From the age of ten, Mack Lorén knew she was Berklee bound. This sixth-semester producer comes from a tenacious, hard-working family, and she’s leading by their example in everything she does. In her interview with Berklee Groove, Lorén tells us why the values they instilled in her drive her so deeply; she also shares her career goals, experiences at Berklee, and gives us an inside look at the creation of her stunning neo-soul infused debut single “Touch.”
Interviewed by Ceskie
What inspired the creation of ‘Touch’?
It was inspired by a healing love. I feel like a lot of us can relate to being heartbroken, and almost every song I’ve ever listened to is about heartbreak. For once, I kind of wanted to write something about a love that could heal you—something that makes you feel good, something that I think everyone deserves.
Did it come from personal experience?
Yeah. I had a pretty rocky relationship with someone that I loved deeply, and I felt like it was more beneficial to him than it was to me. It was really detrimental to me in a lot of different ways. I feel like because I had such a hard time in that relationship, I wanted to write about something I longed for. Almost like a manifestation or a daydream about a different type of love. That’s why the song sounds super ambient and fairytale-like.
What sparked the creation of the song? It started when I found this sample. One day I sat down and found this sample, and the words just started flowing out of me. Usually when I sit down to write a song, the words come out all at once and I do the editing afterwards. That’s what happened, all in a 30-minute timeframe.
This was the first song I produced myself, so I wasn’t even thinking about releasing it. That’s not even where my brain was going! First it was just the creative process I go through, writing as much as possible. After that I started building the track, from the sample. I started adding little by little, and it actually took a really long time to finish the song because I kept leaving and coming back to it. So I did most of the production with the drums and all that, and I actually had some friends play bass and trumpet. That was the finishing touch on the song. Once they sent me those parts, I just sat there tweaking, chopping, and arranging until it was done.
How did you settle on the finished production?
I definitely wanted bass. I was struggling with finding a tonality I liked on any of the synths—they didn’t move me, and I wanted something to move me to tears. I want to feel like the song was done, to feel like “this is it, this is golden.” So I reached out to my friend and asked him to play bass on the song. if he liked it. He absolutely loved it and recorded the part. As for my friend who plays trumpet, I had actually just sent it to him for his opinion, and he said, “I love it, dude! I would love to play on it—if that’s what you have in mind, I’m down.”
I’m really inspired by Ari Lennox and J. Cole, especially the whole nostalgia feeling that they bring with their music. A lot of the time I feel like it’s directly oriented to the instrumentation they pick. So for me when I think of a jazz club, I hear trumpet and bass. So that’s where I kind of wanted to go with that song - nostalgia and almost a dreamy, unreal kind of feeling.
Who are you inspired by? Honestly I didn’t get much into neo-soul until I got to Berklee, but since I got here it’s been my driving force. I’ve never felt so passionate about anything. I love Ravyn Lenae and The Internet, and of course Syd and Steve Lacy on their own are amazing. Ari Lennox is new to me as of a year ago, and I love everything about her music. She’s definitely a huge inspiration to me, and so is Erykah Badu. So kind of all in the same realm, almost. They inspire me a lot.
How did you get into music?
Like most of us, I started performing really young. I probably just liked the attention when I was five or six, because people would play music and I would create my own lyrics over it, like freestyles. My family is very musical—not that everyone plays music, but everyone loves music very much. I’m Cuban - American, so a large part of the culture is music and I feel like that was instilled in me at a very young age. I started songwriting when I was eight; I got going when I was younger, and it was kind of my way of ventilating and being transported to a different place. I feel like music does that for us. I was kind of safekeeping my feelings and putting them in a place where I felt like they were respected.
Then when I was ten years old I performed at a talent show, and the wife of a producer was there. She told her husband, “Rich, you need to listen to this girl and hear her sing,” and that was the beginning of my journey of being in a studio.
I was learning how to engineer songs before I even realized that was what I wanted to do, just by watching him. I was around 12 years old, and he would sit me down and I’d watch him edit songs. He calls it stringing the pearls together...when he would create a vocal edit that was perfect, he would tell me he was stringing the pearls. I just remember vividly hearing him say that. I was really, really young when I got into the studio, and he taught me everything I know about song formatting, making sure that you have a catchy hook, and stuff like that. After that I kind of took off —I started producing in my senior year of high school because I wanted to do covers, and Soundcloud wouldn’t let you use other peoples’ instrumentals because of copyright infringement. I thought “okay, I guess I just have to start doing it myself.” And that’s where it started.
When did you know you wanted to attend Berklee?
I was ten years old and my family went on a trip to Boston. We were looking at one of those college sweatshirt kiosks, and my brothers both got Harvard. Then I saw this ugly brown sweatshirt with white lettering that said “Berklee College of Music,” and I said, “There’s a college for music? I want to go there!” So I was 10 years old when I decided I wanted to go to Berklee.
I still have the sweatshirt! It’s a reminder of how powerful drive is - to have a goal and to know that no matter what you’re gonna get there. I didn’t think I would be here, but I knew I would be when I was 10.
What are your goals after Berklee? I’ve thought about that a lot. I feel like I would really love to produce for other artists, but also songwrite as well. I want to be my own artist—I feel like everyone does, but I’m thinking of the big picture, and I think I would like working as a songwriter and producer for other people.
Who would you love to work with? Ari Lennox’s producer Elite. There was one day where I was feeling nice and I thought “you know what, I’m gonna email Dreamville and see if they have any internships open!” So I did it. I got no response, but I’m gonna keep trying. My goal is to go to Atlanta or New York - wherever they are, that’s where I wanna be. I love them and what they do. That’s my goal: producing and writing for artists, and working freelance. I don’t wanna be tied down. I don’t want anyone to own me. People try to mess you up with record contracts and all of that. Not me.
What year are you at Berklee, and what’s been your favorite part about the school so far? I’m a third year, sixth semester. I have a little longer to go though, because I decided to major in music production a little late. So I’m going to be here for two more years.
My favorite thing was probably having the space to discover myself. That was big for me—I never really knew how little I knew until I came here, and that was super important for me to know cause I thought I had everything figured out. Then I came here and realized “I know absolutely nothing...I don’t even know what I want to do anymore.” Considering that I always felt like I knew exactly what I wanted to do, that was really liberating. For once I was kind of thinking “actually, I don’t know. Look at all these possibilities.” That was probably the best part for me—being challenged but also having that space and support, because it was hard.
What was the most challenging thing you’ve experienced at Berklee? Feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. That’s Berklee-itis: thinking I’m not doing enough. When I first got here I saw a bunch of people who were throwing themselves at every opportunity. And I completely support them on that—you should! But I was just so unsure of what I wanted to do, or if I even wanted to partake in those things, or what my goal exactly was. I didn’t want to do anything without knowing for sure what I wanted. That was probably the hardest part...letting myself go through my own creative process and journey, and not comparing myself.
Was there a particular moment you realized that was true? I actually had released a song before “Touch,” and it wasn’t something I produced. I remember it didn’t feel 100% like me, but I just wanted to get it out because I was told by everyone that if I don’t get out music, I’m irrelevant. I was compromising my artistry to be relevant and to “do enough.” Then I kind of sat back and kept listening to it, and had a eureka moment of,“Why do I actually care about whether or not I’m relevant to people if I’m compromising who I am and what I believe in?” That’s never been me. So that was kind of the moment I realized that this is about me and I need to do it for me. “Touch” was totally, 100% about me. That was the moment. It took me a while, but I’m never going back. I reached that pinnacle.
Is there anyone at Berklee who inspires you? My friend Will Mallard is crazy. He’s the trumpet player on my song, and he inspires me all the time. He’s such an individual and he’s so okay with that, and he does not care at all what people think of him. He’s also an amazing, amazing player; he’s so dedicated to his craft and he’s so smart, and he’s just someone I look up to a lot. He’s also extremely humble while he’s at it. If you can be an amazing artist, instrumentalist, and be humble and still know that every day you’re learning—that applies to everything. That applies to life.
Are there aspects of your life that inspire your music? Definitely the story of my family. My grandparents immigrated from Cuba in the 60s when Fidel came to power, and they had nothing. They had to pretend like they were on vacation, basically, and leave all of their belongings and their family. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was for them to build themselves back up from the ground. I feel like that’s been the story of my family—building something from nothing and making the best out of situations that don’t seem like they have any light at the end of the tunnel.
My dad does that too. I remember when I was little he worked three different jobs, and he would come home and sleep for four hours before he would go back out and work again. Now he’s the regional vice president of a company, and it’s inspiring. I have very inspiring family members; I’ve been very blessed to have inspiration around me my entire life.
Do you aspire for that to be your legacy?
Absolutely. I definitely prize working with integrity, and that’s extremely important both in my work and in my life. And I’ve had people tell me that my life is going to be more difficult because of that—they tell me “listen, good luck with trying to always work with integrity in this business, because I don’t know how that’s going to work out for you.” But that’s the only example I’ve had in my life, and it’s the only way I can see myself living. When I’m old and gray, I want to be an example of no matter how difficult, no matter how many times people have told you no or doubted you or tried to make you doubt yourself, all that matters is how you feel, what you believe in, and believing in yourself. That’s been my example and I feel like at the end of the day that’s what’s going to get you somewhere: integrity, perseverance, and being a good person.
How do you #getinthegroove? I’d say that I meditate. I drink a lot of tea. I make sure that I check in with myself and make sure that I’m living my life the way I want to live it, and not because it’s what other people expect of me. I feel like a lot of my creativity comes from allowing myself to be who I am. I feel like whenever I’ve had mental blocks or career blocks, it’s been directly correlated to how I feel emotionally and my mental state at that time. I think making sure that I’m taking care of myself is the best way that I can move forward in my career and get in the groove of life.
Listen to Mack Lorén’s newest single “Touch” HERE.