With the release of the self-titled Mary Mary, the GRAMMY-winning, platinum-selling gospel duo is beginning a new chapter in an already remarkable career.
With the release of the self-titled Mary Mary, the Grammy-winning, platinum-selling gospel duo is beginning a new chapter in an already remarkable career. In 2000, sisters Erica and Tina Campbell earned immediate respect and success with Mary Mary's platinum debut album, Thankful. The joyful dancefloor-filling hit single "Shackles" put them at the top of the charts across the world and then the girls followed it up with the 2002's Incredible album. Now, after a short break, Mary Mary returns with the brilliant third album, packed with uplifting lyrics, distinctive vocals and unforgettable songs.
Some things have changed since Mary Mary's last album. Most importantly, Erica and Tina have each started families. As Erica explains, "We've been focusing on having babies and staying home with our husbands and family. We've been enjoying life. You gotta take time for family." Tina jokes, "We're a lot sleepier now!" She laughs and continues, "We have to change the way we work. The Dixie Chicks have seven kids under four between the three of them. We think we can do it with one child each if they can do it with seven! My mama juggled nine kids with being a choir director. If they can handle it, we can surely handle it with one each."
The second thing that's changed is that Erica and Tina are more confident about their music in 2005 than at any other time in their career. Tina shares, "Sometimes when you first come out, you don't really know who you are as artists and musically, you haven't really found your niche. This time around we're so comfortable being Mary Mary and I feel like we've grown as women and ministers. 'Shackles' was great! It opened a bunch of doors for us and I'm grateful for that but you can never do your beginning again. We can't make the record again and you can't redo what you've already done. Obviously we want to make more songs that impact people but God is a God of the present and he's doing great things today so we don't like to live in the past."
You'd think that when they were having a worldwide smash like "Shackles," they couldn't get more confident but Erica disagrees. "Confidence doesn't come with a successful hit," she says. "Think of the millions of people who sell millions of records and then kill themselves. Or the millions of people who travel the world and make loads of money and then they're depressed or take drugs to alter their current state because they're not happy. We're so content with who we are, both our flaws and our strengths." Tina agrees. "The place where I am right now is definitely a better place."
Fans who have been eagerly waiting for new music from the pair are going to be blown away by Mary Mary's third album which is packed with highlights, including the groove-driven "Heaven," with its upbeat positive message. Erica says of the song, "We were sitting in the studio working on something else trying to make a hit and after three days, it wasn't coming together. And then 'Heaven' just came. That song was meant to be. The message is incredible because it says you have to have a relationship with God if you're planning on making it to heaven. You have to have Christ in your heart and He has to shine in your life."
One listen to Mary Mary and you'll immediately see that Erica and Tina are spreading their wings musically, embracing new influences and stretching the boundaries, so there are plenty of surprises. The sound of 1930s big band music underpins "The Biggest Greatest Thing," an idea suggested by Warryn Campbell, Mary Mary's producer (and Erica's husband). For Tina, recording the track was quite a stretch! As she remembers, "I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald before we recorded it and I thought I couldn't do it because I'm not Ella Fitzgerald but it came out really well."
Erica adds, "In the end the harmonies sound like the Andrews Sisters. We're very proud of the song because it was foreign to us. You have to challenge yourself and not always do what's comfortable for you. With the big band, we were just trying a few things out!" Move over Andrews Sisters, here come the Campbell Sisters!
Across the album, the girls' confidence in their faith comes through clear and strong. They often draw on personal experiences for inspiration and this comes through most powerfully on the song, "I'm A Believer." Erica is unashamed about her faith. "We're not asking questions," she says. "We're letting people know it's the real deal. 'I'm A Believer' is straight about our testimonies. We had a fire at Christmas time and it was right in front of my mom's room and my four little sisters' room. Had we stayed at the house, there is no way they could have got through the fire because we had bars on the windows. But for some reason my mother decided that something wasn't right and they went and stayed at my aunt's house. At three o'clock in the morning, the police phoned to tell us that the house was on fire."
Tina tells her story. "The song talks about me having a car accident eight years ago when my car flipped upside down," she says. "My car got totally destroyed. The roof caved in and all the windows busted out. But there was no glass on me! No scratches and no scars. There were no pains and no whiplash! The car was totalled and I was facing traffic but guess what? I ended up on the island. My car was flipped up in the air and I didn't end up in the traffic. That's nothing but God. You ask me why I believe? Because God saved my life!"
There are two songs which bookend the album musically. "The Real Party" has an unstoppable dance mix and the catchiest party groove you're likely to hear this year. "That song is bananas," admits Tina, "but if you need a breakthrough in your situation, the best thing you can do is start shouting, dancing and praising God." Erica adds, "The song is so hot and it sounds like a party so that's why it's called 'The Real Party.'"
At the other extreme, "Yesterday" is a throwback song. It all started when Warryn Campbell sat down at the piano and began playing in an old blues-gospel spiritual style. Erica started writing the lyrics and it just grew from there. Erica explains, "We kept some of the original scratch vocals because they were really good. Warryn added strings and horns and it's a huge song now." Lyrically it's a moving song as the duo sings, "I had enough heartache and enough headache. I've had so many ups and downs. Don't know how much more I can take but I've decided that I cried my last tears yesterday." Erica is confident, saying, "I guarantee that somebody is going to cry when they hear that song. The lyrics are so strong. Whatever devastation you've had in your life, you can't let it keep you down because that was yesterday and today is today. If you're still living in yesterday, you won't appreciate God's greatness for today."
Now that the album is completed, Erica and Tina have ideas about what they want to see happen. "I hope that this album changes lives more than anything else," says Erica. "I want people to hear it and be encouraged to keep going. We want people to hear the record and respond. We're going to continue to do what we do and do it Mary Mary style. We're going to go out and be funky and fun. We can't help being that kind of people. Ultimately, we're just two girls from California who love God and are glad about the talent God's given us."