TAMPA — Music has been a part of Mackenzie Shivers for as long as she can remember.
At age 4, she began writing music. At age 5, she learned to play the piano. The Tampa native released “Neverland,” her debut album, in 2014. Two EPs followed, including “Living in My Head” in 2016 and “Ravens” in 2017. “The Unkindness,” her latest album, was mastered, engineered, and mixed by Kevin Salem, who has worked with Rachael Yamagata, Bat for Lashes, and Valerie June.
Touring in support of “The Unkindness,” Shivers will perform Saturday, Feb. 1, 8 p.m., at the Attic at Rock Brothers, 1510 E. Eighth Ave., Tampa.
Tickets start at $18. Doors will open at 7 p.m. For tickets, visit eventbrite.com. For venue information, call 813-241-0100.
The Tampa native recently talked about her music career and her ties to the area.
Tampa Bay Newspapers: What are your earliest memories of music in your life?
Mackenzie Shivers: Some of my earliest memories are listening to music in the car on a road trip we took to North Carolina every summer. We started going when I was just a baby, and I remember my parents putting on CSNY, James Taylor, Motown hits, even “Jesus Christ Superstar.” There was music playing the whole 12 hours.
TBN: As a Tampa native, how has Florida shaped your music career?
Mackenzie: I feel lucky to have grown up in a place where I could see lots of incredible musicians perform live. I remember my parents taking me and my sister to see Keb’ Mo’ at the (sadly no longer) record shop Music Revolution. My first real concert was Shawn Colvin at the Straz; my mom took me for my 13th birthday. Soon after I was seeing artists like Elton John, James Taylor, and the Dixie Chicks play at Amalie Arena. The Elton John concert was a game changer for me. It's when I knew I wanted to write and perform my own music.
TBN: I can hear the influence of Tori Amos in your music; tell me about what artists have inspired you.
Mackenzie: She is one of my biggest influences! I'm also inspired by artists like Joni Mitchell, Sharon Van Etten, The Beatles, Fiona Apple, Aoife O'Donovan, and film composers like Thomas Newman, Rachel Portman, and John Williams. When I was a kid, I would listen to John Williams soundtracks and dance around the house, pretending like I was conducting the score or acting in one of the films. That's another one of my earliest musical memories.
TBN: Tell me about your favorite performance venues, both as a performer and an audience member.
Mackenzie: I'm really fond of more intimate listening rooms. As an audience member, I like being able to sit down and really absorb the performance, and there's always something special about seeing someone play without a lot of bells and whistles. As a performer, I love being able to really connect with the audience and share in a process that I consider to be somewhat sacred. The Attic is one of my favorite places I've performed, so I'm very excited to play there again. Venues that are on my wish list to play are the Capitol Theatre in St. Pete, the Beacon in New York City, and the Ryman in Nashville.
TBN: If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
Mackenzie: That's so hard to answer, because I can't see myself not being a musician! But I'd probably spend more time getting involved in local politics.
TBN: If you can have your fans remember one thing about your performance, what would it be?
Mackenzie: How the music made them feel.
TBN: What got you into music?
Mackenzie: I'm not sure I every chose music; I think it chose me. I wrote my first song at the piano when I was 4, and soon after I told my mom that I had music bottled inside of me that "needed to come out." It's always been there, but I wasn't always certain I wanted to pursue it as a career. It's scary to go after what you want when it's something you care so much about, but it also makes the work that much more fulfilling.
TBN: What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Mackenzie: If music is what you love more than anything in the world, and if you can't see yourself doing anything else, go for it and don't give up. Work hard. Follow your instincts. Make mistakes. And just keep going.
Shivers concluded the interview by talking more about her connection to the Tampa Bay area and how it helped shaped her career in music.
“I'm thankful to have had a lot of support from the Tampa community since I was quite young,” she said. “When I was in middle school, I was hired to play the piano at the Tampa Preservation holiday home tour, and it was a good friend's mom who recommended me for the job. That led to playing events like the Best of Tampa Bay at the Straz and people's own dinner parties. I had great piano teachers like Larkie Fleming and Professor Judith Edberg at the University of Tampa, so that training in addition to support from friends and family gave me a really solid foundation on which to pursue music in college and beyond.”
Since the release of “The Unkindness,” Shivers has played venues across the country and in Japan. She admits that her upcoming show in Tampa is special.
“I'm quite honored I get to play for many of these people on Feb. 1,” she said. “When I play in Tampa, it really does feel like a homecoming.”
For more information about Mackenzie Shivers, visit mackenzieshivers.com.