Macy Gray

Macy Gray

Gray performs in Memphis, April 2011
Background information
Birth name Natalie Renee McIntyre
Born (1967-09-06) September 6, 1967
Canton, Ohio, United States
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • actress
Years active 1999–present
Labels / Geffen (2006–08)

Associated acts

Macy Gray (born Natalie Renée McIntyre; September 6, 1967)[2] is an American R&B, jazz and soul singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and actress, known for her distinctive raspy voice, and a singing style heavily influenced by Billie Holiday.

Gray has released six studio albums, and received five Grammy Award nominations, winning one. She has appeared in a number of films, including Training Day, Spider-Man, Scary Movie 3, Lackawanna Blues, Idlewild and For Colored Girls. Gray is best known for her international hit single "I Try", taken from her multi-platinum debut album On How Life Is.

In 2016, Gray made a large artistic leap by changing labels to record an album produced with binaural sound. Stripped (Chesky Records, 2016)[1] marked the singer's first steps into the world of audiophile recordings.

Early life and career

Gray in 1995

Macy Gray was born in Canton, Ohio,[3] to Laura McIntyre, a math teacher, and Otis Jones.[4] While studying scriptwriting at the University of Southern California,[5] she agreed to write songs for a friend, and a demo session was scheduled for the songs to be recorded by another singer. When the vocalist failed to turn up, Gray recorded them herself. She then met writer-producer Joe Solo while working as a cashier in Beverly Hills.[6] Together, they wrote a large collection of songs and recorded them in Solo's studio. The demo tape gave Gray the opportunity to sing at jazz cafés in Los Angeles.[7] Despite Gray's dislike of her own voice,[8] Atlantic Records signed her. She began recording her debut record but was dropped from the label upon the departure of A&R man Tom Carolan, who had signed her to the label.[9] Macy returned to Ohio but in 1997 Los Angeles based Zomba Publishing Senior VP A&R man Jeff Blue, convinced her to return to music and signed her to a development deal, recording new songs based on her life experiences, with a new sound, and began shopping her to record labels.[10][11] In 1998, she landed a record deal with Epic Records.[12] She was on one of the songs from the Black Eyed Peas' debut album, "Love Won't Wait".[13]

Music career

On How Life Is (1999–2001)

Gray worked on her debut album in 1999 with producer Darryl Swann.[14] Released in the summer of 1999, On How Life Is became a worldwide smash.[15] Despite the first single "Do Something" stalling on the charts, the release of the second single "I Try" made the album a success for Gray.[16] "I Try" (which was originally featured in Love Jones and the Jennifer Aniston-starring romantic-comedy Picture Perfect in 1997)[17] was one of the biggest singles of 1999,[18][19] and subsequent singles "Still" and "Why Didn't You Call Me" ensured the album became triple platinum in the US,[20] quadruple platinum in the UK,[21] and in Canada.[22]

In 2001, Gray won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "I Try", which was also nominated for "song of the year" and "record of the year".[23] She then collaborated with Fatboy Slim, the Black Eyed Peas, and Slick Rick (on the song "The World Is Yours", from the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack), as well as acting for the first time, in the thriller Training Day.[24] In August 2001, Gray was booed off the field at the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibition game after forgetting the lyrics to the American national anthem.[25]

The Id and The Trouble with Being Myself (2001–2005)

Gray visiting the Astrodome as a volunteer, in Houston, Texas, September 3, 2005

Gray's The Id featured appearances by John Frusciante and Erykah Badu on the single "Sweet Baby" (which was co-written with longtime collaborator Joe Solo).[26] The album peaked at number eleven on the Billboard 200.[27] It fared even better in the UK, where it reached number one on the UK Albums Chart and was certified gold by the BPI.[28] The underperformance in the United States, compared to her debut album, may have been due to The Id being released just a week after the September 11, 2001 attacks.[29]

In 2002, she appeared in Spider-Man and contributed a remix of her song "My Nutmeg Phantasy" to its accompanying soundtrack. Gray also worked with Santana on the track "Amoré (Sexo)", for his album Shaman.[30][31]

Also in 2002, she appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD in tribute to Nigerian afropop pioneer Fela Kuti, Red Hot and Riot. She appeared on a remake track of Kuti's classic, "Water No Get Enemy" alongside prominent neo soul, hip hop and R&B artists, D'Angelo, the Soultronics, Nile Rodgers, Roy Hargrove, and Kuti's son, Femi Kuti.

She recorded a duet with Zucchero called "Like the Sun (From Out of Nowhere)", which featured Jeff Beck on guitar released in 2004 on Zu & Co., a duets collection.[32][33] Her song "Time of My Life" was included in the soundtrack to 8 Mile.[34] A cartoon based on Gray's childhood was being developed, but it never came to fruition.[14][31]

In 2003, Gray released her third studio album, The Trouble with Being Myself, to rave reviews. The lead single, "When I See You", became a radio hit in the US and a top forty hit in the UK, although the album was not as well received by fans.[35] Nevertheless, it became Gray's third top twenty album in the UK.[36][37] A greatest hits collection and a live album were subsequently released: The Very Best of Macy Gray (2004) and Live in Las Vegas (2005). Additionally, Gray was featured on Marcus Miller's 2005 album Silver Rain, on a cover of Prince's 1986 song "Girls & Boys". She also appeared on the soundtrack to the film Chicago with Queen Latifah and Lil' Kim on "Cell Block Tango/He Had it Comin'."[38]

Return to music and Big (2007–2010)

Gray performing in Toronto, July 23, 2008

Gray began 2007 by being kicked off-stage at a concert in Barbados for profanity (which was part of the show), but she was not aware that it was against the law in that country.[39] She gave a public apology that night to avoid arrest.[40]

In March, Gray released her fourth studio album (sixth overall), titled Big.[41] Two singles, "Finally Made Me Happy" and "Shoo Be Doo", were released from the album.[40] "What I Gotta Do", another track from the album, is featured on the Shrek the Third soundtrack. It is considered Gray's comeback album, after a four-year hiatus since her last studio album.[42] The album was critically acclaimed and seen by some as her best work to date.[43] It features collaborations with Natalie Cole, Fergie, Justin Timberlake, and, who co-executive produced the album with Gray.

The album was moderately successful in the US, where it debuted and peaked at number 39 on the Billboard 200, becoming Gray's highest-charting album since The Id.[44] Big reached number 62 on the albums chart in the UK,[45] her lowest-charting UK album,[46] but it did achieve some success in several other countries, including Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Finland, reaching the top forty on their album charts.[47]

PBS's Soundstage live concert series premiered a Gray concert on July 5.[48]

Gray performing at the Live Earth Brazil concert at Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro on July 7, 2007

On July 7, 2007, Gray performed at the Brazilian leg of Live Earth at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[49] Gray and her band members wore clothes bearing political messages. Gray's dress carried the message "Darfur Red Alert".

In 2008, Gray launched a new campaign under the name " Nemesis Jaxson", with the single, "Slap a Bitch".[50]

Early in 2009, Gray recorded the song "Don't Forget Me" for the soundtrack of Confessions of a Shopaholic.[51]

The Sellout (2010–2011)

The first single from Gray's fifth studio album The Sellout, "Beauty in the World", is featured in the final sequence of the series finale, "Hello Goodbye", of the ABC television series, Ugly Betty. "Beauty in the World" was also used as the theme in multiple videos created by Microsoft to promote Internet Explorer 9. Both singles released from the album ("Beauty in the World" and "Lately") were top 10 hits on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs Chart.

Upon its release, The Sellout received generally mixed reviews from most music critics. Metacritic gave it an average score of 57, based on 15 reviews;[52] Andy Gill of The Independent gave it three out of five stars; while AllMusic writer John Bush shared a similar sentiment and panned Gray's songwriting.[53]

However, The Boston Globe's James Reed commended its production,[54] and Jeremy Allen of NME gave the album a 7/10 rating.[55]

Covered, Talking Book, and The Way (2011–present)

Gray performs live at the 54th Ljubljana Jazz Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on July 6, 2013

In 2011, Gray signed a deal with 429 Records and started recording a series of covers for her next studio album Covered. The album was officially released on March 26, 2012. The album's first single was "Here Comes the Rain Again" (originally performed by Eurythmics).[56] On February 16, 2012, Gray participated in the Sanremo Festival as a guest, performing alongside Gigi D'Alessio and Loredana Berte.

For the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Stevie Wonder album Talking Book, Gray covered the entire record and released her Talking Book as a tribute.[57]

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey's Where Are They Now, Gray opened up about her problems with drug abuse, stating that she was ill-prepared for the level of fame she received. The interview coincided with the release of her album The Way, released in October 2014 on Kobalt Records. A world tour was announced shortly after its release.[58]

Stripped (2016)

In 2016 Gray began her career with Chesky Records. Stripped was released September 9, 2016 and garnered unanimous praise from critics. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard Jazz Chart.[1]

Other work

Gray appeared in the eighth season of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown, playing for Habitat for Humanity. She finished in third place.[59]

In 2002, she was the voice for Seeiah Owens in the video game SSX Tricky.[60][61]

Gray sang the theme song for the Nickelodeon animated series As Told by Ginger, composed by Jared Faber and Emily Kapnek.[62]

In August 2008, Gray headlined at the 2008 Summer Sundae music festival in Leicester, England, performing cover versions of Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?", Deee-Lite's "Groove Is in the Heart" and Radiohead's "Creep".[63] For the gig, her band wore pink Andy Warhol wigs.[64]

On September 28, 2008, Gray sang the American national anthem as part of the Israeli flag-raising ceremony at the Israeli consulate of Los Angeles.[65][66]

In 2008, Gray collaborated with Australian DJ and singer Kaz James on the song "Can't Hold Back". The single was released in early 2009 in Australia and is credited to Kaz James featuring Macy Gray.[67]

In 2009, Gray competed in season 9 of Dancing with the Stars with professional partner Jonathan Roberts. They were eliminated in a double elimination in week one.

In 2012, Gray performed the Michael Jackson song "Rock with You" for a special performance of the West End musical Thriller – Live for BBC Children in Need Pop Goes the Musical.

In 2015, Gray was featured on the song "Into the Deep" by Galactic.[68]

In 2016, Gray was featured on Ariana Grande's third studio album, Dangerous Woman on a track entitled "Leave Me Lonely".[69]

Also in 2016, Gray released Stripped,[1] her first album with Chesky Records.

Personal life

Gray opened the Macy Gray Music Academy in 2005.[70]


Main article: Macy Gray discography

Studio albums


List of television, videogame and films credits
Year Title Role Notes
2000 Ally McBeal Herself "Hope and Glory" (season 3, episode 20)
2000—2001 Saturday Night Live Herself "Freddie Prinze, Jr./Macy Gray" (season 25, episode 10)
"Drew Barrymore/Macy Gray" (season 27, episode 3)
2001 SSX Tricky Seeiah Owens (voice) Video game
2001 Training Day Sandman's Woman
2002 MDs Jess "Wing and a Prayer" (season 1, episode 7)
2002 Spider-Man Herself Cameo
2003 Scary Movie 3 Herself Cameo
2003 Gang of Roses Assassin
2003 When I Was a Girl Herself "Singers" (season 1, episode 11)
2004 Around the World in 80 Days Sleepy Frenchwoman
2004 Lightning in a Bottle Herself Cameo
2004 American Dreams Carla Thomas "Real-to-Reel" (episode 12, season 2)
2004 That's So Raven Rhonda "Taken to the Cleaners" (season 3, episode 4)
2004 Blue's Clues Herself "Bluestock" (season 6, episode 9)
2005 Lackawanna Blues Pauline TV movie
2005 The Crow: Wicked Prayer Carman
2005 Shadowboxer Neisha
2005 Domino Lashandra Davis
2005 Duck Dodgers Diva (voice) "Diva Delivery/Castle High" (season 2, episode 10)
2005 American Dragon: Jake Long Trixie's Grandmother/Miss Jenkinks (voice) "Act 4, Scene 15" (season 1, episode 5)
"Professor Rotwood's Thesis" (season 1, episode 8)
2005 1-800-Missing Cleo "A Death in the Family" (season 3, episode 13)
2006 Idlewild Taffy
2007 Macy Gray's Big Special Herself
2009 Dancing with the Stars Herself Season 9
2009 Head Case Herself "The Wedding Ringer" (season 3, episode 1)
2010 For Colored Girls Rose/Lady in Pink Black Reel Award for Best Ensemble
2012 Percentage Mama Cash Post-production
2012 The Paperboy Anita Chester
2013 Mama Black Widow Hattie Mae Announced
2014 The Grim Sleeper Margette
2015 Brotherly Love Mrs. Taylor
2015 November Rule (2015 Film) Aunt Hildi (Hildiguard) 2016 Fuller House Herself "Funner House" (season 1, episode 3)
2016 Papa Agent Sterling
2016 Cardboard Boxer Den Mother

Awards and nominations

Gray won five of seventeen nominations, including Grammy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and Brit Awards.

Award Year Recipient Nominate Result
Black Reel Awards 2011 For Colored Girls Best Ensemble Won
Brit Awards 2000 Macy Gray International Breakthrough Act Won
International Female Solo Artist Won
Grammy Awards 2000 Macy Gray Best New Artist Nominated
"Do Something" Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Nominated
2001 "I Try" Record of the Year Nominated
Song of the Year Nominated
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Won
MTV Europe Music Awards 2000 On How Life Is Best Album Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards 2000 "I Try" Best New Artist Won
Best Female Video Nominated
"Do Something" Best Art Direction Nominated
Best Cinematography Won
2001 "Geto Heaven Remix T.S.O.I. (The Sound of Illadelph)" (with Common) Breakthrough Video Nominated
"Request + Line" (with The Black Eyed Peas) Best Hip-Hop Video Nominated
NAACP Image Awards 2006 Lackawanna Blues Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Nominated
Soul Train Music Awards 2000 On How Life Is Best R&B/Soul Album, Female Nominated
Teen Choice Awards 2000 Macy Gray Female Artist Nominated
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist for "I Try"
Succeeded by
Alicia Keys
Preceded by
Natalie Imbruglia
Brit Award for International Female Solo Artist
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Natalie Imbruglia
Brit Award for International Breakthrough Act
Succeeded by
Preceded by
"I Will Remember You (Live)" by Sarah McLachlan
Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "I Try"
Succeeded by
"I'm Like a Bird" by Nelly Furtado


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