Mackenzie Shrieve knows how to make an entrance. The recent NYU grad has been touring non-stop this summer since graduation, with venues across New York City–including the iconic Arlene’s Grocery–taking notice.
An indie folk singer, Shrieve makes any stage feel intimate with her powerfully delicate voice and resonating lyrics. Shrieve credits areas like the Lower East Side for providing spaces for up-and-coming stars to perform; Arlene’s Grocery has housed legends like Lady Gaga, Lana Del Ray, and Arcade Fire when they were just rising talents.
Shrieve’s first NYC performance was at Pianos, and she has since played at Mercury Lounge, Rockwood Music Hall, and more. “The venues in LES give such an amazing platform and voice for upcoming artists,” Shrieve explained. “I also love the intimate environment it creates. You sing onstage and then you get off and immediately mingle with the crowd.”
Shrieve’s debut five-track EP “Running In My Bed” was released on April 18th, with single “Androgyny” immediately drawing attention. The delicate song–an atmospheric rhythmic melody that echoes Shrive’s hauntingly comforting voice–is a look inside Shrieve’s personal world. Shrieve originally wrote “Androgyny” for a NYU songwriting course. The assignment: write a song that sums up who you are. With lyrics like “I don’t feel like a woman today / I don’t feel like a man. / Can’t figure out why I’m feeling this way, / I just don’t understand,” the song is an honest take on sexuality and the construct of gender.
“I refer to ‘Androgyny’ as my personal anthem,” Shrieve said. “It speaks to my gender dysphoria and how that has impacted me. It’s a little four-minute story which represents something I consider a huge part of my identity.”
Shrieve finds playing the track onstage “nerve-wracking” but nevertheless invigorating; the song immediately sets the tone for the rest of the concert. “It definitely makes me nervous to perform it onstage because I can never truly know how people will receive it, but it’s also been life-changing to witness the positive response it has received,” Shrieve said.
Shrieve admires other queer artists who voice their own stories, such as Hayley Kiyoko, Frank Ocean, Janelle Monáe, Maggie Rogers, and King Princess. Shrieve wrote her first song in sixth grade about having a crush on a straight girl–“isn’t that always how it goes?” Shrieve laughed–and has continued writing about her personal experiences ever since. “Androgyny” looks back on Shrieve’s journey to carve a place for herself, including struggling to find clothes that both express who she is and fit properly in the men’s department, frequently opting to wear soccer jerseys and basketball shorts while growing up as a “tomboy” in Walnut Creek, California.
Shrieve’s innate talent sprouted when she was enrolled in piano lessons at age seven. By age 16, Shrieve was encouraged by her teacher to explore more modern piano arrangements instead of classical Suzuki pieces, opening the door to a wide variety of genres to explore. Shrieve went on to study songwriting at NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study, taking classes at Clive Davis Institute of Record Music and NYU Steinhardt for music therapy. She also started producing her own music, creating a stylistic soundscape with techno pop overlays for her acoustic recordings.
To craft her sound, Shrieve recalled her first concerts with folk groups The Dixie Chicks and Mumford and Sons, and later middle school “crushes” on pop stars Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch. Today, Shrieve admires the “goddess” Lorde for her lyricism. “I have so many artists to thank for the musician I am today,” Shrieve explained.
Shrieve looks towards a West Coast tour and working on new music. Until then, Shrieve continues to perform her honest songs and entrancing audiences with her charm. “I just hope I can invite my audience to listen with vulnerability and openness,” Shrieve said. “Music is the most emotional, vulnerable, and raw thing I’ve ever experienced, but it’s also simply the most fun.”