On the heels of their latest chart-topping studio release Lingk2us chats with the award-winning duo about balancing successful careers and a growing family (Erica is now expecting a third addition to the family), redefining musical barriers and inspiring a new movement of world changers.
Lingk2us: Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the name of your latest album, “Something Big.”
Erica: “Something Big” was probably one of the earlier songs recorded during this process. And as we finished putting all of the songs together, “Something Big” symbolized what all of the songs meant for us. We have a responsibility to use this platform for more than just concerts and selling records. So we have been challenging our band, our followers and our brand to not just listen to the music, but to live it and try to live a better life by helping someone other than yourself, whether it’s the homeless, the elderly or children or doing something to feed hungry people. And that’s what something big is! Not that we’re so big and grand. Which is what I think a lot of people thought that our album title was about—but it was never ever a statement of arrogance. The idea of “Something Big” is that God transformed my life and I want to share it with everybody.
L2U: One of your biggest hits from “Something Big” is “Walking.” What’s the message behind this song?
Tina: The message behind “Walking” is simply, what does it look like when people watch you exist? As you walk through life, what are you saying?What are you exuding? When there are no words, what does your life speak? Are you taking life minute by minute or are you trying to live your life in fast-forward mode? We want to make sure that we are reflecting the love and light of God. And that’s who we represent. We found that the love of Jesus has changed and transformed us, and we can always turn to that source to turn things around and put them into a positive and right direction, and that’s what we want to make sure we’re reflecting. God didn’t give us today and then skip tomorrow and the next day. He gave us Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday. In today’s world, we just want to skip and fast-forward. And you can’t live life that way. You have to take the days and moments because you’re not going to get to the next day until you get through with this one. So reflect God’s light, and God’s love, and take each moment in and enjoy the gift of life you’ve been given.
L2U: Mary Mary has won countless awards, including three Grammys, BET Awards, Dove Awards and the prestigious American Society of Com- posers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Golden Note Award. I’ve read that you were only allowed to listen to gospel music growing up. How do you continue to push the envelope and raise the bar to create music that reaches a broad audience?
Tina: We’re music lovers. We’re creative people. We are not fans of remaking and redoing. Not that there’s not great stuff out there that we’d like to give tribute to or incorporate into our music. But we feel like God has given us something original. We’re all God’s gift, no matter if you’re in the Christian world or the mainstream world we are all God’s chil- dren, and we are given gifts, talents and abilities. So we don’t feel like we have to do what
has been done. Just like God gave something great to somebody 30 years ago in the Church or in the mainstream, he can give us something great. We don’t have to try to be what has been. We just have to open ourselves up and try our best to use our gifts in the most excellent way and pray for God’s best to come forth. That’s what we do and how you get the music that you get from us. We try to not say what we said or sing exactly what we sang and not to do things exactly the same way that we’ve done them before. We’re never chasing what we’ve done. We just try to be excellent and innovative and let God speak through us when we pick up that pen and get on that mike.
L2U: You’ve been in the music industry for a while now. What has been your biggest challenge? And how have you overcome it?
Erica: I think balancing family is the most challenging part. Because I love the stage, and I love the fans. But balancing the time and being away from family has been the biggest challenge. I do believe that God gave all of this to me and graced me with a wonderful family as well as a wonderful career. I believe I have the family that can handle my schedule, and when I can’t bring them with me I just stay home, which is not always the easiest thing to do but when you love someone (Erica’s married to mega music producer Warryn Campbell) you make exceptions and shift things around.
Tina: Balancing family is, hands down, the biggest challenge. But there’s another challenge that is strictly professional, and our song “Sitting With Me” speaks to that. And that is not having what you do accepted, received or even respected sometimes because of the nature of the subject or the classification of our music. The faith-based element of our music sometimes has people turn deaf ears to it, and we’ve had opportunities removed simply because of that. Sometimes the non-Christian world will love the content of the music, the sound of it, the melody, the beat, the lyrical content, the whole presentation, but when they say, “Oh, this is gospel?” they don’t have space for it. It’s like, “At first you love it but now you change your mind because you found out it was gospel?” Earlier on it was more challenging to swallow, but now we understand that we represent God, and that, that doesn’t come easy.
L2U: Community involvement seems to be extremely important to Mary Mary. Could you tell us about the “Do Something Big” campaign and your work with the American Red Cross.
Tina: When we decided to launch the record, we were just kind of thinking that this project needed to be bigger than just record sales and everything that is connected directly to bettering our position as artists. So we decided to use our platform to encourage our au- dience to do something that helps someone else. Really, I think the best-lived lives are those lived to help other people. You have more peace of mind, more love, and you are less focused on the stress of your own life, because you’re so busy trying to help someone else that God allows you to get through your own stuff a lot better.
Initially, we were talking and coming up with ideas and we were like, “Do something big, yeah! You can do something for the elderly, and then we can tell people to help feed hungry children. Maybe we can encourage them to read to young kids or clean up the community or help the schools in some kind of way.” You know, we just really got excited about the idea and brought it to our fans, and they got motivated to make a difference. It’s really a wonderful thing to use your platform for what God’s business is all about. In the end, God’s business is really not about selling records and winning Grammys. And al- though that’s great and we want to continue to do so, God gave us his son Jesus. Jesus gave his life. We’re supposed to be his disciples, his followers, so what are we giving? We’ve got to use this platform to give something, not just to receive the gift of people supporting what we do. I think this time around we’re giving inspiration in a different way and en- couraging people to go out and put their hands and resources to work for someone else. I feel like that’s when we’re really doing God’s work.
Erica: About the Red Cross, when the spring and summer storms started happening, we were in Alabama. So we went to visit a resource center in one of the areas where they were giving out food and clothes. Besides going down the street and seeing all of the devasta- tion, which was really crazy, the biggest thing that I saw was the hope on the faces of the people. You didn’t see a lot of people sitting on the side moping. There were so many people who looked resilient, like “it didn’t take me out.”
We knew then that we wanted to do something and that “Survive” would be our next single, and so we decided to partner with the Red Cross. They are often the first on the ground, and they do so much. They are usually the first to respond to disasters. And I think that this year there were something like 46 disasters in 31 different states and they responded to all of them. We’re telling people to donate to the Red Cross by texting 90999. We just want to partner with them to help them do what they do because they give hope and we believe that hope heals. It just made sense to partner the song “Survive” with the Red Cross.
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L2U: What’s next for Mary Mary?
Erica: We’ll continue to sing and continue to reach people’s lives. We’ll continue to try to expand who we are ministry- and business-wise and still try to be good mothers, wives and sisters. I want to make sure I don’t miss anything myself while I’m telling other people about Jesus!
Tina: We’re continuing to tour and be judges on BET’s “Sunday’s Best,” and we have some other TV in the works. We’ve got a Christmas tour coming up, and we are also doing a weekly blog for Essence magazine. We’ve got a lot of stuff going on.
L2U: So what’s playing on your personal iPods these days?
Erica: I’ve been listening to the new Beyoncé record but I also have to reach back and listen to CeCe Winans and her worship music. It’s really a hodge-podge of odd music that I listen to. I listen to Veggie Tales because my daughter is often in the car. We go from Veggie Tales to Beyoncé, to CeCe, and Bruno Mars—a little of everything.
Tina: I’m listening to some of the same songs but Beyoncé’s song “Love on Top,” that is my song! My daughter is like, “Mommy, why are you always singing that song?” That’s a great song. It makes you think of the Motown days. You just want to dance. I’ve been listening to Israel Houghton’s “The Power of One.” And I’m always listening to something of Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson is going to get played. Aretha Franklin. 100 Songs for Kids. And Veggie Tales, you can’t get away from that when you have kids!
Follow Mary Mary on twitter @ therealmarymary, on their Mary Mary
Facebook page, and at http://www.mary-mary.com/.