World-renowned vocal artist Macy Gray is making her debut at the Ludlow Garage tonight, Tuesday, October 15th. She has worked with many national acts including Ariana Grande, Jay Rock, Justin Timberlake, Santana, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, David Chesky and many more. Many know her for her smash hit single “I Try”, off of her debut album On How Life Is. However, she has been a tirelessly prolific artist since this single. She has released nearly 10 albums since then. We encourage you to check out her more recent releases specifically her last two to get an idea of her range as an artist. Bearcast Contributor Luke Beckwith got the chance to speak with Macy on the phone about her latest release RUBY, and the single off of it, entitled “Buddha”.
Luke Beckwith: Hi, Macy! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me! I’m a huge fan ever since On How Life Is. I didn’t realize you were born in Canton! You missed the plains of Ohio so much, you had to come back to see it, huh?
Macy Gray: [laughter] Yes. That was exactly the reason.
Well, I want to talk about the single “Buddha”, but first a little about
RUBY the album. Where did the album name & Cover art come from?
MG: The original title of the album was called Red, because it’s my favorite color. Red evokes a lot of strong emotions for me and just seemed to match the styles of the songs I was making. We ended up changing the name to Ruby to make it more defined and make it stand out. It also happens to be my favorite jewel. So RUBY it became!
The album itself is a lot of fun stylistically. Yet, Always soulful and funky; a la typical Macy,
but it’s blended and produced so well! Is this another record from Chesky records? Where did the choice of style or production come from besides yourself??
MG: Well, a few years back, I recorded vocals for “Leave Me Lonely” off Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman, in New York with producer Tommy Brown. We hit it off right away. I was back in the studio the next day, recording the earliest songs (i.e Sugah Daddy) for the new record. Through him, I ended up meeting with Johan Carlsson to produce most of the record. Like a lot of creative projects, it took longer to complete than expected. It took a year to complete! I guess you could say it was a passion project.
You always seem to pick the best collaborators, whether it be Santana, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Galactic, or Ariana Grande; the list goes on. But, it always seems like the musicianship or music comes first with your projects. That said, what was working with Gary Clark Jr. like? Had you been meaning to work with him for a while? How did you meet?
MG: We met at Afro-Punk in Brooklyn. We knew we both wanted to do something together somewhere down the line. Then here comes my album, Ruby. Johan Carlsson started making the mix tracks for Buddha and sent it to Gary. He recorded his guitar solo separate from the vocals, and then sent it back to be on the album.
It’s crazy how an album can be recorded and mixed across different states, or even different continents, these days. The video is so cool. In the video, there are some cutaways to some old press (or reality TV at least) footage, taken of you throughout the years. Some of the footage depicts career highlights, while others seem more like “TMZ-esque” moments. Was it you or Teyana’s choice to include these cutaways?
MG: It was actually the editor’s idea. We filmed it in the actual recording studio. It was a pretty low budget, actually. It was his idea to include the cutaways, to give it a more nostalgic feel. I think it turned out pretty well!
I’ll say! The song’s message is so grounded in positivity and optimism: the hook being “future’s in the air/ past is in the ground/ but I’m alright now” I think it’s a nice positive sentiment. Especially for those dealing with mental illness. How do you stay so positive in a news or media climate, that rarely is these days? And what did you want fans who listen to it, to take away from the song?
MG: Well the song is really just about living in the now. Focusing on the present. It’s a hard thing to do. It doesn’t always work, either. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way. I’ve definitely dealt with my fair share of that in the industry. I also wanted to address the stigma around mental illness, with this song. In the news anymore, when anyone who gets killed due to gun violence, it’s usually still blamed first on mental illness. I just wanted to write something that reminded me to ignore this type of stigma and message.