The many shades of Macy Gra y

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

BRAVE, blessed, beau­ti­ful and some­times bonkers – wel­come to the many shades of Macy Gray. The Grammy award-win­ning singer ar­rives in Aus­tralia with her band, The Sex Fiends, next week for her first tour here in more than 12 years, in­clud­ing a show at Jupiters The­atre on Wed­nes­day.

Gray, who cel­e­brated her 45th birthday last week, is tour­ing in sup­port of her seventh stu­dio al­bum, Cov­ered, an in­ter­est­ing, wide-rang­ing col­lec­tion of her ver­sions of other artist’s songs. ‘‘There are no bound­aries,’’ she says. ‘‘I wouldn’t know what specif­i­cally to call my mu­sic. It re­ally doesn’t have a la­bel and I’m re­ally proud of that. I get called an R’n’B artist but I’m not.’’

While she’s renowned for her old-soul sound and style, Gray cov­ers ev­ery­one from Me­tal­lica to Ra­dio­head, My Chem­i­cal Ro­mance and Kanye West on Cov­ered.

She says her chil­dren turn her on to a wealth of new mu­sic.

‘‘They’re re­ally open mu­si­cally – they have a lot more ac­cess to it,’’ she says.

‘‘They’re on the in­ter­net a lot more than I am, lis­ten­ing to tonnes of it. They do all that shar­ing and stuff . . . in fact, I dis­cov­ered Adele through my daugh­ter. She loved Chas­ing Pave­ments.

‘‘That was the first time I heard Adele – and the Jack White al­bum. Stuff like that. They’re into it.’’

Sur­pris­ingly, Gray says she had to work to con­vince her record la­bel to let her make Cov­ered.

‘‘Most la­bels are re­ally afraid of cover al­bums, so it was a sit­u­a­tion where I just re­ally wanted to do it and I had to talk them into it,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s an art to take some­one’s song and make it your own. It was a self chal­lenge – some­thing I hadn’t done be­fore.’’

Best known for her run­away hit I Try, from her de­but al­bum, On How Life Is, the Grammy-win­ning singer, song­writer, DJ and ac­tor has re­leased six stu­dio al­bums and is putting the fin­ish touches to her seventh, a re-record­ing of Ste­vie Won­der’s land­mark long­player, Talk­ing Book, pro­duced by Hal Wilner (Lou Reed, Me­tal­lica) and due out in Oc­to­ber.

Gray can barely con­tain her ex­cite­ment when she talks about Won­der’s Grammy-win­ning al­bum, which spawned seven Top 10 sin­gles in­clud­ing Sun­shine Of My Life and Su­per­sti­tion. It must take balls of steel to even con­tem­plate re-record­ing it? ‘‘Thank you,’’ she replies in that hyp­notic rasp. ‘‘It’s one of my favourite al­bums. I know it inside and out. That was the con­cept. Hal goes ‘I don’t think any­body’s re­made a whole al­bum be­fore’. So we set out to pick one. Talk­ing Book is one where I knew ev­ery­thing about it – the year it was made, how many songs are on it, what they are about.’’

A life-long fan, now friend (‘‘he’s cool; he hangs out’’) of Won­der and his work, Gray says she has a much greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his ge­nius af­ter dis­sect­ing his com­po­si­tions.

‘‘It was crazy to have to learn all these chords. He has crazy jazz chords – I didn’t re­alise. He’s like a jazz singer. He’s re­ally amaz­ing. He has all these cool, hard changes no one else does,’’ she says. ‘‘I dis­cov­ered why he’s Ste­vie Won­der.’’ While her Aus­tralian au­di­ences can look for­ward to some Won­der cov­ers in her setlist, Gray says she’s yet to play him her fin­ished record­ing.

‘‘I’m wait­ing un­til it’s ab­so­lutely done. I want to sit with him and play it and not send it to him. I want to see his face. I re­ally hope he’ll like it.’’

Macy Gray plays Jupiters Ho­tel and Casino on Wed­nes­day. Tick­ets start at $59.

Macy Gray

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