Macy Gray is a woman who commands attention. Whether it’s her six-foot stature, eccentric style, piping voice or latest studio album Ruby, folks are guaranteed to stop, look and listen. Gray has been endeared by many since she first stepped on the scene almost 20 years ago, with her the debut album On How Life Is and breakout single “I Try,” for which she received a Grammy Award.
YouTube | Macy Gray
Her ginormous presence and talent has transcended musicality and showed up on the silver screen. Gray starred in poignant roles alongside Hollywood veterans such as Denzel Washington in Training Day, as well as Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton and Whoopi Goldberg in For Colored Girls. Likewise, her performances in Lackawanna Blues and Idlewild were nothing to sneeze at. Over the years, Gray has remained relevant and active in her craft, and collaborations with other artists. She was featured on the Ariana Grande track “Leave Me Lonely” in 2016.
Gray, who is still flexing her acting chops, just recently completed a horror film project. She also stays busy by doing charity work for struggling musicians. Amidst all of this, she’s found time to hit the studio. Her tenth album, Ruby — which coincides with her favorite color — is a work of art that’s currently available on most music streaming platforms. The worldly entertainer shares the deets on her new album, her politics and what she’s been up to these days:
BLAVITY: You are 10 albums in — how are you feeling about this album [Ruby], in particular?
Macy Gray: I feel like its my best album. I feel like as an artist I’ve grown a lot. My voice has developed a lot. I’m even a bigger music fan. I appreciate it more; I’ve learned more.
BLAVITY: Is that about time — maturity?
Gray: I guess so. I just realize I really do love it. Social media is a big part of marketing.
BLAVITY: Do you operate your own social media platforms?
Gray: No. I do my own Instagram most of my time, but someone’s helping me with that. But I don’t do my own Facebook. I kind of neglect my Twitter.
BLAVITY: OK, but I caught something that was tweeted from your account some time ago. It said, “Don’t miss the deadline, the government is counting on you not to vote.”
Gray: OK. That was me. [Laughs.]
BLAVITY: That was very much a political statement. What are your thoughts about the country’s political affairs — the government, voter rights, voter suppression and how people are affected?
Gray: Everything is so mob style now. It’s so crooked, so twisted. I see how people are disenchanted with the way things are going, especially with what happened last time [with the presidential election]. [Hillary] won the popular vote, and it didn’t matter. They caught someone with voter suppression — you can’t control what goes on behind the scenes. It's so Goodfellas — our country now.
So it's hard to get up in the morning and say, “I’m still going to fight for my rights.” You know? But you gotta do it, because if you don’t, then you got nothing. Because it does count, and you have to, with the chance that it does count because it does matter. So that’s all that I can say to young kids. Don’t give up on it.
BLAVITY: There are so many political references running through Ruby, I didn’t expect it, and it’s a fabulous album. The track “White Man” makes a very bold statement. It gave Nina Simone, “Four Women” feels. I get the sense that tracks like that get cut or put on mixtapes. How did it make the album?
Gray: It was actually everyone’s favorite song. There’s this guy called Craig Kallman; he heads Atlantic Records, and that was his favorite record — and he’s a super white dude. I think that the vibe is really liberating. I think it makes you feel good. I think some people will take it the wrong way. I think most people will understand where it’s coming from. People will take their own meaning from it. At the end of the day, it’s a good song. I think people still appreciate good art, good music.
BLAVITY: What was the motivation for the song?
Gray: It was definitely Trump-inspired. Actually, the first line —“Hey white man, I’m not my grandmother” — was a Facebook post. One of the writers was scrolling on Facebook, and someone posted that. I’ve heard people say it before, but that just kicked off the song. You know it’s just saying. It’s a new day, a new day all around;you know, with technology, cars — you know, Ubers. It’s a brand new day for all of us, not just you white dude.
BLAVITY: The track “He Loves Me” talks about the downside of being in abusive relationships. What inspired that song?
Gray: I think you can take it to domestic abuse. But I think so many of us have been in that relationship where you go your whole life, and no one has ever called you pretty — not once — and some guy comes around and calls you pretty. You’ll put up with everything after that, because he told you were pretty once. So you go through life with that, but you get mistreated for years and years, but there’s that “but.” I was talking to one of my cousins, and she was like, ‘“Yeah, I know. But he is the only one I feel comfortable with.” But he treats her like trash. You know, it's expressly women that always has that “but” that follows in a relationship. You know the abuse isn’t always physical — that’s the wild side of relationships. “But he does the dishes,” you know? That’s the reason that you hang in. It's not really enough, but that’s why you stay.
BLAVITY: “Over You” was so upbeat for what the message was, but my personal favorite was “When It Ends.”
Gray: Oh, mine too!
BLAVITY: You dug really deep vocally and emotionally. Got any advice for us? How to manage setbacks; how to get back up and be over someone?
Gray: Oh no, I don’t know. People will give you advice, and you’ll still not be over them. You still go back to them. [Laughs.]
BLAVITY: So who is this album for?
Gray: This album is for everybody still trying to grow up. My first album was for that point in your life — early 20s — when you’re still trying to find yourself, still trying to figure it out. You’re out of high school, not with the right guy, still doing too much stuff, still not with the right guy and still smoking too much weed.Then 20 years later, I found out not much changes. [Laughs.] I’m kidding.
This album is me growing up. I’m in another stage in my life. I’m definitely more mature, but I’m trying to figure things out. I’m still twisted up in love. I still have problems in my country that haven’t been fixed yet, and I still find joy in the world. I’m still dealing with myself. So this is for everyone trying to figure it out. That’s what I've learned in my old age: You never really figure it out.
BLAVITY: So what’s next for Macy Gray?
Gray: I just knocked out a couple of movies. I did my first horror movie; it’s called Phobias., I am already thinking about my next album. We are touring next year, and I’m really digging into this new charity called Jazz Foundation. What they do is they take care of musicians.
A lot of them get older, and they are not invited to play anymore. They don’t get work anymore, especially the ones that are older now. They didn’t have a 401k, so they get up in their 70s, and they don’t have anything. You’d be really surprised some really famous musicians are homeless. So the Jazz Foundation takes care of when a musician gets to a certain age, and they aren’t set up to take care of themselves. We did a tribute to Roberta Flack this year, who’s really sick. So I’m really proud of that. I’m really excited to dig more into that this year, because no one thinks of them.
Gray is an example of the everyday person, who dwells inside superstardom. While she has graced many stages and big screens, at her core she is a Black woman concerned about the state of the nation and other creative souls. The state of Blackness is on her mind. And like many woman, she has tasted the advantages and challenges of love. She is ever-evolving; she is human.
Peep “Sugar Daddy,” a recent music video from her latest album:
YouTube | Macy Gray
Liking this content? Check these out: