Tuesday 17 October 2017

Waking hours with singer/songwriter Macy Gray

Macy Gray (45) is a singer and songwriter renowned for her distinctive raspy voice and energetic performances. Born in Ohio, she lives in Los Angeles with her children - Aanisah (20), Mel (19), and Happy (17)

Macy Gray who plays an intimate gig in The Academy.
Macy Gray who plays an intimate gig in The Academy.

Ciara Dwyer

At the moment, I'm on tour in Tokyo. This morning I woke up at 5am and I wasn't able to get back to sleep. Usually, by the time the show is ready to start in the evening, I feel like I'm ready to go to bed. I'm not a morning person, but I wake up early because I have kids. It's kind of like an automatic alarm clock that gets me up to get the kids ready for school.

When I'm on tour, I miss them, but I talk to them about four times a day. I've been doing this for all of their lives, so we're all used to it. Being on tour is a lot of work, but we have fun too. I mess on my computer until I have enough energy to get out of bed. I like to get up and look around at stuff in the city. I'm a really good tourist.

Tokyo is a very busy city, but it is spread out, unlike New York. I'm usually recognised on the street. I just get asked for my autograph or a picture. This tour is really short, but when I'm doing my European tour - which includes Dublin on February 5 - I will be on the road for a month. Most musicians love touring.

When I was growing up, my parents used to have a lot of parties and the radio was always on. Even though my mother wasn't musical, she sent me for piano lessons. I can read music and play it. But I was a late bloomer. I met some musicians in school and I started writing songs with them for fun. Then I started to do demo tapes. Being a musician wasn't the plan at all. I did a lot of odd jobs - I was a secretary, a waitress, and I worked in fast-food restaurants.

I didn't get into the music business until I was almost 20. I wrote about where I was in my life, and I think it clicked with a lot of people. We're all in the same boat when it comes to relationships. At that time, I had just got a divorce from my ex-husband, so I decided to write about it. I didn't expect the reaction that I got. I think it struck a chord because I was honest. That's when I discovered that we're all the same, especially when you feel alone.

Success was a big surprise. You might be dreaming about it, but you're not expecting it until it's actually there. For the first time in my life, I had money. I went back to stores and bought all the stuff that I could never afford, like shoes and clothes. It felt so good. I bought my first car, and I helped my mom out with her credit-card bills. I also partied a lot. It was a really awesome experience, but you pay for that. You go through a lot and the stress is incredible, because what is expected of you quadruples.

When you make a name for yourself, you're expected to act in a certain way. Suddenly you can't say what you're really thinking anymore. People come out to see you in your shows, so you have to be spectacular. Most people don't think that you're a real person anymore, so you kind of have to live up to that. Everything changes. It's a trip and it's very devastating, but at the same time, it's the best thing that has happened to you.

You end up having access to all these things that you didn't know how to get before. So, you just try stuff and you're having fun, and then, sometimes, you get really attached to it. That's the beginning of addiction. A lot of artists have it in their heads that they are feeling better when they are smoking weed or drinking, or when they are high. I've heard people say that cocaine has creative grains in it. The thing is, some incredible things have been created by people who were not sober and you can't deny that. But the trick is not to rely on it, and that can be hard to do. The best thing is to stay away from it altogether.

I did some of the greatest shows when I was out of my head. But then, sometimes you think you're doing great and you're not. You just think that because you're high. Drugs became a problem, because I would get things into my head which weren't true. I was late for things, and I had really nice opportunities which I turned down because I was alienated. It was difficult, but in the end I got clean on my own. I remember looking in the mirror one day and I just looked really, really bad. My skin was weird and I was really skinny. That's when I decided to step back and get myself together again. It's hard, but if you put your mind to it, you can do it on your own.

Now that I'm older, I don't go out that much. I have my kids, I make music and I do movies. I'm lucky enough to make a living at that. I usually have a romance - I'm good at that. My man lives in New York, and he's a musician. I mostly go for guys that I can hang out with, because I don't like dating. It feels like an audition and that I have to say all this stuff. I think if you can have a conversation with someone, and they can come to the house and be comfortable, then the thing might have a shot.

You know how people say, 'we worked so hard on our relationship'? Well, I'm not interested in that. It should be easy and you should have fun. I'm a single mom and I really enjoy my kids. I don't know what I'd do without them. Every time I had a kid, I had really, really good luck. I had three, but maybe I should have kept going.

Before I go out on stage, I have butterflies in my stomach, but once I'm there, it feels like home. It feels more comfortable than any other place in the world. I love it. After a show, backstage is pretty cracking, but I'm usually exhausted because I've given it everything. Back in the day, when I first started, I had a lot of groupie guys, and sometimes if he was a really good-looking guy, I'd take him up on the offer.

I had a lot of fun. But now, I'm pretty boring. I like to be on my own after a show. I go back to my room, take a shower and then pass out in bed. I feel really blessed, and long may it last.

Macy Gray plays a one-night-only intimate gig at The Academy, Dublin, on Thursday, February 5 at 7.30pm. Special guest is Dublin hip-hop star Lethal Dialect. Tickets €35, including booking fee from ticketmaster.ie and all outlets nationwide

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