Love at First Listen with MacKenzie Porter

MacKenzie Porter Interview Love at First Listen 2023

We all have those artists and songs we hear that strike the right chord and make us fall in love at first listen. They’re the reason we refresh social media pages, tour schedules, and Spotify profiles — because we can’t miss a single release. This is Love at First Listen — a new series introducing you to the emerging, and established, artists with new music guaranteed to upgrade your playlist.

Canadian country queen MacKenzie Porter is the definition of booked and busy. If it feels like she’s been racking up a new set of career milestones every few months, it’s because she has—she was named to the CMT Women of Country Class of 2021, earned Academy of Country Music Award and American Music Award nominations for her duet with Dustin Lynch, “Thinking ‘Bout You,” which also marked her first U.S. Country #1, and landed a sixth #1 at Canadian country radio with her latest single “Chasing Tornadoes.”

Shockingly, despite years of homegrown and international success, MacKenzie has yet to have a moment to celebrate with Canadian audiences. That will all change when she embarks on her first nationwide headlining tour this week, starting Friday (November 3) in Toronto. Soon after, fans will gain a whole new set of songs to memorize and play on repeat when MacKenzie releases her long-awaited debut album in the first quarter of 2024. So, it’s safe to say the MacKenzie Porter country reign is just getting started.

In this edition of Love at First Listen, MacKenzie reflects on her whirlwind journey and shares a first look at her new tour setlist (read to the end to find out how you can meet her at the shows!).

“Chasing Tornadoes” is the lead single off your upcoming debut album. Amongst all the material you had written to date, how did you decide this song was the one to officially kick off a new era?

The new record is way more country than some of the other stuff I’ve been putting out before. We still have my pop influenced parts of it, but I think the overall sound is more like wooden instrumental—like there’s fiddle on almost every song. So, “Chasing Tornadoes” is a good bridge between “Pickup,” which is a lot more poppy, to this record.

For anyone who hasn’t heard “Chasing Tornadoes,” can you describe the story behind the song?

It’s about being in a relationship or a situation that you know is probably not good for you. It’s chaotic and messy and might not end amazingly, but there’s something that’s fun about that. I think we’ve all been in situations where you’re like, oh well, I’ll deal with the consequences later. So, that’s what the song is about and it’s actually kind of cool because I did not write this song. There’s going to be 20 songs on the record, and I’ve written probably 12, but this is one Lainey Wilson wrote. I love Lainey and her record was finished, so this song of hers worked perfectly on mine.

Given all you’ve accomplished in a few short years, is it even possible to take a moment and let everything sink in, or is life just a constant string of pinch-me moments?

It sounds sad because obviously I should be enjoying those moments, but by the time something like a #1 is announced, I’d put the song out months ago, so we are already working ahead on the next project. But of course, we’ll always have a glass of wine or do something to celebrate.

Let’s talk tour! Aside from the fan favourites, how much new music can concertgoers expect to be amongst the first to hear?

I’m definitely going to play new songs. I want to make sure I play all the ones that people want to hear and that they know because when I go to a concert, I want to hear the hits. But I also really want to bring people into this new record, and that’s what you’ll get when you come to the show. I’m going to do some old, old songs that I first put out, and then this era of the last three years, and then the new era, including my favourites off the record. So, it’ll take us through the whole thing.

On Instagram, you’ve been asking what songs fans want on the setlist. Was there anything they were requesting early on that made you stop and go, ooh, maybe I actually should add that?

A lot of people were saying early, OG songs like “I Wish I’d Known,” which was the first song I put out in like 2013. I was not planning to play that song, but now I’ve got to go back and listen to it and relearn it. I also want to have moments where if somebody’s yelling from the crowd, you’ve got to play this song, I want to make sure that I can play it as well.

Performance outfits are half the fun of touring, and you’ve shared some try-on videos online. Talk to us about your on-stage style! How does it differ from your day-to-day fashion?

It differs quite a bit. I wouldn’t wear a sparkly dress—I’d actually probably be in sweatpants most of the time. But I always think that my stage style has the exaggerated outfits of my life. I love unique pieces. That process of shopping is so fun for me.

Opening these shows is our friend at Love at First Listen, Griffen Palmer. How did you connect, and how excited are you to have a fellow Canadian and labelmate on the road with you?

I actually cut a song that Griffen wrote called “Drinkin’ Songs,” so hopefully we’ll get to write some songs on the road too. But I’m really excited. His music’s incredible, and Canada has been the place that I have really been able to build a career. So, I always want to bring other Canadian acts out and support that industry because it does mean a lot to me and it is really the reason I get to do this for a living.

You’re also hosting your inaugural Country vs. Cancer benefit on November 20, where you’ll be joined in Nashville by Dustin Lynch, Walker Hayes, Lily Rose, and Nate Smith in support of the American Cancer Society. Why is it important for you to use your voice to amplify causes close to your heart?

What’s the point of having an audience if you can’t try to do some good with it too? I mean, making music and having people relate to your songs and being able to help get them through a hard time is incredible. But I do feel the responsibility to try to do more, and that cause is really close to my heart because my mom had breast cancer. So, this is raising money for all different types of cancers, but October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We had help in those times from family and friends and I want to be able to pay that forward as well.

Event poster announcing MacKenzie Porter's inaugural Country vs. Cancer benefit concert in Nashville on November 20, 2023.
After wrapping her debut Canadian headlining tour, MacKenzie Porter will head to Nashville to host her inaugural Country vs. Cancer benefit concert with former collaborators, labelmates, and other peers.

Spending so much time on the road, have you picked up any self-care secrets that help keep your mind, body, and voice healthy and ready for the next gig?

I definitely warm up for every show. I actually used to do a shot of vodka or something, but I’ve stopped doing that because I do feel like rest and keeping your body healthy when you’re going that much is so important. We do grueling days where it’s a 5 a.m. start, you travel all day and you play the show, and then you do it again the next day. So, I’m really trying to be healthy and clean to keep up with the schedule and not get rundown.

Do you have a message to send to your fans who will be seeing you at an upcoming show or to anyone who needs a final push to buy a ticket?

This Canadian tour is a first for me, so it’s a really special moment for me to get out and really thank people for the last five years or more of my career. They’ve shown up for me, and I hope we really show up for them on this tour. And after the show, I’m just going to be hanging out and meeting people and thanking people and taking pictures and all that until literally the last person leaves the venue. So, it will be a more intimate experience than just a regular show.

Thank you, MacKenzie! Follow MacKenzie on Instagram and TikTok to be the first to know about future releases and tour updates.

EXCLUSIVE: MacKenzie told us she will be dropping a few songs, including collaborations(!), in the next few months, so get excited.

See you back here soon with another artist and music release for you to love at first listen! Have a suggestion or pitch? You know where to find me!

Happy listening xx

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