Mackenzie Moore was three years old when she knew music would be a part of her future.
“I remember listening to Sheryl Crow in my mom’s car,” Moore said. “It was my first time singing, ‘Soak up the Sun.’
Now 17, the Roxbury resident and Sauk Prairie High School senior has made good on her promise, making her way through the Madison music scene.
“I’m trying to play four-to-six shows a month,” Moore said.
Using Madison as her base, she has also played shows in Sauk County and other parts of Dane County. She released her first extended play album in April, receiving airplay on stations like WORT and WSUM.
“It was based off of songs that are all two-to-four years old now,” Moore said. “Back then my sound was more like Joan Jett.”
Now she’s experimenting more with her sound, bringing back a sound suggestive of Crow and reminiscent of her younger years.
“It’s more bluesy and upbeat,” Moore said. “It’s like, yeah, this sucks, but let’s live life. That’s what I want.”
Influenced by the music of the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s, she performs three-hour sets of mostly cover songs with her own originals mixed in.
Moore is mostly self-taught. By age 12, she said she realized she couldn’t have a career in music without learning to sing as well. Three years ago, she attended a music camp for girls in Madison, and things started taking off from there.
She did her first few shows in eighth grade, at the encouragement of her guidance counselor.
“He made me go out and do it because he heard me play one day,” Moore said.
Beth Kille, music director for Girls Rock Camp Madison, said Mackenzie was a strong guitarist and songwriter from day one.
“She immediately impressed me,” Kille said. “But where I have seen her grow over the years is becoming tenacious at pursuing her dream in the music industry. She has recorded an album, something very few high school students can say they’ve done.”
Meghan Rose met Moore while teaching at Girls Rock Music Camp. She said she was also impressed with Moore’s skills at the guitar, and they bonded over a love for the same kind of rock music.
“There was something about her I resonated with,” Rose said. “She reminded me a little of myself when I was in high school. Sometimes you can just tell someone has unique things to say.”
“I love how music creates a sense of community,” Moore said. “I’m driven by the idea that the harder I work, the closer I’ll be to making a living doing what I love. I also love the idea of writing songs that people will correlate memories with.”
Kille said Moore’s songwriting is well beyond her years.
“She’s not afraid to say the things she means,” Kille said. “And she says them in a unique and memorable way.”
While Moore is in the midst of her final year at Sauk Prairie High School, she’s also taking classes at Madison Area Technical College in the afternoons trying to amass as many transferable credits as possible to get her to UW-Madison. After her initial interest in computer science waned, Moore is now considering journalism or even comedic writing.
“I love Saturday Night Live so much,” she said.
Moore said she would consider putting college on hold if her path to music is going well.
“The credits will still be there,” Moore said.
As to where she will be five years from now, it’s hard to say.
“Probably in a van going around the country,” Moore said. “If I have it my way.”