by Kat Parsons

MCK: Thinking The World Of You

by Kat Parsons

MCK: Thinking The World Of You

Mckenzie Comer (aka MCK) has spent the past two years slowly cultivating her debut album, pouring both her joys and heartbreaks into the eight tracks of ‘Becoming’. Kat Parsons caught up with the Auckland artist to discuss her songwriting processes and the album’s focus track World Of You. Made with the support of NZ On Air Music.

“There’s always an audience for everything. You might not relate to it now, but you could in a year’s time or something, and that’s kind of the power of it. It makes me feel better about releasing a sad album,” Mckenzie Comer chuckles.

Comer is no stranger to the musical stage. At 13 years she was discovered on YouTube by a Nashville music producer/manager, and as a teen got to experience the life of a professional country artist. Her career could have taken her in a vastly different direction, but she made the mature decision to take some time out to rediscover herself.

In 2018 she dropped debut single Magnets under adopted pseudonym MCK, launching herself into the world of pop. Since then she has released numerous singles, an EP, and started her own artist management and PR company. It’s funny to think that this all began with little concerts in the kitchen.

“My dad kind of figured out that I had a little bit of a voice and he got me a little microphone and amplifier so that I could sing in the kitchen,” she describes, fondly. “I remember the first song I ever learned was Don’t Know Why by Norah Jones! We would go around retirement homes on the Gold Coast, which is where we lived for about 10 years – that was kind of like my first practice ground for singing when I was like 10 years old. So yeah, that’s the earliest memory!”

World Of You is a soft, piano-driven ballad. Written by Comer and produced with Joel Jones, the subtlety of this song hits differently. The hint of a simple rhythm escalates throughout the chorus and bridge, creating a soundscape of emotional release, only to drop back down to a melodic whisper and cliffhanger ending. A story of a love that could have been, but never will.

World Of You was the second song that I wrote for the album itself,” Comer explains. “The first song actually came quite a few months beforehand, I wrote it at SongHubs in November 2020 with Simon Gooding, and it was called Tide Change. That was the first time that I felt I’d stumbled upon something that I really loved for the next chapter of music after ‘Hot Sound’.” 

“Then World Of You I wrote at home, at the flat that I was in at the time, just on guitar. I remember I was exhausted and run down,” she reminisces. “It’s definitely a song that I’d been meaning to write for a long time. I’d tried to write different versions of the same story quite a few times over the years. It’s really just like a fantasy. Like a romance novel that you kind of want to be living in. I was very aware that it’s not real life, but it’s cool to tell the story finally and have it out in the world!

Comer says she has been “kind of” a co-producer on most of her tracks, but backed with $30,000 of funding from NZ On Air, she took a step back this time in favour of producer Joel Jones.

“Joel is incredible, a real up-and-coming producer. When I’m in the room – because I’ve done it for so long – I’m quite confident in what I can bring to the table, and I love getting on the tools myself and dropping in sounds and different layers. We worked very collaboratively through that process.”

‘Becoming’ is an emotional project. There is a strength in Comer’s lyricism that captures attention and all eight tracks tell a passionate, somewhat melancholy story. The follow-up to her 2021 EP ‘Hot Sound’ is an album one can sing along to, cry to, reminisce and smile to.

“When I first started writing, it was all about accepting change,” she states. “I think it was less about the songs themselves, and more about the intention that I set when I made them. I feel like they’re the most authentic work that I’ve done so far.

“We’re always becoming who we are, there’s no final point. So the anxiety or pressure that we put on ourselves is unnecessary in a way. We should just stay in the present moment and appreciate where we are. Every day is an everyday challenge to decide to be a little bit kinder to yourself.

“So I think that’s what I want people to take away from it,” she smiles. “Be kinder to yourself. That was the story for me throughout the whole process, allowing myself to go through different phases and forgive myself for it.”

‘Becoming’ includes previously released track An Honest Mess, a collaboration with fellow Kiwi artist Mountain Boy (Aaron Clarke).

“That song just feels like an entirely different entity to the album because it’s just so strong on its own. Being the first single, it really made that space for itself. I’m so proud of that track and Aaron was such a massive part of making it what it is,” Comer gushes. “He did some instrumentation on it, and came in and wrote his verse and helped us write the bridge, which is my favourite part. He was incredible.”

‘Becoming’ presents an evident change in genre and style for the Auckland artist.

“I’ve always loved country music, and folk music as I grow a little bit older, so I tap into those realms more often than people probably know,” reveals the artist. “With my last EP, it was very clean and even a little bit RnB – mostly polished pop. These songs were just like an outpour. I didn’t overthink the genre or category. I think a huge part of that was going back to my instruments because I really stopped playing guitar and piano for a long time. I wasn’t intending to make anything, so the songs that I was writing during that time were authentic and what I wanted to sound like.

“So many songs are so special to me; some in not-so-great ways, if you know what I mean,” she smiles. “When I wrote them they were really quite painful, but I feel like putting them down and the process of recording and finishing them has given me relief in lots of different ways. Other People was really difficult for me to record. I was having a super anxious day and Joel was just like, ‘It’s okay, we’ll get it down, it’s fine.’ That song I’m really proud of. The songwriting is some of my best work and I love it, but it is quite painful. So yeah, there’s been lots of different moments throughout the process, which is so cool because it’s been a two-year journey.”

Her songwriting process is very organic and she consciously tries not to put any pressure on herself to always have an idea. 

“To be honest, it’s just like a constant cycle in my brain,” she says, contemplating. “Like my notes app – every day I probably put something in there. Either a phrase or a title of something that I want to work on. I don’t like to force it. If I’m not ready to execute an idea, then I just won’t. That’s why it’s taken a bit of time over the two years because I wouldn’t go to Joel unless I had a full concept or idea fleshed out.” 

“I find that when I am in the zone the whole thing will just come out naturally. That’s the best feeling ever as a songwriter; when it all just flows out of you. There’s an amazing book called Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about ideas being things that just float around you and flow through you, and they don’t actually belong to us in any way. I kind of do believe in that – a moment where you’re fully open to transporting that story onto paper. I like to surrender a bit to that process and not try to force it.”

After two long years of global pandemic, Comer is looking forward to playing live shows once more and sharing the latest phase of MCK.

“There’ll be a couple of things over the next few months, which will be cool. I’m excited to play these songs live. The last time I played was Rhythm & Vines during the ‘Hot Sounds’ era of stuff, which was a completely different vibe. So I’m gonna figure out how to do these more folk songs and some of the other ones. It’s been a crazy couple of years of releases, but I’m really proud of everything that I’ve put out and where I’m at as an artist.”

“I think you’re meant to evolve with every chapter. I just love so many different styles. I love RnB music, and I probably will make music again, with that inspiration. It’s never going to be the same thing twice, which I kind of love. It’s exciting…”