaha…but I get instinctually find myself annoyed when people say something like “yup” or “uh-huh” in response to “thank you” because my mom always taught me that it was rude. At least say “no problem” or something…
What was the first song you remember hearing that truly inspired you?
Mackenzie – When I was very young, my dad had to travel nonstop for work. There was a period when we were living in LA and my dad would be gone for like a couple months, be home for a week or less, then leave again. It sucked. Around this time, when I was 3 or 4, my labelmate Tech N9ne released his song “The Rain”, which is about having to be on the road and miss out on his family. I loved the song because on the second verse, Tech’s daughters talk-rap a faux “phone call” to Tech where they talk about missing their dad while he travels. I loved that part. I used to make my parents play the song over and over, which in retrospect makes me feel bad for them, because the song’s content was exactly what we as a family were experiencing. To this day, I can’t hear the song without crying.
What was the last song you heard that truly inspired you?
Mackenzie – “Get Up 10” by Cardi B is the song most inspiring to me right now. I don’t brag on myself for much, but I will say that I have mad work ethic. Right now, I’m in metamorphosis stage. I have a lot of changes happening in very major ways in my current life, and Cardi’s music makes me feel strong and reminds me to work like the life I want depends on it, because it does.
What inspires you the most when you are working on new songs?
Mackenzie – I’m an experiential, visual person. I’ll pick an aesthetic and try to make a song reflect whatever I’m visualizing in my head, whether it be a scene or a color or a concept.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for new artists today?
Mackenzie – I think the hardest thing for all artists right now is adjusting to this turbulent time in which music shifts into the technological realm of streaming. It affects every aspect of the art, especially on the business side, which is what new artists commonly understand the least.
What’s the best and worst thing about being on tour?
Best part of being on tour is visiting new places! I would’ve never known I loved Seattle, for example, if I hadn’t visited it this year on tour.
Worst part of being on tour is getting lonely. I spend 90% of my time alone in hotel rooms, and that hurts a little. I also miss out on a lot of things with my little brother. He turns 6 on July 6th. I can’t go back and revisit this part of his childhood, if I miss out on something, that moment is just gone.
What is the craziest thing one of your fans have done?
Mackenzie – There’s a fan with a tattoo of my face on his hand. His name is Terry. It’s crazy, my face is now also on another body besides mine.
Thank you, Mackenzie. When you find that time machine let us know how it goes with Jim Morrison. Mackenzie Nicole’s debut album The Edge is out now on Strange Main a division of Strange Music.
Follow her at: Mackenzie Nicole-