By Jessica Dortch
AFRO Staff
jdortch@afro.com

Who is Macy Gray? What comes to mind is probably a combination of soulful sounds, raspy resonances and an uncontrollable groove. The soul singer is bringing all the funk and much more to Baltimore Soundstage on March 6, but, in the meantime, Gray made time to speak with the AFRO ahead of her concert.  

Growing up, Gray recalls being an introvert and a bit nerdy in school, not ever really being among the popular kids. “I got good grades in school because my mom was a teacher and I was scared of her,” Gray said jokingly. Luckily for her, her home life made up for what she lacked in school. Gray’s mother is one of 12 brothers and sisters and her father is one of nine siblings. Gray admitted that no one would mess with her because her family boasted a gang of cousins that would always have her back.

Macy Gray will light up the stage at Baltimore Soundstage on March 6. (Photo by Blanca Nieves)

In the small mid-western town of Canton, Ohio, Natalie Renée McIntyre, who we know as Macy Gray, is the daughter of a teacher and a factory worker turned entrepreneur, after the founding of his own barbershop. According to Gray, “If you had a car, a couple of kids, and a house you were rich there.” In essence, it was a simple life and the residents enjoyed living there. “I actually really admire people who don’t want to be superstars and rule the world,” Gray revealed.  

Canton isn’t necessarily the birthplace of music, or notable for any significant musical contributions, other than being the breeding ground for Gray to flourish. While in Canton, she took piano lessons for seven years before setting her sights on the “city of angels” that would later become her permanent home. 

The young artist left home when she was 17 years old to attend the University of Southern California’s (USC) School of Cinematic Arts as a screenwriting major. Gray had a knack for writing with dreams of having her scripts acted out on the big screen, however, the music kept calling. “When you are a musician, you gravitate to musicians without even trying,” Gray insisted, recalling how she would hang out with musicians around campus and write and record demos. 

Eventually she found herself signing on the dotted line for a contract with a record label. Gray has always considered herself to be a “rocker” at heart, and believe it or not, her first single was a rock & roll record. Her big break came after the birth of her first child when she was signed to another label as a solo artist. It was at this time that Gray had a solid team that could create a unique sound that would become her staple in the industry. “It was one of the best things that ever happened to my career because it kind of shaped my music. I was such a rocker and when I put myself with all these other kids that were doing Hip Hop and R&B, we came up with what I do now.”

What makes Gray so dynamic is a combination of her voice, her style, and her sound. “I’m a big advocate for ‘doing you.’ I think it’s a big deal to be able to be yourself as much as you can,” and as Gray likes to say “A pure musician doesn’t have a backup plan,” so more music is always on the menu, as she continues to work on her next album.

The future looks brighter and brighter for the creative mind that is Macy Gray, as she continues to pursue her passions. “Career wise, I’m swamped,” Gray admits after rattling off her list of things to do including promoting her newest venture: Macy Gray’s Beauty Bar. The singer secured a prime Hollywood Boulevard location to offer hair, nail, lash and botox services at the one stop shop. Personally, Gray said she wants to fall in love again and ultimately remarry, “I think it’s important to be unsatisfied, because you don’t want to lose your hunger.” That statement holds true in both Gray’s personal and professional life, as she proceeds to make time for her family, develop TV show ideas, and tour the country. “I want to make great records, and I want my beauty salon to be huge.”

The phenomenon that is Macy Gray will be performing her greatest hits live at Baltimore Soundstage (at the corner of Lombard Street and Market Place) on March 6. The doors will open at 7 p.m. and the show will start at 8 p.m.