It didn’t take long for Mackenzie Shivers to understand that music would play a substantial role in her life. She wrote her first song when she was only 4 years old and would often come home from watching a movie in the theater to work out the film’s score on her piano. She later attended the Blair School of Music, where she studied piano, voice, and orchestration. She began to experiment with a sound that incorporated aspects of jazz and piano pop, revealing an affinity for musicians like Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos. She shared her debut record, “Neverland,” in 2014, and that was followed by a couple of EPs in the following years. She spent some time playing in a few New York-based bands, and it was during that time when she felt she was ready to share a bit of herself again.
She is currently set to release her sophomore solo record, “The Unkindness,” on Feb. 8. This album marks the first time that Shivers has been listed as having production credit and the intimate nature of the songs bears this out. Kevin Salem — who has also worked with artists such as Rachael Yamagata, Bat for Lashes and Valerie June — mastered, engineered and mixed the record. The songs are described as being soldiers on a battlefield, warring against the encroaching “unkindness” of our world. Forged in the political and social fires of recent years, these tracks stand resilient as they hold the line for those who cannot fight back and for those who lives have been irrevocably damaged by the harshness and emotional weight of our broken world.
On recent single, “Believe,” she embraces the ideas of perseverance and empowerment from within the confines of a gorgeous piano and string ballad. Her voice, a lilting and significant power, conveys personal insight into the fanciful things that she refuses to allow to cloud her judgement, things which can betray and undermine our own sense of self-worth. She simply explains that she has a belief in the person standing next to her, whomever that might be. She sings, “But I believe in you/Whatever you may do,” and there is authority in those words. Born from recent events like the #MeToo movement and the 2016 presidential election, the song asks that we never give up, no matter what we face — and it also provides an assurance that there will always be someone who believes in us.