The iconic Macy Gray is back with a new album and tour!
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, along with her new band, Macy Gray & The California Jet Club —consisting of keyboardist Billy Wes, bassist Alex Kyhn and drummer Tamir Barzilay— has a new album coming out called The Reset.
Headlining the Dinah Shore Weekend this year, Gray will take the stage on Saturday, October 2 at the Dinah Holiday Party at the Palm Springs Convention Center.
Gray, who has been charming audiences with her raspy, soulful voice ever since her arrival with her triple-platinum How Life Is in 1999, chatted with OUTvoices about her latest music, how the pandemic influenced her songwriting, her collaboration with Frankie Grande, how excited she is for The Dinah, and more.
OUTvoices: Congrats on the new album! It’s very exciting that it’s your first independent album. What can you tell me about it?
Gray: Thank you! It just started out as an experiment because it’s the first album I’m doing with my band. We’re called Macy Gray & The California Jet Club. They’ve been with me for a while on the road, but this was the first time that we went in the studio together and wrote songs and just got creative on a whole other level. So I was really shocked, and not in a bad way, that we came up with the most incredible stuff. It has a sound and a vibe that I definitely wouldn’t have gotten doing another solo album. So it’s a treat. It’s definitely meant to be.
OUTvoices: How was the process of creating this album different for you than previous albums? What was the experience of writing it with the band like?
Gray: The process of making it wasn’t different because it was independent, because I still was in the same studios, with same engineers. I’m the type that at four in the morning, I need a guitar and there’s a couple of guys I can call and they’ll come. I was used to that. I was just so used to my usual tribe. But this was the first time that I just worked with my band. They would kind of jam, and then if I heard something I could write to, then we’d make it into a song. It kind of went like that, so that was cool. We were plugged in the whole time so the whole process of making the record is on tape, so it’s cool.
OUTvoices: Your new album was both written and produced during the pandemic. What was your inspiration when you were writing this album? Did what was going on in the world affect your writing process?
Gray: Well, I did it right in the thick of COVID, so of course that was all over the place. I didn’t want to go in and make a political record or make songs about COVID. But when something is that heavy and it’s on the back of your mind, no matter what you do, it’s just there. Even if you’re not conscious that you’re thinking about it, you’re still thinking about it. So it came out in some of the lyrics, but not in an obvious way, I hope. We did it and then when I listened back on it, I thought, this record has so much discussion, because I’m used to just doing like, puppy love songs. But there are a lot of references to what’s going on in the world in the world. But I really didn’t do on purpose, but I think at that time, to me, it was hard not to [do].
OUTvoices: How do you think your music has changed or evolved over the years? I love that you always seem to do your own thing and that no one else really sounds like you.
Gray: No, and in fact, I was really conscious about not making a Macy Gray record. It’s very different, to me. To me, it has an energy to it that is very separate from what I do. It’s a musician’s record, like if you’re a musician, you’ll hear a lot of things in this record that only musicians hear. It’s a lot more raw than what I usually do and it’s very upscale musically. It feels different to me, but I don’t know how everyone else is going to hear it. But I was really adamant about it not being a Macy Gray record.
OUTvoices: I just saw the new music video for your new single ‘Undone’ and it’s fantastic. I was surprised not to see you in it, but Frankie Grande is so amazing, as always. Where did the idea for the video come from?
Gray: That video was the product of me not being in town and wanting to get that video done. So during Covid, I found Frankie on Instagram. He was kind of doing his own theater in the bathroom. He was topless and in full makeup and he would start singing songs or doing these little wild skits. You could tell he was in some kind of zone. So the idea for ‘Undone’ was to have somebody dancing in a mirror, like coming undone, like the things you do when nobody is watching. So I thought about Frankie when that concept came up. He definitely exceeded my vision. It’s amazing.
OUTvoices: I know this is your second time performing at the Dinah, the first of which being way back in 2009. What do you remember from the performance?
Gray: [The Dinah is] wild. I remembered that it was really hot, I remember there was a lot of girls, and I just remember the energy.
OUTvoices: What should we expect of your show this time? Will you be performing songs off of your new album? Any chance we will hear some of your old hits too?
Gray: We’re going to be doing exactly what you just said. You just summed up my show!
OUTvoices: Were you aware that you had such a big gay fanbase? Because I know everyone was very excited to see that you were announced as the headliner this year.
Gray: I hear that. I don’t I think it all got kicked off when I did my song ‘Sexual Revolution’ on my second album. Here in the States, it did ok, but overseas, like when I do shows, they’d rather hear that than “I Try”. [‘Sexual Revolution’] was huge over there, so I think that’s when it started. Then I guess it kind of spilled out over here and it’s been a thing. It’s really cool, because when I’m making records and just doing my thing, I’m not thinking about getting these people to like me and these people to like me, so it’s cool that we connected. I like that.”
OUTvoices: During the pandemic, you started a non-profit called My Good to raise money for victims of police brutality and that that was inspired by the murder of George Floyd. I think that’s really amazing. What was the experience of running that during the pandemic like?
Gray: We really just officially launched it in July 2020, so now it’s just a year in a couple months old. It’s pretty wild. I didn’t really it all out about how much work it is and what it takes to be part of a foundation on that level. So I’ve learned a lot. We’ve been able to help a lot of people. It’s been a lot. Hopefully we can do a lot of good for people.
OUTvoices: I know that you used to have fans that would randomly come up to you singing “I Try”. That’s hilarious. Does that still happen?
Gray: Oh, yeah. I if I go somewhere, they’ll just start whistling “I Try” or something.
OUTvoices: Is there anything else you want your fans to know before they head out to The Dinah?
Gray: Just tell everybody we’re going to have a ball. We’re going to party like crazy!