Wednesday 20 November 2019

Waking hours: Macy Gray

Macy Gray (47) is a singer/songwriter renowned for her distinctive raspy voice and thrilling performances. Born in Ohio, she lives in the Valley, LA, with her three children ­­­- Aanisah (21), Mel (20) and Happy (19) and her mom, Laura

Macy Gray
Macy Gray

I usually wake up at 7.30am. It's more like an auto-clock. It comes from having kids and waking up for school. Now I just wake up at that time automatically. They are finished in school, so they sleep in, but I always wake up. It's awful.

We live in the Valley, in LA. I live with my kids and my mom. My mom makes breakfast every day - eggs, bacon, and she makes the best hash browns ever. Because I travel so much, she stays with me a lot. And then my father passed a while ago, so since then, she has lived with us. Sometimes it's not easy, but overall, we get on pretty well. She's my mom, and I adore her.

Some days, I go back to bed, or other times I'll have a million things to do. When I'm feeling on top of the world, I go and work out. I live in a really hilly area, so I usually take to the hills. It's the best exercise ever. I've never sweated so much in my life. I've never been a big fan of the gym. I don't want anybody to see me dripping with sweat or in a soaking-wet T-shirt. I'm too vain.

I kind of wish that I had a routine, because I go off in stupid different directions every day. I've been all over, but I really like living in LA. It's one of the best cities in the world. There are beaches and all kinds of nightlife. In LA, you can get anything you want at 4am. You can even go grocery shopping at that time. We always go shopping late. It's the best time to go, because there is no line, you can take your time, and they are just putting up new stock. As an artist, I think that you have to be out and about in the world. You have to experience things and live life and have things to talk about. That's how I come up with my songs. I write about what is going on with me most of the time and how I'm feeling. It's just life. If you're a musician, you write songs about your experiences, even if you're going through tough times. Often, writing songs feels easier than walking or talking. I think I've recorded seven albums. I don't even count any more. The latest one has some jazz, and it's something that I've always wanted to do. I'm in Dublin to play in the National Concert Hall tonight. It'll be a pretty wild show. With my music, you just close your eyes, start dancing and screaming.

By the time my first album came out, I already had my three kids. People who are parents don't really know how they do it all. They just get up and do it. You have your kids, you have your work, and you figure it out. When I put my first record out, I wasn't making any money. I was on 10 dollars an hour. I worked in McDonald's, I was a cleaner and a waitress. I also worked as a temporary secretary. I couldn't keep any of those jobs because I was awful at them. Success, to me, is freedom. You can wake up and do whatever you want. I don't have complete freedom because I have kids, but I have more freedom than most people, and I'm grateful for that.

But when I got money, I began taking drink and drugs. I grew up in Ohio, and I had a really strict mom. I never got to do anything. I think once I got the money and access to all that stuff, I went crazy. It's easy to say that people who are on drugs have issues, but a lot of the time, it was about accessing opportunities, and boredom and trying new things. I went too far. I never did heroin, because I was scared of needles, but I did a lot of other stuff. I think everybody has tried cocaine.

Nobody believes me when I tell them that I got clean out of vanity. Alcohol and drugs really mess up your skin. I looked awful, like I was 80 years old. I didn't want to look tired any more. I was sleeping for days and I was sick of the nosebleeds. I woke up one day and quit. People who have really been through it get really mad at me when they hear this.They think that it's an insult to getting clean. But it's not a daily struggle for me. I'm still a big fan of alcohol, but I don't struggle with drugs. Also, I think you can outgrow that stuff. I thought that I was too old to be doing it.

Before a concert, I get really nervous. I pace up and down my hotel room. I spend a little while warming my voice up, and then I have a little tea concoction that I put together. I pray with my band before a show. I don't believe in religion, but I believe in God. Every night is a new crowd and a new stage, so when you're up there you really need to know what to do. Once I've settled in and I'm comfortable, I'm like a rocket ship. I can do anything. Audiences are so different, and each city has a personality of its own.When I did Glastonbury, with an audience of 150,000, that was crazy. When all the people know your song, the amount of happiness… Heaven must be like that.

When I get off stage, we might have plans to do stuff. Then I go to my room, and I'm up until 5am. I'm so fired up that I can't sleep. I take a shower and play stupid online games. My kids and I text all day, but they don't answer their phones all the time. I don't know what that is all about. I dream all the time, but I don't sleep well. I wake up in the middle of the night, and then I wake up early, too.

There is no constant partner in my life. I've been so busy for the past year and relationships take a lot of focus - working things out, having long conversations and learning about each other. I don't have that energy at the moment to do it right. I'm not in love, but I wish I was. I need to make that a priority. It's important.

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

Macy Gray performs at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, tonight at 8pm. Tel: (01) 417-0000. Tickets from €45 to €55


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