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Interview: Macy Gray

7 min read

US Pop/R&B superstar Macy Gray is back this month with her new record The Sellout. Having taken a brief hiatus from the music world for a couple of years it is a welcome return for the raspy voiced singer who offers the world a new collection of disco dance floor gems and smooth and sultry R&B numbers in a record closely matching the brilliance of her 1999 breakthrough debut, On How Life Is.

The singer is getting ready to promote the record and will be visiting UK shores for a number of concerts throughout July. Brendon got the opportunity to talk to Macy on the phone this week about the new record and tour plans for 2010.

Brendon Veevers: How are you doing?

Macy Gray: I’m doing good.

BV: You have just released your new album The Sellout in the UK, can you tell us a bit about the record?

MG: It’s 12 songs, from this great collection of electric soul and lyrically it’s like the story of my life from a couple of years in my career and in my love life. I love it. I listen to it all the time.

BV: How did you decide on the albums title The Sellout?

MG: When I first started the record I thought maybe I’d try doing what everybody else is doing and I was gonna make a dance record and do something really popular but I couldn’t do it and I didn’t like it and it just felt like I failed at confomity – I wasn’t able to be like everybody else.

BV: You have released Beauty in the World as the albums first single in the States whereas over here in the UK you have chosen to release the song Lately as the records first single. Beauty in the World is quite a profound song, whats the inspiration behind the track?

MG: Well specifically I was having a crazy day and I heard my daughter laughing in the other room. It’s just a song about keeping your head up high and that there is always something good going on ya know, if your aware of it. Well, maybe not aware of it but if your open to it and if your looking for it then you will always find some good. How everything is so fucked up but there is still lots of good in the world. Everybody for some reason just focuses on whats wrong you know what I mean.

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BV: Kissed It is my personal favourite from the album, it’s a fantastic disco number. What’s your favourite track on the album?

MG: I love Lately, I also like a song called Help Me. I like Kissed It. Kissed It was interesting because Kissed It started out as a hip-hop track. It was really just a keyboard and a loop and a break beat. Then when we brought the guys from Velvet Revolver in on it, it turned into this big glam song. That was probably like the most extreme evolution of a song I’ve ever seen so that was pretty awesome. But I like them all for different reasons. It’s like having kids, you like them for different stuff.

BV: On Kissed It you worked with Slash and the rest of Velvet Revolver and on Real Love you performed a duet with Bobby Brown. Who would be your ideal collaboration?

MG: Hmmm Jesus! That would probably be really great.That would probably come out really awesome.

BV: I’m sure that would sound spectacular!

MG: (Laughs) I hope so.

BV: What’s the creative process of Macy Gray?

MG: Well, I don’t really have a specific way. Every song was born differently. Like I said with Kissed It, we had that little track thing and with a song like Still Hurts, I wrote that in my head and then I sang it to my keyboard player and he wrote the chords. Beauty in the World was the same thing. I sang it to my guitar player and he wrote it. I get very obsessed. The songs change about twenty thousand times before they are finally finished so that would be the only thing that I tend to pick at them a little bit. We’ll do them and then we’ll do them again so the writing process is actually pretty wearing on me.

BV: Going back to the beginning who inspired you to get into music and be a recording artist?

MG: Lots of things really. My mother dragged me to piano lessons when I was 7 – I took classical piano for 7 years but never once did I think that I wanted to be an artist. Then I went to college and I hung around a lot of musicians. My boyfriend in college was a guitar player and he was the one that introduced me to people like Frank Sinatra and I learned all these jazz songs. I would hang out with him all the time and he would always be recording me, he had his own studio so that’s when I got really interested in the process and studying music and paying attention to different styles of the way people sing and things like that. So it was a lot of different things but they are the 2 main things that got me into music. My mother and my college boyfriend.

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BV: You collaborated on the Real Love with Bobby Brown. How was that and how did that come about?

MG: Bobby is a really good friend of mine. When I started the album I wrote the song with the producers and I thought it would be a really nice duet. Have you ever heard Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sintra do Something Studid? I heard that and I thought it was so awesome because he sings every note right ya know. It’s so tight and it’s so amazing. So I tried that with Bobby and it’s not Something Stupid at all, our thing, but it’s kind of one of the ideas that it came from. We had always talked about working together and the cool thing was that our voices sounded really cool together.

BV: Have you got any plans to tour the record in the UK?

MG: Yeah eventually,. We wanted the record to come out and to be able to hang out for a while and see what kind of tour we wanted to put together. I think eventually, maybe in the fall we will be going out but we haven’t made any definite plans yet.

BV: Going back to your breakthrough I Try in 1999 from your debut album On How Life Is, you have been through a bit of a roller-coaster personally and professionally. What do you think you have learned over the years as an artist?

MG: I think I’m a much better singer than I used to be. I have learned a lot about the business of things. I’ve learned a lot about the creative process and I have really learned a lot about making records you know. How to make them sound good and how to put them together. That’s the best lesson I’ve learned – how to make records. I’ve also learned a lot about singing. I still study a lot of different singers. I’m really obsessive with that – I’m really interested in styles of singing and things like that. I have learned a tonne of things. You learn something new every day. I think I have learned a lot.

BV: Who are you listening to these days – who is on the Macy Gray radar?

MG: Yeah I got to hear a lot of the new Kanye West stuff thats come out and that’s pretty brilliant. I like all the usual stuff – Alicia Keys, MGMT, Jay Z and all that stuff. There’s this band out of Switzerland called Little Dragon which I really love. It’s a little thin on new unique stuff at the moment. I haven’t heard that in a while.There are a lot of new songs that I like but I haven’t heard of any brand new artists that blew me away. I really like Drake. I think he is really great.

BV: So what’s next for Macy Gray?

MG: I don’t really know. I’ve been writing a lot of stuff lately and I’m already working on my next record. I’m just really excited to see where this album takes me. Other than that just to have a good time, thats life ya know.

Macy Gray’s new album The Sellout is out now.

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