11 Dec 2015

Why Macy Gray wants climate change action

From Nine To Noon, 9:28 am on 11 December 2015

If you think your Christmas wish list may be too much for Santa to handle - you should listen to Macy Gracy's.

The multi American award-winning R&B singer-songwriter has a new song out and it's about more than just spreading Christmas cheer.

Her updated version of "All I Want for Christmas" replaces yuletide materialism with a desire for things like gun control and action on climate change.

Gray, who is coming to New Zealand in February for the Raggamuffin festival, told Nine to Noon today that she wrote the song because the political climate "is really harsh right now".

The song - which has been reviewed in Time and Rolling Stone and on The Huffington Post - asks for free healthcare, gun control, tolerance for immigrants, action to combat climate change, and also questions whether Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is qualified to lead the United States.

Gray said as an artist she could not fail to think about and be inspired by what was happening in the news and politics. If artists were not writing about such things, she said, it must be because they were forcing themselves not to.

"Talking about politics in songs isn't all that cool - it isn't very popular, but as an artist you have to reflect the times. If you don't you're doing it on purpose, there's just no way to get around it."

Listen to Macy Gray on Nine to Noon:

She has had "crazy" negative backlash, especially for calling for gun control and for criticising Mr Trump.

A lot of Mr Trump's fans were upset by the song, she said. "He definitely has some fanatical following going on, that's for sure".

"I'm trying to get people to want bigger things, to not focus so much on material things and just understand that the world needs everybody to pitch in at this point. You can put everything on [US president Barack Obama but he's one dude, he can't fix everything - it's like a football team, everybody has to play."  

Gray told Nine to Noon she was influenced by the jazz singer Billie Holiday. "I liked her, especially because you could understand every single word she says ... a lot of singers put more focus on showing you how big their pipes are and what kind of range they have.

"She seems to just want to make sure you understood what she had to say, and that struck me so hardcore."

Although she loved making music, Gray was also interested in doing more film work, she said - she has a role in the new film Where Children Play.

Gray will perform at Auckland's Trust Arena on Saturday 20 February for Raggamuffin IX festival.  The festival also features UB40, The Game, Maxi Priest and Savage.