People of Note: Mary Mary Bringing Something Big to Lehman
By Deardra Shuler
*Tina and Erica Campbell (a.k.a. Mary Mary) had a day filled with schedules, interviews, family and music when they met with this journalist to talk about their latest CD MARY MARY: “Something Big.” The duo is taking their music to Lehman Center of the Performing Arts in the Bronx at 7:00 p.m., on October 9th where they will share the stage with the Grammy winning Gospel Group Jubilation who won in 2010 for Best Traditional Gospel Album for Oh Happy Day. Performers of contemporary gospel, Mary Mary will blend their form of gospel with the traditional gospel sound of Jubilation whom they worked with previously when Queen Latifah appeared on stage with both groups during a performance in Brooklyn.
“Our father was a minister and my mother was a piano player who led the choir. We grew up in the church where we engaged in a lot of relevant activities. We were in the Kids Choir, the Youth Choir, High School Choir and later sang in the College Choir. In fact, our family sang together. We are a large family of 9 siblings, so sometimes it felt like our entire family was the choir” shared both Tina and Erica who are 3-time Grammy Award winners, 2-time American Music Award winners, a NAACP Image Award and BET Award winners.
Songwriters, Mary and Tina wrote many of the songs on their “Something Big” album. Starting off touring with several gospel groups and performing in gospel stage plays, they started doing backup singing. The duo sang with Brian McKnight and toured with Eric Benet for a while. “We learned a lot about the business, stage and crew while working with these singers and groups. It was a great teaching lesson for us,” said Erica who was Brandi’s backup singer for a short time. “We write many of our own songs. Our process is very organic. In fact, we were inspired to write several of the songs on our new album “Something Big.” When we sit down to write and pick up a pen and paper, we do not force it. We do not start thinking about what is playing on the radio or what do the labels want or what’s new in music. That might mess up our natural flow. In fact, we decided to pray and the idea of doing something big came to us. After all, God is Big and we should all want to live big, love big and do big things. We ended up writing and recording our song in 30 minutes and well “Something Big” came out of it,” said Tina.
Erica and Tina are asking fans to do something big for others as part of their “Something Big Campaign.” They are asking folks not to just listen to or dance to their music, but rather to give of their ideas, time, resources and monies in order to help their communities and ultimately the world. They encourage youth to help the elderly and discover where the Church can work positively in their lives.
Tina and Erica attribute their musical success to God and claim their biggest reward is not all the accolades or Grammy awards but how they are able to impact people and affect those people who touch their lives and listen to their music. “Our story is a fast moving story. We stayed focused and put a lot of work into our career. We really love, love, love singing. It is fun for us,” remarked Tina. “We are the ‘praise and worship’ team. In time, we ended up with a publishing and record deal. Our resting place became Columbia Records. Once we became Mary Mary (named for the mother of God and Mary Magdalene) it became easier to keep going but our career is really in God’s hands. It is the joy that keeps us going and now 11 years later we are still immersed in Mary Mary land,” chuckled Erica.
Born in Inglewood, California, God and music has always played an essential role in the duos life. After studying vocal performance at El Camino College, they eventually met songwriter/producer Warryn Campbell, who is now married to Erica. Coincidentally both sister’s lives have parallels since both are married to unrelated men whose surname is Campbell. “Being a mom is my number one priority,” said Erica who is currently pregnant. “Sometimes it’s hard to be a mom and an artist but we find a way to make it work,” said the sisters. Erica’s husband Warryn has been an important factor in the sister lives. He helped them secure a song publishing deal with EMI, and remains their long-time producer and collaborator. The sisters have received writing and performance credits on soundtracks and songs recorded by various artists but kicked off their own success via their debut album Thankful, wherein the single “Shackles (Praise You) skyrocketed. The sisters certified gold with “Incredible” which followed “Thankful.” Then came “Mary Mary” in 2005, featuring hits “Heaven,” “Yesterday” and “The Real Party.” A Mary Mary Christmas brought even further success.
Mary Mary have partnered with the American Red Cross for disaster relief. ‘We had a song entitled “survive” on our “Something Big” CD, so once all these natural disasters started happening, we thought the song was fitting. We thought: “Yeah, it’s bad, but there are lots of people making it through despite it all and surviving.” So we teamed up with the Red Cross to do a video using our song “survive” as an anthem for those people who are overcoming. Sometimes tragedies give us strength and help us endure. We encourage folks to donate to the Red Cross to help survivors keep on surviving” said the duo.
Tickets for the Mary Mary Sunday, October 9, 7:00 p.m., concert are available at the Lehman Center Box Office, located at 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, Bronx, NY. Call 718-960-8833 and/or visit www.LehmanCenter.org.
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