Macy Gray: ‘I think if you have other issues, it’s not because of fame’

The smoky voiced singer has had her issues. Celebrity is not one of them

Macy Gray performs  on April 1st, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Photograph:  Xavi Torrent/WireImage

Macy Gray performs on April 1st, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Photograph: Xavi Torrent/WireImage

 

When Macy Gray speaks, her voice swings through a chorus of various cartoon characters. In fact, it seems as if two of the Simpsons make an appearance. When she’s uninterested, like when I ask her about her performance at Slane Castle 2000 – “I don’t remember when but I do remember that I brought my kids”) – it’s a low Marge mumble and when she gets excited, she sound like Bart.  

 She remains in the Bart pitch when she talks about fame because, like all chancers, she knocked the craic out of the good times.

 “For me, I mean, I love it. I know how people talk about how bad fame is but I don’t know what they’re talking about. Fame is awesome,” she says, chuckling away to herself. “I think if you have other issues, it’s probably… it’s not because of fame.”

Gray, whose career highs were thrown off balance by her career lows, has always been a grafter. Before fame came along, she was the hostess of an after-hours, hip-hop club in Hollywood called We Ours and with regulars like The Roots and Tricky watching her perform at open mic nights, she was already mixing with the right crowd.

 She exudes the coolness of a mafia don, something that’s impossible to fake, and she had that long perfected before she exploded on to the charts with her debut album On How Life Is and her monster, career-defining single I Try in 1999.

 As her following albums The Id and The Trouble with Being Myself failed to reach the heights of her debut, her partying ways and haughty attitude became notorious. She admitted to wearing sunglasses in interviews so she could take forty winks and she told Oprah Winfrey in 2014 that her tour crew from the peak of her career were all from England and “All they did was smoke hash all day, and they knew where to get the good ecstasy”.

With a history of drug abuse and a bipolar disorder, the added pressure of the public eye seems like a dangerous combination but she insists that the fame part is easy to opt out of if you want to.

 “First of all, you don’t have to have it. You can be completely private. You can be someone like, I don’t know... Everybody knows who Robert De Niro is but you never see him out and about or in the tabloids. You can be as famous as you want to be, you know,” she says. “People say that they’re blinded by it and my opinion is stop taking pictures of yourself all day.”

 The singer turns 50 this September and with three kids (“the brat pack”) aged 22, 21 and 19, she’s settled down a bit and appears to be in a good place. While she never stopped making music, her appearance on Ariana Grande’s 2016 album Dangerous Woman pushed her back into the limelight she once basked under, and songs from her sixth album Stripped, which includes a jazz cover of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters, will feature on her upcoming European tour.

While she’s eased off from the majority of her vices, she picked up another habit that’s landed her glory in an entirely different industry. A keen poker player, she continues to hustle. 

“I don’t think I’m bad but they say if you don’t think you’re the fish, you’re probably the fish. I don’t think I’m the fish,” she says, playing it modest despite coming third in Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown in 2006.

 A woman of extremes, her card advice reflects her the way she has lived her life: “When you have no other options, you just go all in.”

  • Macy Gray plays the National Concert Hall on July 2nd
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