Her music transcends genres, from experimental soul and alternative rock, to retro-disco and hip-hop…we’re delighted to welcome Macy Gray to this year’s festival. Her new album Stripped – featuring Wallace Roney and Russell Malone – has been hailed a triumph and she’s just won the award for Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 2016 Independent Music Awards.
You’ve been out of the spotlight for a while. What made you decide to step back into it with your new album, Stripped?
The President of Chesky Records, Norman Chesky, approached my people and pitched his idea for the album and I thought, why not? I always have jazz in my heart and when I found out how he was going to record it [using binaural recording that mimics the sound of live performance], I was really intrigued. I’d never recorded an album like that before so I did it. I’m really happy with how it came out. I’m glad I took that chance.
Your sound is highly distinctive yet kind of familiar. You can tell there are lots of influences informing your work. Who inspires you to keep doing what you do?
More people than I can list. As far as jazz and blues goes, I was always obsessed with Nina Simone, you know, and Frank Sinatra. I had a huge crush on Frank Sinatra. Then there’s Aretha Franklin who’s not necessarily a blues artist but the way she sings is so perfect. Billie Holiday of course and James Brown. All those who kind of invented proper singing.
You’ve been in the business a while now. How have your life experiences informed your performance and your work as an artist?
I’ve learned so much and gotten so much better as an artist, and as a person actually. My career has really shaped me as a person. The places I’ve been, the experiences I’ve had. All your wins and all your losses kind of come together and add you up, you know?
What makes you happiest?
I’ve had the blessing of travelling the world so much, meeting all kinds of people and having opportunities that most people never even get close to. I hate to sound corny but I’m really grateful for everything I have and I think that’s something that makes me a better performer and artist. When I was younger I didn’t really realise that, so that’s a big thing for me at this stage of my life.