At the beginning of 2009, Macy Gray was on the verge of becoming "The Sellout.” After selling more than 15 million albums and one of the most successful singles of all time ("I Try"), she was alone and a free agent after the disappointment of 2007’s Big. "So I thought I should make something very commercial. You know, something for the 14 year olds," Macy told Rod 2.0 during a short phone interview last week. "Maybe a dance track or a 'guest rapper.'"
Then she pauses. "A producer—I mean a big one—his first suggestion to me was to straighten my hair and get a weave. We didn't even talk about music, just my hair." Macy laughs in her signature raspy voice. "Please!"
In other words, Macy considered selling out. Thankfully she didn't and now The Sellout is the Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter's first album in more than 3 years. The Sellout will be released June 22 and features 12 new songs, much of it co-written by Macy in studio space that she rented. "This is about me, returning to what I love, music," Macy Gray told Rod 2.0.
R20: You probably won't remember, but we met twice before. At the old Body & Soul in New York City, in the early 00s.
MACY GRAY: Body & Soul...Body & Soul ...
R20: Sunday afternoons to Sunday nights. Downtown. Deep house music. It was—
MG: Oh baby yes! I remember! (LAUGHING) That music was fantastic. I danced so hard ... I left that party soaking wet. (LAUGHING) I was looking for a club like that in LA but i couldn't find anything like it. What happened—did they close ?
R20: Yep, after 9/11, it was just blocks from the Trade Center. They re-opened much later, but it wasn't the same.
MG: I went back to New York looking for it a few times but couldn't find it. And no one knew what as I talking about either (LAUGHING), I was like, 'I know there was this great party on Sundays, what happened?' Yeah it happens, parties open and close.
R20: I saw you on Leno this week performing "Beauty and the World." It's an amazing track. The set was phenomenal and that 90 degree camera angle...work!
MG: Oh did you notice that? I really liked the set they designed for me on The Tonight Show. I borrowed it from something John Lennon did. They did an amazing job bringing it to life. It totally fits the song's message of peace and love—which we need more of.
[Watch Macy Gray rehearse "Beauty in the World" and behind-the-scenes at The Tonight Show—and perform her new track "Lately"—WHEN YOU JUMP ...]
R20: I love it. It has an early 70s vibe, almost Sly Stone.
R20: There's an interesting story about how you started in music. Was it really to impress a college boyfriend?
MG: I started writing songs to impress a boy. He had a little four-track studio in his room and I said,. 'Yeah, I write songs!' I would nod and pretend to follow along but then I got really good at it. But when you're writing songs, someone says, 'How does that go?' so you have to sing the lyrics. (MACY HUMS) Like that.