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9 Quick Questions for Macy Gray

Talented singer embarks on ‘The Reset’ tour

spinner image macy gray wearing hat; hair in braid lying in front of right shoulder and arm; pink ombre background
Collage: MOA Staff; (Source: Irvin Rivera)

Grammy-winning singer Macy Gray, 54, known for her raspy voice and her hit song “I Try,” will soon be hitting the road. Gray’s “The Reset” tour, featuring the California Jet Club band, kicks off Sept. 29 in New York. She shares how touring is different in her 50s, what it’s like to perform for her family, and her secret to grilling the perfect steak. 

Your tour includes a stop in Canton, Ohio. What’s it like playing in your hometown?

It’s pretty wild because all your relatives show up, all your family. I can’t explain it. It’s kind of awkward, a little bit, because they know you. You can get on stage with a bunch of people who don’t know you and you can just tell them anything, you can just pretend. … [With family] you don’t have to be honest, but they’ll know that you’re lying.

spinner image poster with dates and locations for Macy Gray & The California Jet Club's Reset Tour 2023 from September 29 to November 25, with headshot of Macy Gray singing, an airplane and the American flag
‘The Reset’ tour takes Gray and the California Jet Club from New York to Monte Carlo.
courtesy Macy Gray

Will you schedule time to visit with family?

Oh, yeah. I don’t get home often, so when I do, everybody comes over to my mom’s house. A lot of my family doesn’t live [in Canton] anymore, but I see everybody that I can. My mom, my sister, my favorite aunt is still there — aunts and uncles and cousins.

You’re turning 54 soon. Are you someone who likes to celebrate your birthday?

I used to be, but now I’m getting older. … It comes so quick now. Remember when you were 10, and you used to lie and say that you were 12, and you couldn’t wait until your birthday? Now it’s like, “It’s not my birthday yet.” It just comes so fast.

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Is touring different for you at age 54 compared to 24 or 34?

Hell yeah, it’s totally different. When I started out, we would go for three days, we’d do shows, get up, go to an after-party, hang out in the hotel lobby until 6 a.m., go have breakfast. And now, I get upstairs. I say bye to everybody, and I go straight to my room and go to bed. Or I stay up all night, but I still go to my room. I don’t really go out.

Who were your musical inspirations?

When you’re a musician, you kind of end up listening to everything, but the ones who really taught me were probably Billie Holiday, Prince. Biggie Smalls — I learned a lot from him. The way he raps. Robert Plant — I love his voice. Édith Piaf. There’s a ton of them. I could go on forever, because I really studied different singers.

Did you have a backup plan if your music career didn’t work out?

Nope. My mom is a teacher, and I remember when I didn’t think [my music career] was gonna happen, and I moved back to my mom’s house and she said, “I can help you get a teacher’s certificate.” So, I’d probably, maybe, do that, or I don’t know. [Music is] really the only thing that I do well, honestly.

That might be true professionally, but I bet you have some other talents we don’t know about.

My steak is amazing. I have mastered steak making. I just put a little bit of coconut oil on top. On the grill — I know some people put a little bit of butter — but I just use coconut oil and you can just taste a little bit of coconut oil and it’s delicious.

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Any other talents?

I’m a really good backgammon player. I learned how to play backgammon as a kid, when I was about 8. There’s actually a huge backgammon culture: There’s tournaments; there’s backgammon champions; there’s people that make a living at backgammon. In L.A., you can find games. Every once in a while [I go]. Those guys are really good. That’s their whole life, but I’ve won a couple of rounds. They play for real money. It’s really a trip. I didn’t know about it until one of my friends told me about it.

What would you tell someone who did want to make their living as an artist, like you?

Practice. Whatever you do, you should [practice]. Practice as much as you can. It really does make a difference in how big you get. I do believe, you know, that people who are really good at what they do have a chance to really thrive in life, but you have to get good at it first. My mom used to make me practice piano every day for half an hour. Every day. No excuses. That was kind of my introduction to rehearsing. Every Saturday [starting at age 7] I had lessons, and I had to practice every day, and we had recitals once a month. I hated it, but it paid off, I guess. 

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