Macy Gray: An interview with the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter
Macy Gray is currently on tour in Europe with her brand new jazz album, Stripped, and will also be appearing at a number of high-profile European festivals throughout the summer. She recently released her new song Stop, Drop, Roll about accepting who you are. We caught up with the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter to talk about her latest record, the new music she is working on and how the music scene is changing.
You released Stripped last year via Chesky Records. The album was a great success, debuting at number three on the Billboard Jazz Chart. What inspired you to record this album with binaural sounds and why did you decide to change labels?
Well I’ve always wanted to record a Jazz album and Chesky specialises on that genre so it turned out we both wanted to do the same thing. About the binaural sounds the truth is I’m open to try new stuff, I enjoy many different music genres. Honestly, I like it all, but business makes you to commit to a certain style of music. But at the end of the day, I come from a jazz background, so that was the main reason.
Is there a song on Stripped that you feel is the most meaningful to you?
Yes there is a song very special for me called The Heart. I think everybody can relate to it and it’s inspired by one of my relationships.
We know you’re currently working on some new music. Could you tell us a bit about what you’ve been writing or what are you creating now?
This new album is very special for me. It has a bit of House and also jazz. Actually it’s really different from anything I’ve done before. When you listen to it you can tell I have grown as an artist throughout the years. It has really great and brand new songs and I hope people enjoy it as much as I do.
Has your approach to songwriting and singing changed over the years? And in what sense.
Definitely. I like to think I’ve became a better singer and a better writer over the years, I mean hopefully I have.
How do you think the music scene has evolved? Especially within the Jazz or R&B genres.
Music changes with time. Different generations introduce different sounds, also younger people have different things to say through music and technology plays a big part in that too. I feel music is always the reflection of the times. It happens the same in medicine, you can’t expect a surgeon to employ the same methods over the years, you need to update yourself.
What differences, if any, do you find between touring in the UK and Europe and in the US?
They are two completely different places. In the UK you have The Beatles and the House movement, people are very welcoming too. But then I also love the US, they have a different personality and culture. Touring in both is very exciting though.
Which artists are you listening to at the moment. Can you pick a favourite?
Well that’s a hard question. From recent years I’d pick Jay Z and Rihanna, but there are so many talented artists out there that I listen to, and you discover new ones all the time.
If you had to advise someone who’s just started their music career what would you tell them?
You need to be willing to work very hard and know what your priorities are. You need to want to be amazing at it. It definitely has to be the most important thing to you, to make music. If you’re making it for the money or for the fame it won’t work. People think this is easy, you know, creating music, but it takes a lot of hard work. These are very important things and you should think about them before choosing a career in music. You should be able to go through rejection too, because you will get rejected more than once. Just be sure you are committed – 100% committed.
What’s your relationship with cinema right now? Do you have any plans in that sense? And do you prefer music over acting?
Yes of course, I mean music is my first love and I feel very lucky that thanks to my popularity I got the chance to get into movies too. But I think about music all day, you know, music is my life. So although I still consider movies and I am open to offers in that sense, I’d rather be on tour as I am now.
Lastly, what are your perceptions about racism in the music industry and what can be done about it, if you consider there is still some sort of discrimination?
I believe it’s just something we need to live with. With labels it’s just business, I don’t think it’s a matter of being racist for them. If you have a record that sells well or better than someone else’s, it’s you who is going to be more successful in the end. Maybe it is just a society problem. People who buy music have the last word, they are the ones who decide if they prefer to listen to a White, Black, Asian or any other ethnic group. And although [people] seem more aware of it now, I think things will remain the same, and nothing is going to change.
Photo: Mike Garnell
Macy Gray is currently on tour. For further information and future events visit the Macy Gray website here.
Watch the video for Stop, Drop, Roll here: