Grammy-winning American R&B, soul singer/songwriter and actress Macy Gray was shot to international fame in 2000 thanks largely to her highly successful single “I Try,” which won the singer a Grammy. The track was taken from her multi-platinum debut album, “On How Life Is,” which was released in 1999 under Epic Records. Since then, Gray has released three more studio albums, “The Id” (2001), “The Trouble with Being Myself” (2003) and “Big” (2007), a compilation album, “The Very Best of Macy Gray ” (2004) and a live album, “Live in Las Vegas” (2005). None of these albums achieved the same success as “On How Life Is.” As an actress, the fan of Benicio del Toro is probably best remembered for playing Pauline in the TV film “Lackawanna Blues” (2005), a role that brought her a nomination at the Image Awards. She also acted in such motion pictures as “Training Day” (2001, with Denzel Washington), the box office hit “Spider-Man” (2002), “Around the World in 80 Days” (2004), “Domino” (2005) and “Idlewild” (2006). Now a divorcee, Gray has three children with her ex-husband, Tracy Hinds, whom she was married to from 1996 to 1998. She is now a resident of Los Angeles and in 2005 started a music academy called “The Macy Gray Music Academy.”
Childhood and Family:
Born Natalie McIntyre on September 6, 1970, in Canton, Ohio, Macy Gray grew up being teased because of her voice and the young girl avoiding singing and talking. The daughter of a steelmaker and an elementary school math teacher, however, showed interest in music. In addition to studying classical piano for several years, she also listened to jazz music from greats like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and James Brown and was exposed to rock sounds at a boarding school. Macy left her home during the 1980s to attend the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, from which she graduated in 1990.
In 1996, Macy married Tracy Hinds. The marriage ended in divorce in 1998 after producing three children: Aanisah (born in January 1995), Tahmel (born in December 1995), and Cassius (born in 1997).
On How Life Is
While attending USC, Macy Gray helped a friend of hers write some songs and a demo session was planned for the songs to be recorded by another singer. Because the singer did not appear, she recorded the songs herself. Upon a meeting with writer/producer Joe Solo, the two worked together to write a number of songs and recorded them at Solo's studio. The demo tape attracted attention and eventually gave Gray the chance to perform at jazz cafés around Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, she sang with Atlantic Records, but the label decided not to release the album she made for them. Macy returned to her hometown in Canton to launch a business venture. During that same period, her demo continued to create a buzz and she was invited by Zomba Music to return to Los Angeles to sign a publishing deal. Instead of starting her partnership with Zomba, Gray scored a new contract with Epic Records in April 1998.
Her debut album, “On How Life Is,” was released in 1999. An autobiographical album that mixes a wide variety of sounds like funk, hip-hop, jazz, pop and rap and produced by Andrew Slater, the record received a cool reception at first, while the first single “Do Something” was a moderate success. This subsequently changed in early 2000 when the singer nabbed two Grammy nominations in the categories of Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal. In addition, the second single “I Try” became a major hit in America, where it rose to No. 5. The song also brought Gray a 2000 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal. “On How Life Is” rose to the Top 10 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and by late 2000, had sold more than three million copies. The album also spawned the singles “Still” and “Why Don't You Call Me.”
Next, Gray appeared as a guest on other musicians' work. She contributed vocals on the track “Demons” that was included in the Fatboy Slim “Halfway Between the Gutter” album, and sang with Common in the song “Geto Heaven Remix T.S.O.I. (The Sound of Illadelph)” for the Chicago-bred rapper's “Like Water for Chocolate.” She also recorded a duet with Black Eyed Peas called “Request Line” and teamed up with rapper Slick Rick for the “Rush Hour 2” soundtrack. It was also in 2001 that Gray made her acting debut with a part as Sandman's wife in the Denzel Washington/Ethan Hawke vehicle “Training Day.”
Gray returned to music with her sophomore studio album, “The Id,” in September 2001. The album debuted at No. 11 on Billboard's 200, but declined to No. 25 the following week. It only produced two singles: “Sweet Baby” (featuring R&B/soul singer Erykah Badu in vocals and Red Hot Chili Pepper's John Frusciante on guitar) and “Sexual Revolution.” The next year, she appeared as herself in the blockbuster movie “Spider-Man” and guest starred in the Santana album “Shaman.”
2003 saw the release of Gray's third album, “The Trouble with Being Myself,” which spawned the minor hits “When I See You” and “She Ain't Right for You.” Although the album was a commercially disappointment, it gained positive feedback from critics and is a favorite among her fans. It was followed by a compilation album in 2004 called “The Very Best of Macy Gray, ”which comprised of eight singles from her previous albums with two additional new songs in addition to three remixes, three non-single tracks, and the track “Demons,” which she recorded in 2001 with Fatboy Slim.
Gray resumed her acting career by appearing in such movies as “Gang of Roses” (2003), “Around the World in 80 Days” (2004), “The Crow: Wicked Prayer” (2005), “Shadowboxer” (2005) and Tony Scott's “Domino” (2005). She was nominated for an Image award for Outstanding Actress in a TV Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for her work in the made-for-TV film “Lackawanna Blues” (2005). Other TV credits include guest starring in “American Dreams” (2004), “That's So Raven” (2004), “Duck Dodgers” (2005), “American Dragon: Jake Long” (2005) and “1-800-Missing” (2005). She went on to have a supporting role as Taffy in the crime/drama film “Idlewild” (2006), directed and written by Bryan Barber.
Gray resurfaced in 2007 with an album called “Big,” which hit the music stores on March 27. It peaked at No. 39 on the U.S. Chart and sold approximately 23,000 pieces in its first week of release. To date, it has spawned three singles, namely “Finally Made Me Happy” (featuring Natalie Cole), “Shoo Be Doo” and “What I Gotta Do.”
Gray is set to play Jonnie Mae Hudson in the upcoming drama film “Mama Black Widow” (2008), helmed by Darren Grant. Among her costars in the film are Kerry Washington and Mos Def.
Grammy: Best Female Pop Vocal, “I Try,” 2000