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28th June 2022

Interview: Macy Gray on Manchester and Ariana Grande

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy sits down with Macy Gray at the Albert Hall, after playing there as part of her The Reset Tour (with the California Jet Club).
Interview: Macy Gray on Manchester and Ariana Grande
Photo: Macy Gray and the California Jet Club @ Press

After her electrifying concert at Albert Hall, where Macy Gray and the California Jet Club were performing as part of The Reset Tour, I was invited backstage to interview Macy Gray. I was lucky enough to have The Mancunion‘s former Managing Editor (Culture), Georgina Davidson, join me for the interview.

Before we asked Gray any of our prepared questions, Georgina asked Macy if she had been to Manchester before. Gray estimates it is her fourth time here. She loves Manchester so she was “so mad” to be sick whilst playing there.

Gray is known for her distinctive raspy voice – and that is, without a doubt, one of the many reasons she became a star. Whilst she was very different to most female artists in the late 90s, she never worried that her unique voice would hinder her success. She was a little innocent – she said she did not know the industry very well – and thus never feared that her being vocally “different” would prevent her from becoming successful. “If you don’t know that stuff, the ignorance is bliss,” she admitted. “You’re not afraid. I think I got lucky that way.”

Gray achieved success very quickly. Whilst her debut single was a moderate hit, it earned Gray one of her first two Grammy nominations (the other being Best New Artist). I was surprised to learn that Gray’s signature single, ‘I Try’, was only her second release. Macy Gray received a further three Grammy nominations for this acclaimed song – of which she won one. Gray told me candidly that she “did not see that coming” and she was “more shocked than anybody”. On The Talk, Gray said that she fought with her label not to release the song, because it was “sappy”, and she wanted to be a “rebel”, like Lil Kim.

Georgina asked Macy Gray if there is a particular song that energises her, but Gray said it all comes down to the crowd – for performing is “a conversation.” She continued, “When you feel the fans are on your side then it’s easy to get loose.”

This brought me on to my next question – Gray’s UK fans are some of her most loyal. In fact, she has has far more success here in the UK than she had in her home country of the USA. Gray attributes this to her original label, Sony, being on a “global kick.” She said they wanted her to go global, but she told them “I just wanna be popular in my hometown.”

“That was the first thing they did, they shipped me off to Europe,” she told us. “And I came here to the UK, and that was really the first time I had been out of the States. So, I think the UK was the first place I went out of the States. So, it was cool, you know, to see the world and to see people react to your music that don’t come from where you come from and to find out that we all kind of speak that same language.”

The universal language of music!

Georgina asked Macy Gray if there were any other cities with amazing crowds.

“The first big kind of crowd moment I had was Glastonbury,” she told us proudly. I said “That must be insane. You know you’ve made it when you’re playing Glastonbury.” She responded, “I know, but I had never seen anything like that, people singing my songs. So, that was the first kind of big moment that I’ll never forget”.

Macy Gray played at Glastonbury in 2000, the year after I was born – but all these years later, she’s still killing it. In 2016, she featured on Ariana Grande‘s ‘Leave Me Lonely’, an album track from the album Dangerous Woman. I asked Gray what it was like working with one of the biggest artists of our (mine and Georgina’s) generation.

“She’s adorable… She’s a kid… I don’t know how old she is now, but, you know she’s that type, like, when I was in my 20s, I’d sit around, talking to my friends, you know, waiting for my boyfriend to come, then put on my favourite song on the radio, you know, she’s like that.”

Gray has worked with a great number of amazing artists, both big and small. She is currently releasing music, and touring, with the criminally underrated California Jet Club.

Macy Gray told us that the California Jet Club has been her touring band for about a decade. They had always talked about recording an album together, and the pandemic was the perfect time to finally make it happen.

“We just went in and went for it and came out with the best album ever; the album is awesome.” When I remarked how incredible it must be for the guys getting to work with her, she said, “Oh, they’re so over it!”

The Reset Tour continues until later this month.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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