Macy Gray says the whole point of being an artist is not having any limits or constraints — unless you put them on yourself. Many people know Gray for her unique voice and the 1999 hit single "I Try." Now, 14 years later, she's gone multiplatinum, won a Grammy Award, and put out six albums. Her most recent is a collection of cover songs, appropriately titled Covered. She's now touring with Grammy-winning saxophonist David Murray, doing vocals for the title track of his new album, Be My Monster Love.
She spoke with Tell Me More host Michel Martin about how far she's come, and the roots behind her latest music projects.
On how she feels about her voice
"I still see my voice as odd. It never went away. I'm still in turmoil about my voice, but I feel very blessed that a lot of people like it, and that I'm able to sing at least good enough to, you know, do stuff like 'I Try' and '[Be My] Monster Love.' "
On doing cover songs
"It's something I've been toying around with for a while, like doing a cover album. We did these selective rock tunes and turned them into my own version of a soul song.
"Any time you create something, it's naturally gonna come out as your own or your own style or what you're used to or what you're best at, you know?"
On collaborating with other artists, including saxophonist David Murray
"A lot of collaborations you hear are — you know, they're friends, and they happen to be in the same place, and it all happens really organically. I used to studio hop. I used to hear about people being in-studio, and then I'd run and act like I was in the neighborhood, and then I'd get on the record, you know. [Laughs].
"We [Gray and Murray] did a show in Paris called Afro-Picks. It was a tribute to Fela Kuti and other African artists. And then ever since then, we've been working together. And now I'm doing a full-on tour with him, and we did a record, [Be My] Monster Love, together. So it's just sort of growing at its own pace."
On advice for aspiring artists
"Take the time to get really, really good at what you do, and then put yourself out there. 'Cause once you get really good at what you do, then people find you, you know. Then people start talking about you, and then they come to you. And your life gets a lot easier, you know."