“I’m excited about all the things that are coming, not just the stuff we’ve done. We have some really awesome stuff coming up.” Macy gray
Singer-actress Macy Gray has been so busy performing around the world, including her current North American tour with Seal, that she hasn’t had time to see one of her recent movie co-stars, Matthew McConaughey, in his latest film, Magic Mike.
“Yeah, we’ve been going non-stop for a while,” Gray said this week from New York City, where she and Seal played a two-night stand at the Beacon Theatre.
“It’s a good thing being busy,” she said. “I’m excited about all the things that are coming, not just the stuff we’ve done. We have some really awesome stuff coming up.”
A singer with an unmistakable voice, Gray complimented Seal for his “awesome, awesome voice.” She hopes he’ll invite her to sing with him on stage.
“He hasn’t yet, but maybe one day,” she said.
Gray’s unanticipated music career began after she moved to Los Angeles from her native Canton, Ohio.
While studying screenwriting at the University of Southern California, Gray also sang with a group that performed jazz and pop. Demo recordings of songs she’d written lyrics for led to a songwriting deal with Zomba Music Publishing and an Epic Records contract.
At first, Gray’s 1999 album debut, On How Life Is, inspired praise from critics but slight sales. Months after the album’s release, “I Try” and On How Life Is became international hits. “I Try” also won the singer a Grammy award for best female pop vocal.
Gray’s music sales have since reached 25 million units. She’s performing material from all six of her albums this summer, including songs from this year’s Covered.
Gray’s touring partner, Seal, successfully went the conventional route of re-recording classic soul songs for his 2008 album, Soul, and this year’s Soul 2.
Gray took quite a different direction with Covered. Released in March, the album features her interpretations of alt-rock songs such as Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” and Radiohead’s “Creep” as well as the Eurythmics’ 1983 classic, “Here Comes the Rain Again,” and Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.”
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” Gray of recording an album of remakes. “I heard all these really great covers by Nina Simone and I wondered if I could do that.”
An album of classic soul and rhythm-and-blues would be what was expected of her, she added.
“And it’s already what I do, so it wouldn’t be much of a challenge for me,” she explained.
“I’m a huge rock ’n’ roll fan, so I went into some of my favorite songs that were really outside of what I do. There’s a Kanye West song there that’s rapping, a couple of ’80s pop songs. Most of the other stuff is rock ’n’ roll.
“So I wanted to go out of my arena and make it my own thing. That was my idea and Covered came out of it and I really think it’s a great record.”
In picking songs for Covered, lyrics were particularly important to Gray.
“It’s songs that I felt like I could sing, things that would sound honest coming from me,” she said.
Gray and her band had been performing Radiohead’s “Creep” on stage for a few years before she recorded it for Covered.
“It was funny,” she said. “We thought that song would go really fast in the studio because we’d played it so many times, but that one actually took the longest time.”
Gray’s acting career, including film roles in Training Day, Spider-Man and For Colored Girls and TV appearances in Lackawanna Blues, That’s So Raven and American Dreams (as soul singer Carla Thomas) continues with The Paperboy, a New Orleans-shot murder-mystery starring McConaughey, Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman.
“I love making movies,” she said. “I’ve been really lucky that I’ve gotten some really good offers for good movies and worked with good actors and directors.
“I know a lot of people who are serious actresses and work their whole lives, but it just kind of fell from the skies for me. But when I get a movie, I work really hard and I love the experience of it and what I learn from it. So I want to do as many movies as I can.”