Macy Gray Discusses Her Musical Influences, Evolution of Artistry, and New Single “Thinking of You”, – The Hype Magazine
Published on June 18th, 2021 | by Malcolm “A.S.T.A.T.E” Worsham
Macy Gray returns to the music scene after a decade hiatus and now she’s back with that unique sound with a different look. She recently assembled her latest band with a refreshing new sound, Macy Gray and the California Jet Club with the release of their upcoming new single “Thinking of You,” this highly anticipated release also serves as the debut of Gray’s new ensemble, Macy Gray and The California Jet Club, a collective composed of Gray, bassist Alex Hyhn, drummer Tamir Barzilay, and keyboardist Milly Wes.
Gray’s latest single “Thinking of You” is a song of resilience and is heavily inspired by what we as a nation have learned over the past 12 months undergoing the pandemic. “Thinking of You” encompasses Gray’s revelations about the power of human connection and self-love, and it celebrates the sheer spirit, courage, and determination we as a country have demonstrated in the fight to overcome the virus. Amid the pandemic, Gray utilized the downtime to tap deeper into her creativity and wrote and recorded “Thinking of You.” Striving to help America heal through the power of music, Gray’s uplifting lyrics to “Thinking of You”, combined with her iconic and vivacious voice, evoke a sense of hope and perseverance. It is an ode to the beauty and joy of humanity and reinforces how much we have to be grateful for. Putting the finishing touches on “Thinking of You” is the official music video, which features a thought-provoking style and an ’80s nostalgia homage in its use of vibrant colors. It is a captivating expose that depicts the importance of love and community as Gray and band members finally reunite for a studio session after months spent in lockdown. Directed by Guido Gallo Fabris, the “Thinking of You” music video draws inspiration from visual works of art including the music video for “Island in the Sun” by Weezer, directed by American filmmaker, photographer, and musician, Spike Jonze. “Thinking of You” achieves something unusual and captivating with its seamless look as the video was filmed in a one-shot narrative style similar to music videos for Bob Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and John Fogerty’s “Old Man Down the Road.” Together, Gray and her band have crafted a body of work to lift people’s spirits and celebrate life moving forward.
The Hype Magazine had the pleasure speaking with Macy about her past and current endeavors with her legacy as a GRAMMY winning songwriter, screen plays, and directing.
Hype: Where you from and when did you first fall love in music?
Macy Gray: You know they mostly listen to soul but my mom was a huge Elvis Presley fan. She loved Elvis. That kinda opened me up to listen to other things and then I remember when MTV came out and that was the first time I really listened to Rock-N-Roll and Heavy Metal and stuff like that. I was lucky I grew up at a time where there was all kind of different music out like Reggae was huge still. Hip-hop was just starting to grow, Rock-N-Roll was very present and Soul music. I mean every type of genre. Jazz was popular. I remember when Herbie Hancock had the #1 record when I was little, so it was like instrumental music at the top of the charts. I don’t know if that’s ever gone happen again. Right now, it’s a little homogenized you hear everybody either wants to do hip-hop or they want to do R&B, or they want to do pop or they want to do Country. Back then there was all kinds of stuff going on. I was lucky that I got influenced by all of that stuff plus all of the old school artist such as Stevie Wonder. I don’t know. It was a good time. The 80’s was a good time to be listening to music because you heard everything.
Hype: My mom’s era was in the 80’s. Movies like Purple Rain and songs like “Thriller” wearing the jacket to the movies was her thing. That was her experience.
Macy Gray: Exactly Michael Prince, Madonna, you had all those superstars.
Hype: Who were some of your earlier influences before you transitioned and moved to LA.
Macy Gray: Like I said it was all of my mom and dad’s music. I was a major major major Prince fan. I knew his entire solo. I saw Purple Rain like 12 times. I was a crazy Prince fanatic. I also was a big Madonna fan. I was the type to dress like Madonna for a minute. All that then Mary J Blige popped up and then Biggie. Then it was all about R&B and being the roundaway girl and being cute. you know and gold chains stuff like that. I went through all kind of stages when I was coming. I’m also a big Jazz fan. I like music. As a musician you listen to it a little different than everybody else. You hear it diefferenncSometimes I be listening to the mix. Which is horrible because you just want to enjoy it but sometimes I be like “Damn” why they got the drums so low?
Hype: Precision everything have to take your time with it. It’s definitely quality over quantity. Can you describe your style of music?
Macy Gray: I really just do me, I don’t know what you call it. I had so many influences and that’s kind been my main criticism by critics. They say I’m all over the place sometimes but I can’t help it. I grew up on all kind of stuff. I can listen to Chris Brown all day and then I can turn around and play my Rolling Stone records. I don’t know I just enjoy music a lot. I think as far as singing, I used to listen to Billie Holiday a lot. I can relate to her alot I was never a big belter. I didn’t have Mariah Carey range or anything like that. She never belted. She would just sing with no effort. She would just sing out. That’s kind of what I aim for, just to have that confidence to sing and tell my story and don’t worry about impressing people with all the notes I can hit because I really can’t hit all of those notes *laughs*.
I remember seeing Chaka Khan and she had band and that kind of made me want to have my own band. She looked hot she was up there like with four guys backing her up and she just looked like boss b***h up there and I wanted to do that. That was my biggest influence for getting a live band. Then hip-hop came along and you know it teaches you rhythm when you sing. It teaches you rhythm and how to sing on a beat in a cadence. That has a lot to do with how I write and my phrasing I still hear stuff that I steal from you know.
Hype: How’d did you get your name Macy Gray?
Macy: My real name is Natalie but everyone calls me Nat. I saw it on a mailbox and stole dudes name. When I was playing around and everybody had fake names like Method Man, Redman, and Stevie Wonder. I thought I had to make up a name I didn’t know that I can use my real name.
Hype: Do you use your artist name with your screen writing or just incorporate it with the music?
Macy: Yeah I do. I’ve written a couple stories. They’ve never got made but I am actually working with one with a production company. It’s a story about my first album. That’s fun but yeah from screen writing when you take writing the first thing you learn is format and structure for like eight hours a day format, format, and format. I think that helps me when i’m writing songs. It helps me tell a story rather than throw out words that rhyme. I think because of my screenwriting training in my songs I feel like they are on autopilot, I have to tell a story.
Hype: What story were your trying to tell with your highly acclaimed single “I Try” what were you feeling at the time?
Macy: I was in love at the time and I was married. I was with my husband. That kind of summed up our relationship at the time. We were no good for each other but apart we were just as miserable. That was where that song came from. You know it’s cool like when I put it out and you find out so many people can relate to it. I even played it for my ex-husband and he was watching the game and didn’t want to hear it. I never thought it was a big deal. I was blown away that so many responded because he didn’t so I didn’t think it was a great of a song.
Hype: Do you feel like you’re a giver or receiver when it comes to that love?
Macy: I try to be. I try to be as giving as I can. I have good people around me that treat me right. Probably both. You know it’s hard because you get slammed so many time. So many time you give somebody your heart and they beat you up for it, do something behind your back, or they disappoint you. It’s hard too. I probably don’t dive in like I used to. Just go to be people and be all open and ready to have a friendship. I don’t do that like I used. I’m a little guarded you. It’s difficult. People are complicated. They come with all different types of suitcase. When you really loves someone, you gotta take all that with you but it’s different
Hype: Do you feel like you have to love yourself first?
Macy: No, I don’t think you have to love yourself to love somebody. I hear people say you can’t love anyone unless you love yourself but I don’t think that’s true. I think people get up everyday and do their best. I think people be themselves as much as they can. That’s really all that you can do. If you find somebody that you love while you doing that then that’s great. You know what I mean. I don’t think there is any rules or anything. I think it just is what it is.
Hype: You’re back to the music and returned with a new single “Thinking of You”. Explain the emotions you are going thru now with the new sound and band. The game doesn’t change the players just do. What are you thinking about and what’s on your mind now with music?
Macy: I hope I can make a difference with my music. I hope I can make people feel better, put a smile on people faces and get them dances. I hope that we have some songs on the album that inspires people. Everybody wants to save the world. I hope I can play some part in that on some level if even it’s a drop in the bucket. That’s the only way that I know how to do that through music. I hope we have an album that inspires people and if changes something. Even if it changes somebody’s day you know. It makes their day better much better then you did alright.
Hype: We’ve been stuck in the house for well over a year or two. I know you’re ready to get out and get some air What’s next for you in 2021?
Macy: We’re so busy, I haven’t even had time to think about next week. I’m going to a wedding. I haven’t been to a wedding in ages. I’m excited about that. My album drops its looks like its dropping end of July. We just wrapped up literally like two or three nights. We just finished I’m so proud of it. We made some really great records. I just want to have fun and enjoy myself. I got so I’m getting older and I just want to have fun. I like to laughing, giggling and shit like that.
Hype: What’s fun for you, what do you like to do?
Macy: I’ve been roller skating in my house. I’m trying to get my roller skating skills back since all of the roller rinks are closed. We’re talking about going to Mexico. I bought a fire pit *laughs*. I think one day after I wrapped my record, I laid in the bed all day.
Hype: What are a few things you’re watching?
Macy: I’m watching a movie that my daughter told me to watch called “A Promising Woman”. That’s such a good show. I gotta watched
Hype: What’s the music and Hollywood look like when everything returns to normal.
Macy: I never knew we had a normal. As far as the country we were never normal. I think people will like to get back to live events. simple stuff and then the movies. You’ll see a lot more movies. I think their will be a influx of movies and roles. They told me their is like 50,000 a week.
Hype: Do you feel it’s easier to reach to your fanbase with the current trends and technology?
Macy: I think 2020 got everyone self focused. How we are going to survive and stuff like that. I think if you put out stuff that goes with that and connects the people personally and make the art about them. I think you have a shot.
Hype: What does success mean to you?
Macy: Success is satisfaction. Being satisfied with yourself and what’s around you. Even if you live in a trailer park and you got thirteen kids eating pig feet, if that works for you then you did it.
Hype: What advice would you give the new generations of upcoming artist about expression with the music and following their truth?
Macy: Go for it, don’t worry about what people say. The thing about art is it comes out of nowhere. It drops from the sky. If it was brought to you it’s for a reason. You should just go for it, just stick with it, and don’t let anyone stop you.