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A s soon as she could Gray left Canton for Los Angeles, where she studied scriptwriting at the University of Southern California.She fell in with a bunch of budding musicians and film-makers and began writing lyrics, she claims, just so she could hang around with a guitarist she fancied.She flashes occasional smiles that transform her face from sullen to strikingly pretty.'I'd been doing a lot of indulging in excess of everything and it started catching up with me around that album,' she says.In the title track she is plainer still: 'Don't go away, I want you to stay, I will sing you a song and I hope that you'll like it.' Macy Gray was born Natalie Mc Intyre.She grew up in a small town with her mother, a schoolteacher, and her stepfather, a steelworker to whom she was very close (her natural father left when she was a baby).She took to writing stories about Macy and, years later, made it her stage-name.The original Macy Gray is 'an old man', she says, who 'tried to get some money out of me but it turns out your name is public domain, so that didn't work out for him'.
They didn't know what they were talking about, though.' She glances up, a quietly defiant look in her beautiful, feline eyes. 'They didn't call me back,' Gray says simply, of the artists she approached about collaborating.Her drug use had got out of control, she'd fallen out with her record label and her fan base had evaporated.'Big' is a strong collection of slick, jazzy songs but the drastic image change that came with it reeked of a mid-career identity crisis.The album is a return to the Prince-influenced funk and soul-baring song-writing that made her name.It fizzes with energy, from the sweet, summery single Beauty in the World to the thumping, mosh-pit-ready Kissed It and the James Brown-meets-the Ting Tings groove of That Man. Gray wrote the album, she says, as 'a love letter to my fans' and she clearly sees herself as the one who ruined the relationship; 'I was a clown, I didn't realise what I had,' she sings in Lately.