Macy Gray picked up more than postcards and passport stamps during her world tour supporting On How Life Is – she also brought home inspiration for her second album, The Id.
The charismatic songstress says her world travels supporting her 1999 breakthrough exposed her to an eclectic mix of styles and sounds that inspired her to get wild in the studio.
“You go to France and African rhythms are really big over there and then you go to Germany and you’ve got like German hip-hop,” Gray said Wednesday. “And then there’s all kinds of techno clubs and drum’n’bass and jungle music. They have it in the States, but in Europe it’s much bigger and much more mainstream. Just having done that, all of that crept into my subconscious and a lot of that ended up on my album.”
On The Id, due September 18, Gray shows off her miscellaneous funk straight off the bat with the opening track, “Relating to a Psychopath.”
“The beat is just like a rock beat mixed with a techno beat mixed with a hip-hop beat, and then there’s a reggae bass line,” she said. “And then it’s got this rock and roll guitar on it and then my vocals are like I’m screaming.”
Gray will ease fans into The Id with the tender first single, “Sweet Baby,” a comfortable segue for fans who fell in love with her through the Grammy-winning “I Try” and the smoky ballad “Still” last time around. “Sweet Baby” features guest vocals by Gray’s close friend Erykah Badu.
“It’s about my first real real real real love,” Gray said of the song, which hits radio next month. “It’s like when you get to that level with a person where it’s all about you and him, and what other people think and what’s going on in the outside world is all secondary.”
Gray recently shot a video for the ballad with director David Meyers (Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Jennifer Lopez), which she described as a mini-movie that follows her and her lover as they grow up together.
The singer, who served as executive producer on The Id along with Rick Rubin (Rage Against the Machine, Johnny Cash), also enlisted help from Angie Stone, Billy Preston, Sunshine Anderson, Mos Def, the Roots’ ?uestlove, Raphael Saadiq and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante.
Gray asked Rubin to contact Frusciante about contributing because he has a “nice ruggedness” to his guitar-playing, she said. “I just love the way he plays… He’s hilarious just to talk to. He does yoga every time he takes a break, he sits on the floor and he does a yoga move. It’s like a sitcom, it’s a trip.”
Though The Id shows Gray has grown as a lyricist, her off-beat, brazen sense of humor often takes the forefront, as it does on the circusy “Oblivion” and the disco ditty “Sexual Revolution,” the album’s second single.
“The key phrase is ‘my very own sexual revolution,’ ” she said. “You grow up and your mom and dad tell you to close your legs, and you’re in high school and you can’t scream too loud ’cause your mom is downstairs. So you grow up and you have all these limits on sex.”
Gray’s tendency not to mince words and instead let it all hang out inspired the album’s title. She recalled a friend saying to her, “You’re all id.”
“The id is like what you do before you think or what you think about before you edit,” she said. “Your impulses, what you’re really feeling. [The album’s about] what happens when you act on that, what happens when you say exactly what is on your mind… rather than cleaning everything up or being correct or trying to fit in or be accepted.” Gray, who will appear at a ladies-of-soul festival organized by Badu in Michigan on August 8, has not firmed up any tour plans, but doesn’t intend to hit the road until early next year.
In the meantime, she is planning a collaboration with Dr. Dre for the soundtrack to “Training Day,” in which she stars as a “ghetto hoochie mama queen,” and she’s developing a cartoon loosely based on her life.