Natalie McIntyre was born in 1970, in Canton, Ohio. "Macy Gray" was actually the name of a male family friend of the McIntyres, which Natalie would use in her future screenplays and eventually would claim as her own name.
The daughter of a steelworker and an elementary school math teacher, a young Macy was teased because of her awkward voice, and avoided singing, and even talking.
boo boo bi doo
Although she was mocked for her voice and practically vowed never to sing, she did like music and took classical piano lessons for seven years. Her family's music collection also helped immerse her into the jazz sounds of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and James Brown, while her attendance at a boarding school surrounded her with rock.
Her parents wanted her to take on a more professional career such as law, but Macy headed to California, where she attended USC's renowned screenwriting program (her creative songwriting skills are definitely apparent in her songs).
While at USC, Macy helped a friend of hers write some songs, which they worked on in the friend's studio. There, Macy actually used her voice -- only in order to demo the tracks (her voice was supposed to be recorded over). Well, a lot more came out of the songwriting sessions, as the demo tape made its way to a band, after Macy's voice remained on one of the tracks.
into the night
Next thing Macy knew, she was singing with a jazz band at Los Angeles hotels, and opening a coffee house with her friends. Called the Wee Ours, since it was an after-hours business, Macy was attracting an audience with her band, which even attracted Tricky and hip-hop group the Roots.
Then when everything seemed to be picking up, it all took a turn for the worst. She had signed with Atlantic Records, but the album she recorded ended up getting scrapped, never to be released. Despaired, with 2 children (and one on the way) after her marriage of 4 years ended, Macy headed to her hometown and started a business venture.
In the meantime, her demo made its way to an executive with Zomba Music, who encouraged her to return to LA after he gave her a publishing deal. Second time's a charm and this time, Epic Records signed the raspy-voiced chanteuse.
shades of gray
The result was her debut album, On How Life Is, an autobiographical piece that blends hip-hop, funk, jazz, pop, rap, and incredible production (thanks to Fiona Apple's manager and producer Andrew Slater, and Jon Brion). The album was released in 1999 and first spawned the single "Do Something". The single helped make her a star, while the album was on most Best Album lists of the year.
"I Try" has become a staple on the Billboard Charts, and can be considered her signature song. She was nominated for Best New Artist Grammy in 2001 but lost to Christina Aguilera. But, Macy has held strong for the past year, and took home the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "I Try", beating out Madonna and Britney Spears.
Still enjoying the success of On How Life Is with tours and award shows, Macy is returning to the studio to work on her follow-up album, which promises to be wild.
With a voice reminiscent of Billie Holiday and Tina Turner, Macy has already taken us on a wild ride with her unique sound, fashion sense (she was named VH1 and Vogue's Most Fashionable Female Artist at the 2000 awards) and attitude.