'Still Larger Than Life!'
The woman with the most distinctive voice in music is back with a dynamic new effort that spotlights her classic pipes in a variety of soulful and stylistic settings. This month Macy Gray will release her long awaited new album BIG on the will.i.am music group/Geffen Records label.
Macy Gray first burst onto the music scene in 1999 with her debut release On How Life Is and the massive hit single “I Try.” The album went on to sell 7 million copies worldwide and Macy won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
In addition to making music Macy finds time to give back to her community. She founded the M. Gray Music Academy in North Hollywood, California which provides affordable after-school and weekend music classes for the youth in the area.
Always one to embrace fashion, Macy has a women’s clothing line, The Natalie Hinds Collection by Macy Gray, and will soon launch a new line for the curvy girls called HUMPS. Macy also has a lucrative acting career having appeared in over half a dozen movies and most recently the Emmy-nominated HBO movie “Lackawanna Blues.”
Working with a number of producers, including will.i.am, Ron Fair, Justin Timberlake and newcomers Jared and Whitey, BIG was mostly recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles and features guest artists Fergie, Natalie Cole, Nas, Justin Timberlake and will.i.am.
Taking it from the top, and at what point did Natalie Renee McIntyre become Macy Gray … and why? "Saw the name Macy Gray on a mailbox and when I started playing shows around town I stole the name. I got famous about 3 -4 years later. Just thought it was a dope name – that Natalie McIntyre sounded too much like Natalie Merchant."
You’ve been described as ‘The woman with the most distinctive voice in music’ on more than one occasion. Is this something that you yourself agree upon or perhaps you have another artist that you think also fits that title? "Yup. I definitely don’t sound like anyone. My music director does a great job impersonating me though. Noboby sounds like Bob Marley or Weird 'Al' Yankovic."
On this new album ‘Big’ you’ve collaborated with a mighty handful of top flight producers and artists. What’s the hardest part about being surrounded by so many people with so many ideas and is there ever a worry of ‘too many cooks in the kitchen,’ perhaps? "No, actually it was a great learning experience for me to be open and embrace other perspectives and energies. It made all the difference in the world. I love way my record came out and without those people I wouldn’t have this record."
And when you now sit back and talk about the album to your friends or the media, which is your new fav go-to track … and why? "Ummmm, it changes every day. Today my favorite is 'Shoo Be Doo' because it’s the first song off my album to hit the charts. I’ve been doing radio all day."
Why was it named ‘BIG’ and did it ever have an alternate title, perhaps? "Its name is in honor of my big brain, my big heart and my big butt!"
Winning a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance upon the release of your debut album back in 2001 must have been an amazing experience. Please take us back to that night and what was going through your head "It’s such a stressful day – what to wear, what to say, who to go with, what party to go to, blah blah blah. I loved getting up there though. It really is a great honor. It’s like playing the lottery every day and you finally win!"
Please tell us more about the M. Gray Music Academy in North Hollywood, CA that you founded and what it gives back to the youth in the area? "It’s a really great music school for kids most are ages 9 to 15 – it’s awesome they are learning to write, and record their own records. One of our kids is signed already."
And is it true that you will soon be launching a new clothing line for the curvy girls called HUMPS?! "Yes this fall."
Will you be touring here in Michigan sometime soon, perhaps? "Hell to the yeah!"
What’s your opinion on 'American Idol' and the instant success some of these artists are achieving without having had to pay their dues? "I think it’s a great show. Paula is more entertaining than the talent but success is achieved in all kinds of ways – no formula to it."
Finally, and throwing out a comedic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins! Does Macy Gray?! "Saw 'Happy Feet [and] thought they were kind of cool. Haven’t met one yet so can’t really say!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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