Zimbio Q&A: Macy Gray On How Cute Zac Efron Is, And Being More Than a One-Hit Wonder

Singer Macy Gray performs onstage at The Advocate 45th Presented by Lexus held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 29, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Getty Images)more pics »Macy Gray doesn't mind if you call her a one-hit wonder. The way she sees things, those who think her career began and ended with the release of her mega-hit "I Try" simply don't understand.

Indeed, from her appearances in films like Training Day and Idlewild to the six studio albums she's released since 1999, Gray has accomplished plenty over the last decade. On Friday, she returns to the big screen alongside Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy.

I recently chatted with Gray about her upcoming film, the pitfalls of blasting music to Mars, and the challenge of figuring out which Rihanna song just played on the radio.

"I know they think people are on Mars, but there's a chance they're not, and its playing out there and no one can hear it. That's all I'm saying."
What was it like working with Zac Efron?
He's adorable. He's really really sweet. The girls think he's cute, they go crazy when they get to know him.

Do you think he's on his way to becoming an even bigger star?
I think he's going to do awesome things. He's very serious about what he does, and he wants to do other things. He's really talented. 

Did you have fun going on tour with Seal?
It was cool. I hadn't opened in a while so I had to get accustomed to that.

Were you shocked by he and Heidi Klum's split?
I wasn't shocked. I didn't really think about it too much at all. Yeah, I'm sad for them. But I didn't really think much about it to be honest with you.

Do you have the best hair in music?
Hmm. My hair is pretty awesome. Who else has good hair? I can't think of anybody who has hair [laughs]. You know, a lot of people have great hair styles, but I think I win, for sure.

Thank you.

Your new album is a bunch of covers. Whats your go-to karaoke song?
I usually do my own songs, and then no one thinks it's me because they don't believe I'd get up there and do my own songs. They don't think I'm that narcissistic. "Oh that's not her, that can't be her." But sometimes I do "Brass in Pocket" by the Pretenders and "Warrior" by Pat Benatar.

Do you wear a disguise when you do karaoke?
No, I just usually have a hat. People just don't think it's me. They think it's someone who looks like me. I get really drunk.

What's the best song on the radio right now?
I like "Mercy" by Kanye West, and that new Rihanna song, I just can't think of the name of it. Because they play like nine Rihanna songs a day, I lose track.

Worst song?
There's a lot of pretty bad ones. I probably couldn't name one. There's a lot of stuff you gotta be 14, you know, to enjoy it. Music has changed so much.

In a positive direction?
Sort of. Economically, people are making records cheaper and cutting corners. Very few people use live musicians anymore, because it costs too much. You used to spend like two days on a track, now they want the whole album mixed in two days. The quality of records is not as good as it used to be, to me. You can tell a record that was made on tape or on a computer, it sounds different. Just in the last few years, when the whole recession thing hit, and people started downloading for free, people started losing money, so they push artists to make records cheaper and faster and to me you can hear it.

Are artists like Nicki Minaj championing the feminist cause, or hurting it with their hypersexualization?
I don't think they hurt it. I think sexuality is a huge part of being a woman. You know, I don't agree with the whole, if you're a feminist, you have to cover up all your womanliness. These are natural things that God gave women, I see no problem showing that off if that's what you're into. I don't think that makes you less of a woman.

Do you regret going on Dancing with the Stars? [Gray was the first contestant eliminated in Season 9 of the show.]

No, obviously it could have gone a little bit better, but I don't regret it. I discovered that I'm not a dancer, at all. I'm clumsy and awkward. But it got me in shape really fast, and it helped me with my stage performance, like the way I hold my arms and standing up straight, stuff like that.

What's the best song to listen to when you're high?
Hmm. I would say anything by Jack White, for sure. Or any kind of old hip-hop record always works. Odd Future is cool to listen to when you're smoking a joint, because you kinda hear it differently.

Best late night munchies?
BBQ chips, and pizza and pretzels, and those extra hot Cheetos. Anything hot and spicy.

Does it bother you when people refer to you as a one-hit wonder?
It doesn't bother me, I just realize they don't know my music, because you know, I've had a lot of success in my career, and I do a lot better overseas. A lot of people don't know all my records.

You've collaborated with an array of talented musicians, from Justin Timberlake to Erykah Badu. Does anyone in particular stand out?
Justin is pretty great to work with. Went in the studio with Stevie Nicks, that was cool. But I'd say will.i.am is great, he's so creative and so excited about music. You get to play with different ideas. He's really melodic, I really like working with him.

He just had music sent to Mars.
Yeah, that's Will.

Do you hope to have your music played in space?
I just don't know if anyone's listening. I know they think people are on Mars, but there's a chance they're not, and its playing out there and no one can hear it. That's all I'm saying. I'd just want to make sure that there's actually people up there before I go to all the trouble of getting my music up there.

Any other dream jobs as a kid?
I was into mob movies, I really wanted to be a gangster, or a really great bank robber.

First album you bought?
Purple Rain.

Was Prince a big influence on you?
He's definitely one my favorite artists, and I learned a lot about writing music from him.

After you won a Grammy was it just "I've hit the top, I'm done."?
No, there was still a lot more I wanted to do. Once you're a musician, you're always one, so no I didn't feel that way. I didn't realize it was such a big deal until a couple years ago. But it's pretty awesome to get one of those.

Is it the first thing you show off when people come over?
Yeah, it's right where you can see it, no matter where you are in the house you can see it.

What's next?
I've got a new record coming out called Talking Book, in October. Then the movie's coming, and I'm working on another album. So I'm in the studio a lot.

Sounds hectic.

What do you do to keep calm and leveled?
Play video games.

Are you a gamer?
I wouldn't call myself a gamer. It's just very therapeutic, there's no stress. You're just playing a stupid game.

Would you ever want your own video game?
Somebody talked to me about that but I didn't have any good ideas. I guess I'm not really a video game talent because I couldn't come up with anything that hadn't been done already. I know people think it's a colossal waste of time. But it's actually a lot of fun.

I'm a former Associate Editor at Zimbio.