Right about now Macy Gray should be basking in the glow of her critically acclaimed, ridiculously funky third CD, The Trouble With Being Myself.
At 36, the Ohio native is an accomplished musician, the proud mother of three (Aanisah, 8; Tamel, 7; and Happy, 6) and a budding actress (Training Day); cameos in (Spider Man) and (Scary Movie 3); upcoming films (The Crow); (Wicked Prayer) and (Around the World in 80 Days) who also happens to be ghostwriting a magazine column and starting her own clothing label.
So what’s Macy’s trouble? Well, you. Or more specifically, the pesky assumptions some of us have about her: that she’s doped-up, spaced-out and not “Black” enough for Black folks. Hang on to your seats while Macy sets the record straight on her music, Black radio, sex, drugs and the downside of being a genius.
Joan Morgan: So what is the trouble with being Macy Gray?
Macy Gray: Sometimes when you’re in the public eye it’s easy to be misunderstood. I have this image of being aloof and spacey when I’m just a genius and I’m thinking.
Morgan: Who are some of your musical influences?
Gray: Sly Stone, Prince, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles...I listen to everything because I’m a musician.
Morgan: Black artists who aren’t doing straight R&B sometimes have a very hard time gaining acceptance from Black audiences. Jimi Hendrix died wanting it. What has been your experience?
Gray: Frustrating. I’d definitely love to reach more Black folks. I’ve tried, but it’s hard to get past Black radio. They only play ten songs. Even if I do a remix, I’m still Macy Gray. I still have to compete with R. Kelly. Back in the day the Black stations came on only at two in the morning. So you had to hear other stuff. But now Black radio is so narrow-minded that all the kids are growing up on one thing. It makes our future in music look generic. Kids need to know that other things are within their reach.
Morgan: You’ve been described as “weird,” “kooky,” “a space cadet”—all things antithetical to the sexy R&B siren personas we see in J.Lo and Beyoncé. Doesn’t that just get on your damn nerves? Do you ever want to be the sexy goddess?
Gray: I am a sexy goddess. What are you talking about? I like being different. I like standing out.
Morgan: What have your kids taught you?
Gray: My kids have taught me what being pure is. It’s complete freedom. It’s not having any baggage. Kids are very pure. They haven’t learned to discriminate. They don’t have any hang-ups or enemies. You can learn a lot about how to carry yourself from watching your children.