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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.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. The triple-platinum-selling singer is notorious for her rudeness in interviews and, riding the lift to the ninth floor of the Metropolitan Hotel in London, it's hard not to think about the many Macy fables: the spectacular lateness, the determined lack of eye contact, the monosyllabic answers.On one well-documented occasion she stormed out on Lord Snowdon during a photo-shoot for Vogue.Gone were the floating robes and candy-floss afro, replaced by gangster suits and sculpted wigs.
'On How Life Is' was followed by 'The Id', another number-one album in Britain that sold more than a million copies despite being released a week after the 11 September attacks (and a month after Gray was booed off stage in Canton for forgetting the words to the Star-Spangled Banner). Gray's third offering, 'The Trouble with Being Myself', bombed.
As a child she was mercilessly teased and barely spoke because, she has said, 'every time I opened my mouth someone would ask why I was putting on such a stupid voice'.
One day, aged six, she fell off her bike and found herself lying beneath a mailbox bearing the name Macy Gray.
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.
'Yeah, I got into wigs and stuff,' she says, consonants so soft that the words fuzz together. A lot of people were in my ear telling me: this is cool and this is not cool.