Her real name is Natalie McIntyre. Macy Gray was a friend of her father's who lived nearby. She liked the sound of it, so she used it as a stage name.
Her marriage to the mortgage broker Tracy Hinds ended in 1998, the same year she signed a record deal and started working on her first album. She had three children with Hinds: daughters Aanisah and Tahmel (both born in 1995), and son Cassius (born in 1997). Much of her first album deals with her relationship with Hinds.
Macy studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California. One of her student scripts was about a girl who falls in love with her father.
She struggled for years before becoming a successful solo artist. In the mid-'90s, she got a deal with Atlantic Records as lead singer for a rock band; they recorded an album, but it was never released. After starting her family and taking a job as a secretary, she got a second chance when a music publisher heard some of her old demo records and helped get her a deal with Epic Records. She was 32 when her debut album, On How Life Is, was released.
In America, she is almost exclusively known for her hit "I Try," but in Europe her broader discography has more appeal. Her second album, The Id, went to #1 in the UK.
She grew up in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
They didn't know each other, but Marilyn Manson (known then as Brian Warner) grew up in her neighborhood.
At her commercial peak, she toured with a troupe of 15, complete with five backup singers and a horn section.
Her sound isn't easy to define - her early press materials billed her as a cross between Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin.
Her stage moves were always a bit awkward, but this didn't stop her from appearing on Dancing with the Stars in 2009. She was eliminated in the second round.
Like a canary to a cat, she avoids metaphor and symbolism in her songwriting, preferring to "just say it."