The many shades of Macy Gra y
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.