Macy Gray talks with S&H about creating real change with her mental health initiative.
Sept. 27, 2019, marked 20 years since Grammy Award-winning and critically acclaimed R&B and soul songstress Macy Gray burst onto the music scene with her distinctively raspy tone. Even with her mountain of accolades, the artist considers her newest work to be her best record yet.
Since her last release, Gray has gained confidence and clarity, finding comfort in her craft. Self-described as “grounded” and “more seasoned,” she has worked tirelessly to improve her vocal performance and overall stage presence.
Listeners of the singer’s newest release, “Buddha,” experience a calm, centered songstress crooning a story of overcoming struggles with mental health. A Teyana Taylor-directed video allows audiences insight into Gray’s in-studio work, as well as her family life, present career, and archived footage. The production is “not a huge video,” explains Gray, “but one that makes me genuinely proud. I’m winning this battle. I can acknowledge my past and shortcomings, but I don’t have to dwell in that space. By applying the principles of Buddha, I’m concentrating my mind on the present. That’s where I am.”
Addressing stigmatized topics like mental illness and overcoming hardships are not foreign to Gray. Other recent works like “White Man,” which is also featured on Ruby, address current social and political issues like racism and marginalization.
“We have the opportunity to move things. We can change things,” says Gray. “We don’t use our platforms enough. I don’t use my platform enough. In the ’60s, war culture divided us. People were vocal about it, but no one wants to hear about the border and climate change. Singing about gun control is hard to do through music. We live in a wild world, and all of these things impact your mental health. It’s up to you to find the balance you need.” That balance is, for Gray, most easily found through the arts.
Gray exclusively revealed she will soon be opening her own foundation for mental health support specifically for minority teens and young adults. Through holistic practices and artful outlets, the foundation will assist transitioning youth in finding balance and purpose. She mentions that, in Los Angeles county, she is only aware of two counselors of color. With low representation in black and brown communities, as well as high costs for therapeutic services, it’s not surprising this generation has seen higher rates of self-medication and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Gray details that many youth fail to receive appropriate responses for their mental health concerns due to a certain stigma, as well as a lack of awareness and the ideology that the wellness of the mind is not exactly a priority.
“You can go your whole life out of your mind and not know it,” she says. “Though there is no cure, there has to be some sort of balance. Awareness is nothing without solutions and action. You’d see a doctor for a broken leg, right? You’ve got to do the same for your mental.”
The changes that have been made in Gray’s life are evident—not only in her music, but also in her attitude and actions. “I believe in being an advocate for yourself. We create the change,” she says. As a public figure, I’m obligated. ... It’s my responsibility to do better. That awareness, that support ... that’s where change happens.”
“I’m looking ahead, and I’m looking back and I realize it’s where I’m at.” —Macy Gray (“Buddha”)