Mackenzie Day is a Boston-based singer/songwriter whose latest single ‘Code: Red (7 Years)’ just blew us all away at Indie Top 39. It’s a song that honours Mackenzie’s sister and her battle with mental health, a topic that’s finally becoming less taboo to talk about. We really wanted to find out more about Mackenzie and were thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed by us. Talking about her early love for music, what her creative process looks like, and which 3 albums she would take with her to a desert island, please welcome…Mackenzie Day.
Hello and welcome Mackenzie! We’re so thrilled to introduce you to our ever-growing audience. The whole team at Indie Top 39 has fallen pretty hard for your brand new single ‘Code: Red (7 Years)’, but can you take us back in time to when your musical journey began? What has led you to ‘Code: Red (7 Years)’?
Music has always been what I’ve known. Since I was able to talk, I’ve been singing and making up little songs. I’ve always just followed my drive and passion for the way music makes me feel and heal. I feel as though I’ve always been a creator because I always had something to say. Music is a nonjudgmental therapist, and my piano and I have sessions every time I need to comprehend an emotion or experience of any sort. Before I knew how to play any instruments, I was just making songs with pure melodies using my voice. Once my dad taught me guitar at 14, I wrote all the time. I taught myself piano as a kid, having no idea what I was playing, but it worked, and that’s all that mattered.
To me, writing has always been the outlet. Such an outlet; I don’t know what my mental health status would even be without it.mackenzie day
Entering high school, my family dynamic was changing with divorce, dad catching cancer, and lots of unspoken conflicts in my living environment. It was a no-brainer, I was a writer, and it was my coping mechanism throughout all the chaos.
So what led me to ‘Code: Red (7 Years)’ was the anger I built up over the past decade of the lack of awareness or care for mental health in my family. Everyone wants her to be okay, but no one is actually putting in the work to get any help or thinking it’s not at a point where serious help is necessary. Like I say in the song, “they finally saw some blood, now they turn their slow heads, why did it take her cutting it deep, to say she needs help seriously.”
It was your powerful and authentic vocal performance that first caught my attention when I heard ‘Code: Red (7 Years)’. I know that the track is a deeply personal one for you. If you’re comfortable of course, could you tell our readers what it means to you?
I think ‘Code: Red’ is the most impactful, special song I’ve ever written. Now, after the eight years of struggle that I’ve been watching my sister go through. The effort to live a normal life due to struggling with mental illness and being unable to leave the house because she’s stuck on the floor having a panic attack every day, multiple times a day. Needing to be high most of the time even to want to stay alive. People don’t understand the importance of our mental health. How serious mental health is and needs to be treated with importance. To find the right help and have the right and necessary support.
As the oldest sibling, I guess I took on the parent role when the parents didn’t know how to deal with the panic moments. In the beginning, the mental health ignorance was loud, and I was the only one. I think my sister felt comfortable sharing space during those hard moments. This song is for my sister, but it’s also for me. I also wrote this when I felt depressed for the first time in my life during the pandemic, and my sister was in the worst mental state of her life, and the song just came out of pure helpless frustration. Fifteen minutes later, I knew I had just written something life-changing.
Now let’s take things all the way back! Your debut album, Letter to You, was released in 2009. I did a little snooping and found an incredible video of you and your bandmates during recording! Apart from obviously being tons of fun, what was the experience of recording your debut album like?
That album is so special to me as it was my first year at Berklee. It was such an experience getting together with my first friends at Berklee, in the studio from 2 am-6 am, and just recording my music! I went into Berklee in my first relationship, and that relationship ended the first week of school. From that point on, I told myself I would record and release an album by the end of that school year, and I did. The memories will never escape my mind, late night sessions with my bandmates, creating motifs and ideas in the present moments as we were recording. It was such an experience for 18-19-year-olds, and we had no idea what we were doing, but that was the beauty and magic of it.
There’s something beautiful about having ignorance when creating and not having any limits at that moment.mackenzie day
Just create with your friends and turn heartache into a beautiful, messy, mastered album. I wouldn’t change a thing; it’s a testament to my growth, where I started, and where I am going.
Your sound has been compared to the likes of Miley Cyrus and Avril Lavigne. Who would you credit though for shaping your overall soundscape throughout the years? Who did you grow up listening to?
I grew up having a dad who was blasting lots of rock n roll and alternative – Foo Fighters, Green Day, Van Halen, Queen. In my high school days, I dove into Amy Winehouse, Supertramp, Alicia Keys, Beatles…etc. I feel like my taste goes everywhere, and it’s only blossomed as I got to Berklee and found so much more influence in every genre – Jazmine Sullivan, Leon Bridges, Maggie Rogers, Joan Jett, etc.
I imagine this is like asking you to pick a favourite child, but which tune of yours are you most proud of to date, and why?
It truly is like picking a favourite child. Still, I would probably say ‘Code: Red (7 Years)’ – I wrote a lot of different versions of that song, many songs about my sister and about my frustration with people in my family not taking the time to truly understand the deeper importance of mental health and how serious it is. This song feels like a culmination of all those other songs I’ve written. The 16-year-old me “catching her tears” – I feel like I finally found the words and the way to express the story and my story as the older sister who felt as if I took on a parent role with my sister because no one else would.
With every artist being different and unique, we at Indie Top 39 are always intrigued with their creative processes, and how they take an idea and transform it into a finished product. Could you tell us a bit about your creative process?
Most of the time, my creative process starts with improvising. I grab my guitar or piano when the emotion is heightened and just start singing to whatever feels right at that moment. Sometimes I get random ideas that pop out of literally nowhere or unexpected melodies; if I can capture them in the moment, I will. I feel like creating is always different, but my usual form of creativity always stems from my improvisations. I literally write it as it is, I’m an open book with too many words in my mind, and I just try to put it all out on paper.
What makes a good musician?
I think someone who can connect with themselves and communicate through music. I also think we all have ways of sharing and connecting with ourselves and others. So honestly, everyone’s going to have a different definition of that. Being open-minded and open to all ideas and possibilities makes a good musician. Being your authentic self and creating original music for yourself is ultimately what makes the best musicians out there.
OK, Mackenzie – desert island time! You’re allowed to grab 3 albums before being stranded on an island. Which do you go with and why?
Fearless – Jazmine Sullivan – I love her words, melodies, and stories. She’s such a strong, inspiring woman, and it’s one of her first projects, and you can see her authenticity shine through.
Back to Black – Amy Winehouse – Once again with the crazy upfront, in-your-face lyrics that make you want to turn your head and ask if you heard that right. I love that.
Breakfast in America – Supertramp – There’s something about the way Supertramp takes you on a trip and always surprises you with where they go. I love that element of surprise.
What do you love most about being a musician? And on the flip side, what are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve encountered so far?
I love having the tool to be able to communicate through music, to be able to heal with the power of music. Some people talk about feeling fortunate that music can sometimes be more powerful than medication… I’ve truly never resonated with something more… What I love the most is to feel free to express myself musically and to have that as an outlet for myself.
One of my biggest challenges is disconnecting myself from the music, as it sometimes feels like it’s the only outlet. I forgot that I’m able to. I don’t have to take writing so seriously every time… One of my Berklee professors once told me they wanted me to work on “not being Mackenzie when I write”… I think a part of the expression and a part of creativity is the fictional aspect of it, as writers sometimes step outside of themselves to create something we couldn’t have imagined creating…
The power of imagination is immense, and sometimes I get stuck in the reality of what I’m trying to capture.mackenzie day
I also feel like it’s been a struggle to find my authentic sound in my music until recently… however, through finding myself, I have found my sound a bit more every day. As a woman going into the music industry, I’ve already found myself with many men trying to tell me what to do and how to create and what people are going to like or won’t like, but at this point, I don’t give a fuck anymore. I’m just trying to create for myself and those who see my authentic creativity and want to listen to it.
American author Jodi Picoult said that “the music we listen to may not define who we are, but it’s a damn good start.” Would you agree?
Yes. My music is a good definition of who I am in many ways. I think a part of my artistry and musicianship is how I’m a pretty open book, and with that, my music is, and I write about everything. You can find my life and many of my experiences on all platforms.
Success is such a broad term with different meanings for everyone. What would “being successful” in the music industry look like to you?
I just want to make music, and I will. In a way, I guess I’m already successful, however, to make it in this world we live in, you need a couple of thousands or millions to believe in you. This society is good at creating this idea of” success” and what that means. I firmly believe that if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything as long as you don’t give up. So for me, I’m going to keep my head high despite the number of following or listeners; at the end of the day, if there’s one person who hears me and my story resonates, I’ve done my job.
You’ve been given the chance to collaborate with any musician or band. Who do you choose?
Joan Jett, Leon Bridges, Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple, or Amy Winehouse if she were alive.
Thank you so much for chatting with us Mackenzie! I know that you’re hard at work on your sophomore album, do you have an official date in mind for the release? And in a broader sense, what do you hope for when it comes to your long-term musical future?
We’re wrapping up the last details at this point, so I’m hoping for September, but I’m also trying to learn to be patient with my art and allow it to come with no rush. At the end of August, maybe early September. In the long term, I plan to continue to create more music projects, gigs, and tours. Put myself out there as the vulnerable, bold, upfront person I am, and shoot for the stars. I truly believe anything is possible if you believe in yourself and don’t give up. Because, first of all, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will, and secondly if you don’t give up, anything is possible. At the end of the day, we are the ones that are holding ourselves back, and we have the power to excel at everything and anything we put our minds to.
Make sure to connect with Mackenzie Day on Instagram
We added Mackenzie Day’s single ‘Code: Red (7 Years)’ to the playlist of all the artists we interviewed so far.
Don’t be shy to give it a listen!