Macy Gray – On How Life Is (1999)

FrontCover1Natalie Renée McIntyre (born September 6, 1967), known by her stage name Macy Gray, is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter, musician, record producer and actress. She is known for her distinctive raspy voice and a singing style heavily influenced by Billie Holiday.

Gray has released ten studio albums, and received five Grammy Award nominations, winning one. She has appeared in a number of films, including Training Day, Spider-Man, Scary Movie 3, Lackawanna Blues, Idlewild, For Colored Girls, and The Paperboy. Gray is best known for her international hit single “I Try”, taken from her multi-platinum debut album On How Life Is.

MacyGray01Natalie McIntyre was born in Canton, Ohio, the daughter of Laura McIntyre, a math schoolteacher, and Otis Jones . Her stepfather was a steelworker, and her sister is a biology teacher. She has a younger brother, Nate, who owns a gym in West Philadelphia and was featured on the season five finale of Queer Eye. She began piano lessons at age seven. A childhood bicycle mishap resulted in her noticing a mailbox of a man named Macy Gray; she used the name in stories she wrote and later decided to use it as her stage name. She was late developing and did not learn to hold conversation until just before her tenth birthday

Gray attended school with Brian Warner (later known as musician Marilyn Manson) although they did not know each other. She attended more than one high school, including a boarding school which asked her to leave due to her behavior.

She attended the University of Southern California and studied scriptwriting.

While attending the University of Southern California, she agreed to write songs for a friend. A demo session was scheduled for the songs to be recorded by another singer, but the vocalist failed to appear, so Gray recorded them herself.

I started forming bands and writing songs just for fun and then I really got into it and got attached to it. Then a friend of mine asked me to be a singer in his jazz band. He gave me all these jazz CDs and I studied all these different singers and I kind of taught myself how to sing for a gig, but I didn’t take it seriously until later.


She then met writer-producer Joe Solo while working as a cashier in Beverly Hills. Together, they wrote a collection of songs and recorded them in Solo’s studio. The demo tape gave Gray the opportunity to sing at jazz cafés in Los Angeles. Although Gray did not consider her unusual voice desirable for singing, Atlantic Records signed her. She began recording her debut record but was dropped from the label upon the departure of A&R man Tom Carolan, who had signed her to the label. Macy returned to Ohio but in 1997 Los Angeles based Zomba Label Group Senior VP A&R man Jeff Blue, convinced her to return to music and signed her to a development deal, recording new songs based on her life experiences, with a new sound, and began shopping her to record labels. In 1998, she landed a record deal with Epic Records. She performed on “Love Won’t Wait,” a song on the Black Eyed Peas’ debut album Behind the Front.


Gray worked on her debut album in 1999 with producer Darryl Swann. Released in the summer of 1999, On How Life Is became a worldwide smash. The first single “Do Something” stalled on the charts, but the second single “I Try” made the album a success. “I Try” (which was originally featured in Love Jones and the Jennifer Aniston-starring romantic-comedy Picture Perfect in 1997) was one of the biggest singles of 1999, and subsequent singles “Still” and “Why Didn’t You Call Me” ensured the album became triple platinum in the US and quadruple platinum in the UK.


In 2001, Gray won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “I Try”, which was also nominated for “song of the year” and “record of the year”.[26] She then collaborated with Fatboy Slim, the Black Eyed Peas, and Slick Rick (on the song “The World Is Yours,” from the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack), as well as acting for the first time, in the thriller Training Day. In August 2001, Gray was booed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibition game after forgetting the lyrics to the American national anthem.


On How Life Is is the debut studio album by American singer and songwriter Macy Gray. It was released on July 1, 1999, by Epic Records and Clean Slate. Produced by Andrew Slater, it became Gray’s best-selling album to date, selling 3.4 million copies in the United States and seven million copies worldwide.

The album’s second single, “I Try”, became an international success, topping the charts in Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand, while reaching number five on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song also won a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2001.

On How Life Is was met with highly positive reviews from music critics upon its release, with many praising Gray’s songwriting and vocal performance. Q rated the album four out of five stars, calling it a “confident, bluesy soul debut […] with a lived-in sound – as if Rod Stewart were a girl.” (wikipedia)


Macy Gray is such an assured, original vocalist that it’s hard to believe On How Life Is is her debut album. She recalls a number of other vocalists, particularly jazz singers like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, but she is unquestionably from the post-hip-hop generation, which is evident not just from the sound of the record, but the style of her songwriting, which is adventurous and unpredictable. Thankfully, she’s worked with a producer (Andrew Slater, who pulled a similar trick with Fiona Apple’s debut, Tidal) that lets her run wild and helps her find sounds that match her ideas. That’s not to say that On How Life Is is a perfect album — at times, Gray attempts more than she can achieve — but it’s always captivating, even during its stumbles. And when it works, it soars higher than most contemporary R&B. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)BackCover1

Steve Baxter (horn on 06.)
Jon Brion (organ on 02., 03., 08. + 10., synthesizer on 03. + 08., guitar on 03. – 06., 08. – 10., piano on 04. + 10.. marimba on 08.)
Lenny Castro (percussion on 01., 02., 07. – 09.)
Matt Chamberlain (drums), percussion on 01., 03., 09. + 10.)
Macy Gray (vocals)
Charlie Green (horn on 06.)
Michael Harris (horn on 06.)
Ngozi Inyama (saxophone on 08.)
Rami Jaffee (synthesizer on 05., piano on 10.)
Jay Joyce (guitar on 07.)
DJ Kiilu (turntables on 02., 08. + 09., programming on 08.)
Jinsoo Lim (guitar on 01. + 02.)
Arik Marshall (guitar on 01., 07. – 10.)
Blackbyrd McKnight (guitar on 05.)
Gabriel Moses (guitar on 05.)
Dion Derek Murdock (bass on 02. + 06.)
Greg Richling (bass on 06. – 10.)
Jeremy Ruzumna (organ on 01., 04.- 06., 08 + 10.., piano on 01., 02., 07. + 1., synthesizer on 02., clavinet on 03., background vocals on 01.)
Darryl Swann (guitar, background vocals on 03., programming on 01. – 03., 05., 06., 08. – 10.)
Miles Tackett (guitar on 06.)
David Wilder (bass on 01. + 04., background vocals on 01.)
Bendrix Williams (guitar on 04.)
Patrick Warren (vibraphone on 02., organ on 02. – 04., 07., 08 + 09. synthesizer on 03.).
background vocals:
Dawn Beckman – Musiic Galloway – Sy Smith


01. Why Didn’t You Call Me (Ruzumna) 3.12
02. Do Something (Brown/Murray/Wade/Gipp/Burton/Benjamin/Patton/Mays/Barnes/ Ruzumna/Swann/Barnett/Murdock/Clinton/Shider/Worrell) 5.00
03. Caligula (Gray/Swann/Ruzumna) 4.38
04. I Try (Gray/Ruzumna/Lim/Wilder) 3.59
05. Sex-o-matic Venus Freak (Ruzumna/Murdock) 3.57
06. I Can’t Wait To Meetchu (Ruzumna/Swann/Tackett) 5.19
07. Still (Ruzumna/Esses) 4.15
08. I’ve Committed Murder (Swann/Beckwith/Ruzumna/Harris/Lai/Sigman) 5.00
09. A Moment To Myself (Ruzumna/Tackett/Morales/Wimbley) 4.01
10. The Letter (Sherrod/Houston) 5.37

“Do Something” contains a sample of “Git Up, Git Out” by OutKast and “Funky for You” by Nice & Smooth.
“I’ve Committed Murder” contains a sample of “Live Right Now” by Eddie Harris and an interpolation of “(Where Do I Begin?) Love Story” by Francis Lai & His Orchestra.
“A Moment to Myself” contains a sample of “Human Beat Box” by The Fat Boys, excerpts of “The Wildstyle” by Time Zone, and a sample of “Entropy (Hip Hop Reconstruction from the Ground Up)” by DJ Shadow & the Groove Robbers.

All lyrics are written by Macy Gray



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