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MUSIC

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MACY GRAY

An interview with Grammy-Award winning R&B & Soul singer-songwriter

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The Montréal Review, August 2012

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A few years ago, Elisa Bray from the British Independent asked Macy Gray, "For someone who has lots of advice to give, what useful advice have you taken along the way?" Macy answered, "My dad gave me the best advice. The first time he came and saw me at a concert he goes, 'sometimes just let the music play, you don't have to sing over every bit of it'." Since her success with the international hit single "I Try," released more than ten years ago, Macy Gray has been letting the music play, showing that it is her true love. Her continuous presence on the musical scene is not just perseverance, it is a calling. And her fans know this.

This summer Macy Gray performed with Seal in the latest edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival. Her new album Covered, released last spring, is a collection of "dark love songs" that reflect her mood now. "Good artists borrow, great artists steal", Picasso famously said. In Covered Macy Gray is not shy to re-make the great hits of Eurythmics, Metallica, and Radiohead into authentic "Macy Gray songs."

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The Montreal Review: Macy, your real name is Natalie Renee McIntyre. How Natalie has become Macy?

Macy Gray: I saw Macy Gray on a mailbox in my neighborhood growing up as a kid. I always thought it was a cool name. I wanted an alias, like all rock stars had, and I knew it had to be Macy Gray.

TMR: Your voice is notable, it is "Macy Gray's voice". But at the beginning of your career there were people who weren't sure that your specific voice will help you to make great music. How did you overcome this pessimism?  

Macy Gray: Well, I got made fun of a lot growing up. So I didn't talk much as a kid. When I told my mom I wanted to be a singer, she didn't think much of it. "How are you going to sing when you barely talk?" she'd say. But my voice was a gift from God, so I'm really lucky.  

TMR: Your new studio album, "Covered", released earlier this year, consists of dark old love songs from diverse music genres. Why did you turn to the past?  

Macy Gray: Nina Simone did a cover album where she took a bunch of different songs and turned them into Nina Simone songs. I always wanted to do that... So, I took a bunch of songs that aren't typical Macy Gray songs and made them Macy Gray songs.

TMR: Do you think that music industry and people's taste for good music have changed in the recent two decades?  

Macy Gray: Yes, the music industry has definitely changed. The internet has made music accessible to everyone and also given people the ability to record a song and upload it and make it available to everyone in the same day.

TMR: In interviews for other magazines, you mentioned Nina Simone and Billie Holiday as your biggest influences. What do you like in these artists?  

Macy Gray: Nina Simone and Billy Holiday put their soul into their music. I really like that.  

TMR: How important is song lyrics for you?  

Macy Gray: Song lyrics are very important to me. They tell the story of the song. But songs mean different things for everyone. So how it's sang is really important too.

TMR: What are the most important things in your life?  

Macy Gray: My children.

TMR: What do you read now?

Macy Gray: Trashy gossip magazines.

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