Thirteen years ago Macy Gray became a household name, which she cemented with a 2001 Grammy award for “I Try,” winning Best Female Pop Performance. On October 7, she releases her sixth album “The Way,” after years of touring, scoring additional hits “Sweet Baby” featuring Erykah Badu and “Beauty In The World” and starring in several movies including “Training Day.” Though Gray has evolved as a singer, songwriter and entertainer, Macy Gray’s pleasing, husky voice and cheerful soul and funk tunes continue to win over fans, with new tracks “Bang Bang,” “Stoned” and album closer “Life” all making an impression. Gray plays her career favorites and new tracks at New York’s City Winery October 8 and as part of the CBGB Festival on October 10.
NYCM: You’re playing City Winery, a venue that celebrates musicians and true career artists, but it’s also a place where fans can get a special, intimate performance in a smaller room in New York City. Do you prefer smaller rooms over bigger stages?
MG: I’m a veteran of smaller rooms cause of course when I started playing I was doing small rooms and something like 8 people would show up. I’ve done festivals though, I’ve done Glastonbury. The thing about small rooms is you get to look people in the eye and you get to see when they sing back to you. It’s a lot more intimate and there’s a lot more connection going on. When it’s a big place you hardly see anyone.
NYCM: You grew up not far from New York City, in Ohio. Did you come to NYC early on in your life or your career? What’s it like to return while on tour and what do you enjoy in your free time?
MG: The first time I ever came to New York I was 14. My mom made it a point to take me to New York and we stayed there for about three days. It was pretty wild, it was the first time I saw waiters. My mother took me all over New York, I’ll never forget that experience. But when I got signed my label was based in New York. The first time I ever performed there was at SOBs, love that place. You know, New York is New York, there’s nothing to compare it to and something you will never ever forget. Usually we just go out to eat. I still go to clubs sometimes, but mostly hang out with friends. I go to the studio a lot when I’m there. Last time I saw “After Midnight” with Fantasia.
NYCM: Music aside, you have appeared in a number of films including “Training Day,” “Spider-Man,” ‘”Scary Movie 3,” “Lackawanna Blues,” and “Idlewild” – and you studied scriptwriting at USC a while back. Do you enjoy making movies as much as albums?
MG: Probably not as much. Music is in my bones and it comes really natural to me. I took piano lessons when I was 7, so that’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. Movies sort of fell in my lap because of my music career. I do love it though, it’s a lot of fun.
NYCM: You have a new song called “Life,” which may remind people of your breakthrough album title “On How Life Is.” Do you have a better bearing on what matters most in life now, from when you emerged with “I Try?”
MG: Life changes all the time, you sort of get a new perspective on it every day. I just genuinely know the more that I know, the more I realize I don’t know. Going to the amusement park – that’s what it feels like cause there’s lot of rides. Like waiting in line cause it’s too hot. It definitely changes every day, you feel differently about it every day even if you don’t realize it. I have definitely grown up a little bit and I appreciate life more.
NYCM: “The Way” is your 6th album – where did you find inspiration for the songs on this record? How did it compare to being inspired on previous songs and albums?
MG: The difference in this album is that it’s been evolving for a couple years. It took a little while because I didn’t know what I wanted to say as an artist. It’s like an epiphany album. I’m a much better musician and writer and singer now. I think this is the best album I’ve done.
NYCM: “Bang Bang” is a bluesy, almost big Southern rock song with tons of guitar twang and swagger. Would you say this is one of your biggest rock star tunes to date?
MG: Oh yeah, for sure. I’m really proud of that record. It’s with Jason Hill, who’s in the rock band Louis XIV. When he played me that riff I was kind of intimidated, it was kind of bluesy rock and I didn’t know if I could write the proper melody. Welcome surprise.
NYCM: You have collaborated with some R&B and jazz greats: Erykah Badu, Bobby Brown, Natalie Cole. Who is on your bucket list of duets?
MG: I’ve always wanted to work with Sting. He has a beautiful, perfect voice. That’s probably the ultimate.
(Photo Credit: Macy Gray/Shutterstock)