INTERVIEW: Macy Gray on twenty years, “Buddha” and her intimate upcoming shows
While we’re always on the search for the next big thing and pride ourselves in that, we would never be silly enough to pass on the opportunity to talk to timeless artists.
So when I got the opportunity to talk to Macy Gray in anticipation of her three-night Boston run that begins tonight at Scullers Jazz Club, I jumped at it. Career longevity is something so many artists can only dream of and few actually get to experience it. This year celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the anthemic “I Try” and Gray only continues to put out stunning albums to this day. Including “Ruby” which features her latest single ‘Buddha’ featuring current alt wonder Gary Clark Jr.
Gray is jumping into a nuts run of six shows over the next three days versus playing one huge date, making for some sure to be incredibly intimate moments. It all kicks off tonight with two shows at 8 and 10 p.m. respectively. Be ready for some talk about “kids, marriage, being in love” and for music from all over her catalogue.
Find our chat with Gray below, and make sure to try and catch her at one of the shows. Hope to see you there!
To jump right into it, you just put out the video for “Buddha,” It’s obviously a very personal song for you. How did you conceptualize the video? Looking towards your future but also looking at your past?
Macy Gray: The original idea was to do kind of a scroll of things I’ve been through. Like real quick in three minutes. Because the song is kind of about that. So I just wanted it originally to be a three minute edit of my life as a musician so far. So, that’s what we did. I was looking at past videos from Teyana Taylor and I thought she would be really awesome for it. So we hit her up on Instagram actually, and she replied, which was great, I didn’t think I would hear back from her. It was cool! We shot it in like eight hours in a studio and that was it.
So it came together really naturally?
MG: Yeah, she really knew what she wanted. It was really, really fast.
“Buddha” is obviously off the last record, “Ruby,” is it a case where “Buddha” was a song you had been holding onto for a while in comparison to the other songs? Where did it fit into the record-making process?
MG: It wasn’t written too long ago. It was actually probably the fastest song we wrote on the album. Yeah, my guy sat down at the piano, played me some chords and the melody came right away. Then I wrote the lyrics that same day. It was probably the fastest song we did. You know, just the writing, before all the other parts it goes through.
Considering how long you’ve been making music, do you feel that your process still changes? Is it just something that comes naturally now? Or do you still find it challenging sometimes, like working with other people?
MG: Yeah, it’s like everything else in life. It’s always who you’re in the room with, the mood to everybody’s in. It kind of just flows out. But you do go into the studio with people’s energies all around you. I’d something happens that’s not it great, it happens. I got lucky on this album with Tommy Brown, Thomas Lumpkins and Johan Carlsson.
That’s incredible. Then I know you’re playing these intimate shows, in Boston for three nights. How have you been approaching the sets on this tour? Considering how much music you’ve put out.
MG: Well, the thing about small clubs is that you get a bit of an older crowd sometimes. So, you have to kind of speak to what kind of crowd it is. You talk about kids, marriage, being in love. But like festivals, everyone’s on drugs. They’re in their twenties. So, the conversation is different and the songs you play. Because they want to move around. You got to get everyone dancing. Supper clubs, everybody’s eating, chilling. It’s a whole different night.
Then considering that, and considering it’s been twenty years since “I Try”, how do you pick these sets? You have such a big catalogue. Are you sticking to the same set list, throwing in some different songs if you feel like it?
MG: We try to do a different set for each show because sometimes people come multiple nights. They will talk about what I’m wearing if I’m wearing the same outfit. We mix up the set a little bit but not a lot. You want to be on autopilot. I try to give each night a little bit of a different flavor.
Now you started your career a little bit later in life. You weren’t like sixteen when you started doing this, but you’ve been doing it for at least twenty years. Maybe something you would have told yourself then that you wish you had done or maybe something you wish you had avoided? Like looking back now? Considering your career longevity.
MG: Yeah, lots of stuff. I made a million mistakes. Oh yeah that’s me. I think we all get to a point where we have good people around us who are by our sides. But you make some mistakes. Like Justin Timberlake, he started when he was eight. He may have done some dumb stuff, but now that he’s an adult, he has a family. It happens to everyone.
Then maybe to end it off, you have this tour but we’re almost coming up on 2020. Maybe focuses or goals for you personally/professionally?
MG: I’m thinking of putting out a disco album. Something I’ve never done. Something where I can hear my songs in a strip club which has never happened before. An upbeat disco album. That’s my next big thing.
Macy Gray takes the stage at Scullers Jazz Club tonight thru October 19th, with two shows a night, one at 8 pm and one at 10 pm. Tickets range from $65-130 and can be purchased HERE.