Macy Gray is living up to the title of her 2010 album, The Sellout, but in a good way. Tickets for the Grammy-winning soul diva’s shows at Legacy Taipei this Sunday have already sold out. The Taipei Times caught up with Gray on the telephone earlier this week while the singer was in Tokyo as part of a short run of shows in Asia. The 43-year-old talked about her controversial decision to play in Israel, her love of rock ’n’ roll and her signature raspy voice.
Taipei Times: You made headlines last month after asking your fans on Facebook and Twitter whether you should cancel your shows in Israel over the country’s treatment of the Palestinians. More than 4,000 people responded, and you decided to go ahead and play in Tel Aviv. Looking back, do you feel that was the right thing to do?
Macy Gray: I don’t know, there’s a lot of things going on there that are definitely not ideal for people, and definitely a little shady. But I don’t know if a boycott is the answer. I don’t know if cutting off entertainment is the way to fix every problem. It’s very deep and very complicated.
Now that I’ve been there, I don’t know how soon I’d run back to play there, but I don’t know, compared to South Africa, the cultural boycott wasn’t the only thing that ended [apartheid]. That was the only thing I didn’t agree with — that a boycott was the answer.
TT: How did the concerts go in the end?
MG: They were great.
TT: Moving on to your latest album, why did you name it The Sellout?
MG: It was more of an ironic title because I was doing just the opposite of that. I made the record on my own. I was without a label at the time, so I did it on my own, and I had a lot of people in my ear, telling me what I should do and what I needed to do to sell more records this time and I did the opposite. That’s where the title came from and it just kind of stuck.
What: Macy Gray in concert
When: Sunday at 7:30pm
Where: Legacy Taipei, located at Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), Center Five Hall (中五館), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)
Admission: Show is sold out
On the Net: macygray.com
TT: What are some tracks from The Sellout that you enjoy performing live?
MG: Kissed It — I love that song, and Lately. There’s a ballad called Let You Win, and I have a duet with Bobby Brown called Real Love. I think Kissed It is the best song live. It’s about oral sex, like how sex can save relationships. [The story of the song is] actually pretty deep, but it’s fun.
TT: How do you get into your zone, creatively? Do you have a process for songwriting?
MG: I do everything in the studio. I write all of my songs once I get into the studio and I’m inspired by a lot of things, but the actual writing, once I get in that little cave, a lot comes out, and it comes really fast and really naturally. That’s really the only process I have. I don’t really have a process, but when it comes, it comes all the time.
TT: The album, as a format, has fallen to the wayside with the advent of MP3s and iTunes. What are your thoughts on how music distribution has changed?
MG: I think a long time ago, somebody figured out how to get it for free and ever since then it’s been really difficult. I think a lot of people took that really seriously and a lot of the value went out of the music and they found so many ways to get it for free. It doesn’t work for the artist, because no one feels sorry that an artist is going to make less money, but it’s affected the quality of music because of course if you’re making less money, you’re going to spend less money on your records. And so you have all these producer-driven records where you pay one guy and he makes your record, so all of the musicianship you used to hear is gone. When’s the last time you heard a guitar solo [on a pop song], you know what I mean?