I was born in Canton, Ohio and grew up with two brothers and a sister. Canton is a midwest, blue-collar town with a lot of factories, and if you had a job in one of those factories – like my dad, who worked in a steel mill – life was great. But I wanted to do other things that I couldn't have done in Canton. A lot of incredible artists are from there; Marilyn Manson was in the same year as me in high school.
My mum and birth dad split up right after I was born. My mum later married my stepdad, who brought me up. I still see my birth dad; but I don't know him as well as I knew my stepdad, who has now passed away. My stepdad was the one I called Dad, and the one who brought me up day-to-day and took care of me. And I took his name, too.
Mum and Dad were big on us all getting grade As and a good education. They liked to party, too, though. Both of my parents were really, really sociable. We always had people over, and my dad was very old school and uninhibited and would say what was on his mind, so I learned that from him. They were both pretty hands-off . They didn't want to inspire confusion in us kids by getting overly involved, and they kind of just let us be ourselves.
I got singled out at school because of my voice but my parents didn't do anything. They were not the sort to encourage their children or tell them how great they were. They were always in the moment and whatever was going on was going on. They never made things bigger or smaller than they were, like when I told them I wanted to sing. They said: "How you going to sing, you don't even talk very much?"
I didn't sing as a kid because I didn't talk. I didn't have any plans to become a singer because I'd always been told I had a funny voice. When it happened for me, my parents were as surprised as anyone. They couldn't believe it. My mum came to my concert and there was a Starbucks next door and there was this huge line and she thought they were all in line for Starbucks. She couldn't imagine that many people would be waiting for me.
Mum and Dad were married at least 33 years, till Dad died. They fought like cat and dog, but they were best friends. I haven't had that yet. They say kids who grow up in complete families tend to have their own, but I wasn't married very long at all.
I didn't plan to have children so close together. I just kept getting pregnant. Aanisah was born in January 1995 and Tahmel was born in December that same year and Happy came along in 1997. With the second one, I was like, "You gotta be kidding me?" I should get some kind or award for that, don't you think? Some kind of recognition.
When your children become teenagers you get faced with all your mistakes. That's when the guilt comes. You see all the things they learned from you.
I make it very clear to my children that I'm their mum, not their friend. I don't want to be a friend to my 16-year-old. We talk and we have a good mother-son relationship, but I tell him all the time, "I'm not your homie," because they get comfortable and it makes things harder for you. I don't really think about being a single mum and I have a lot of help. My mum is around. My sister, everyone who works with me has relationships with my kids. You don't do it by yourself. I don't anyway.
Macy Gray's album Covered is out now
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