- Mon, 2010-07-05 15:22
Just over ten years ago Macy Gray shot to fame with her single I Try, an international hit that sent her debut album On How Life Is triple-platinum in the U.S. and a stunning quadruple-platinum in the U.K. The subsequent decade has seen Gray pick up a Grammy and collaborate with a host of stars, from Fatboy Slim to will.i.am, in the process releasing a further three highly-rated studio albums. She is now preparing to emulate that success once more with album number five, The Sellout.
I Like Music spoke to Macy about making The Sellout, the joys of touring, remaining individual and dealing with the fame game.
“I Like Music…for more reasons than I can say and for more reasons than I can put into words.” Macy Gray
ILM: You were intending to make a pop album with The Sellout, but you’ve said that you ended up reverting to the music you love. How would you describe the sound of The Sellout?
Macy: It’s electric soul. It’s inspired, organic and genuine. It’s natural. All the stuff that I do best.
ILM: How do you go about working in the studio?
Macy: We generally just take out blocks of a month or so… I don’t really have a set routine. Every song is done differently. Some songs start with a melody, some with a lyric. Some of them Ben wrote and then I brought some kind of idea to it. It all comes about really organically.
ILM: What were some of the best moments for you whilst making The Sellout?
Macy: I had a great time working with Bobby Brown! He’s always entertaining. Bobby’s song Real Love was interesting, because it started out as a hip hop track, but then it turned into this big bad rock song. That was cool; that evolution happening. But I always have fun, it’s a party in the studio!
ILM: How do you approach your lyric writing? Is that something that’s changed over time?
Macy: No. I just get inspired by a moment, or something that’s on my mind or that I’m going through. It’s a pretty natural process.
ILM: What have been some of the best moments for you throughout your career so far?
Macy: A long time ago I did Glastonbury. I was a surprise act! That was the most people I’d ever played to. I think the biggest thing is that I’ve got to see the world. I never imagined that I would get to go to all these different countries and they would know my music. That’s been the biggest surprise; where it’s taken me.
ILM: Which have been some of the most memorable places you’ve travelled to?
Macy: Israel. I never expected to go to Israel. It’s a really interesting place. An amazing place. I never thought I would make it to Italy either. That was always a fantasy, and now I’ve been to all those places. You know, we’ve been to places that you would never think of going, like Serbia. I would never think of going there on my vacation! Or Poland. They turned out to be really interesting places. I learnt a lot.
ILM: You’re known for your individuality. How have you managed to maintain that in an industry that is so trend-heavy?
Macy: My biggest thing is that I like to be comfortable. I definitely tried the whole short skirt thing, but it just didn’t look right on me! So, I just reverted back to what I like to do. You have to be yourself or you’ll be miserable...
ILM: What would your advice be to young musicians just starting their career?
Macy: I would just say take the time to get really good at what you do. Master your craft. Really study it and be the best singer or writer or whatever that you can be. At the end of the day that’s what people admire and value you for. It’s something extraordinary that you don’t see everyday. Then there’s the business side of it, but there’s no real book on that that I could tell you!
ILM: How have you dealt with fame?
Macy: It’s a real up-and-down. Some days fame is great, some days it's not. It comes with it. You can’t be a successful artist unless you’re popular. I actually have a lot of fun with it. A lot of people complain, but I think it’s alright.
ILM: Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
Macy: Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Billie Holiday… I just recently really got into Nina Simone records. Prince, of course, and Chaka Khan. The same people that I always listened to and I still listen to. I’m also a big fan of rock and roll, like the Rolling Stones, Nirvana and stuff like that.
ILM: How about in the live context? Who have you seen that’s left a lasting impression?
Macy: The first concert that I ever paid my own way into was a Prince concert! I’ll never forget that show, and it actually inspired my own show. I’ve seen a lot of really great shows. I went to Kanye West’s show a long time ago, and Lady Gaga’s. I go to shows a lot. Madonna’s show is always spectacular.
ILM: How are you approaching your live show this time around?
Macy: We haven’t gotten to that. We haven’t made any definite tour plans yet, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. We haven’t gotten to the point where we’ve creatively looked at the design of the show yet.
ILM: What do you look forward to the most about playing live?
Macy: I love playing live. I’m most comfortable and myself on stage. I love the process of putting the show together.
ILM: What are your future plans, beyond this album and tour?
Macy: Well, I’m going to start on my next album! I really just want to put out a whole lot more music than I have done in the past. There’s this formula that everybody does, album by album, but I’d love just to put a load of singles out, do a couple of remix albums… I’d like to do different styles of music, maybe make a jazz album. I’m really just interested in doing different kinds of music.
ILM: A jazz album would be amazing! Is that lined up for the next album?
Macy: No, the next record is more original, but I have started looking for a proper jazz band to do an album with. I can’t wait!