After more than ten years, Macy Gray has remained the odd girl in a room full of traditional R&B singers. From her wild afro to her scratchy voice, Ms. Gray’s eccentricity has become her signature, making her a favorite here at ESSENCE.com. Macy told us that following the release of her last album “Big” in 2007, she knew it was time to end the creative struggle she’d endured at Geffen/ Interscope Records. Now the singer-songwriter is back with her first independent album via Conchord Records, also home to Leela James, entitled “The Sellout.” Gray is also reviving her acting career with a role in Tyler Perry’s upcoming film, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.” Macy chatted with ESSENCE.com about her career path, raising three teenagers, and finding Bobby Brown all from the comfort of her daily bubble bath. ESSENCE.com: Hello Macy! It’s wonderful to speak with you again, how did you choose Conchord Records as the new home for “The Sellout”? MACY GRAY: [Conchord] were really big fans of the records I played them. They were this little company that I could tell put a lot of energy into their work and I could get the best chance to record a great record. ESSENCE.com: What happened after “Big”? You seemed to disappear… GRAY: It was difficult. It’s a very frivolous industry and people like you when you’re up, but things weren’t going well for me. There are a lot of politics when you’re on a label and most give your record the first couple of weeks [after release] to do well and if it doesn’t happen, then… I was on Interscope and they have a ton of artists… it’s a great label when you’re during great. ESSENCE.com: 50 Cent once said that when your album sells well, it’s everyone’s victory, but when you flop, it’s just your fault. GRAY: That’s for sure, it’s always the artist that takes the fall. ESSENCE.com: What happened after you left Interscope? GRAY: I was on my own, I just kept making records without a plan. I love being in the studio and I was doing it with my own money. I hired all of the artists and musicians and I had no label to answer to. Like any artist, if you know you have to answer to someone, you start catering your work to be accepted by that person and what you’re feeling as a true artist gets tainted. It was very liberating. ESSENCE.com: Tell us about your first single, “Beauty in the World” and the follow-up “Lately.” GRAY: “Beauty in the World” is on YouTube and Vh1 now. The next single is “Lately” should come in the next couple of weeks. We’ve already remixed “Beauty in the World” and released those versions in London. The video is pretty and we shot it down at Watts tower, there’s cheerleaders and roller skates. It’s dancey like “Grease.” ESSENCE.com: We heard Bobby Brown is on this album, how’d that happen? GRAY: Bobby did a song called “Real Love.” I was recording in Tarzana, California and he actually came to the studio, since he doesn’t live far, and knocked out his recording in two hours. We’re friends and his one-year-old son is my godson. His fiance, Alicia Etheridge, is one of my best friends in the whole world. I met Bobby a long time ago, but we really got to know each other through her. ESSENCE.com: Do you think Bobby and Alicia will marry soon? GRAY: I don’t know, they just got engaged so I’ll give them some time. ESSENCE.com: Tell us about the song “Still Hurts.” Did you write that about one of your relationships? GRAY: It’s a ballad about my last serious relationship and how painful it is to get over someone and how long it takes. I’ve had about four serious relationships in my life and I was in my last for four years. We ended in 2007, so I wrote that song awhile ago. It takes a long time to get over someone, supposedly half of however long you two were together. God forbid I’m ever with someone for 30 years or something. ESSENCE.com: Are you dating anyone now? GRAY: Not really anybody that I’m head over heels for. ESSENCE.com: You’re raising three teens, do you ever want to rip your hair out from the stress? GRAY: I have two girls and one boy and they are 15, 14 and 12 years old. It’s pretty crazy sometimes and they definitely have their moments. I get more nervous about leaving them now than I did when they were little because they’re curious but they don’t know what they’re doing. Except now they know exactly what to say or do — and not do — when I’m around. ESSENCE.com: How do you handle it? GRAY: I go through their phones a lot, that’s the only way I know what they’re doing. I have to constantly be on them for school and involving them in interesting things that they’ve already decided that they’re not going to be intersted in. At this age, my kids know exactly what to tell me when I’m around. They’re very smart but it’s just different parenting because when they were little, I could tell them or take them wherever I wanted. ESSENCE.com: Is their father still in the picture so you can get a weekend’s peace? GRAY: No, I wish. My career is difficult and my kids are difficult, but you just get up and do what you have to do each day. This is life. ESSENCE.com: In addition to music, you’ve crossed over to film. Any new roles coming up? GRAY: I’m doing that new Tyler Perry movie “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf” and I’ll play Rose. We start filming at the end of June in Atlanta and I can’t wait! My character is a really creepy and bitter New Yorker lady so I have a lot to work on. I have to find the character because I’m not creepy and I’m not bitter either, so it’ll be exciting to see how I pull this off. It’s Tyler Perry, so I have to bring my A-game. ESSENCE.com: Did you audition for Rose? GRAY: No, Tyler just called me up out of the blue, and I had no hint that he was coming, I didn’t even dream about it. I just got a call that he wanted me to do this role and they sent me the script. I talked to him about my character a couple of weeks ago, so I’m really excited. It’s crazy because my mom made me watch “For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf” but I had no idea what was going on, I was just a kid. ESSENCE.com: One more question… are you in the bathtub right now? GRAY: Yes, I am. I take one every day.
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