By Deardra Shuler
The Bronx is going to be filled with praise and jubilation when gospel artists and 3-time Grammy winners, Mary Mary, open Lehman Center for the Performing Arts 31st season with an exclusive debut appearance on Sunday, October 9, at 7:00 p.m. The performing arts venue is located at 250 Bedford Park Blvd West, in the Bronx, and is blending different gospel genres by featuring the contemporary gospel of Mary Mary and the traditional gospel of Jubilation. Jubilation is also Grammy award winners having won a 2010 Best Traditional Gospel Album for Oh Happy Day.
Songwriters, Mary and Tina wrote many of the songs on their current album “Something Big.” Starting off their career by touring with several gospel groups and performing in gospel stage plays, they occasionally found themselves doing back up singing as well. The duo sang with Brian McKnight and toured with Eric Benet for a while. “We learned a lot about the music 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, when writing the music for Something Big, we simply sat down and picked up pen and paper and just allowed the inspiration to come. We did not force it. We do not start thinking about what is playing on the radio or what do the record 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.
The road can often reaps havoc on a performer’s family life. However, Tina and Erica have managed to make things work by oftentimes taking the kids on the road with them when possible. “Being a mother comes first and foremost before being Mary Mary,” both singers declared. “Between school, nannies, husbands, music, and careers we find a way to make everything work,” said Erica who is presently pregnant with her third child.
Mary Mary has 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 these disasters. 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.
Although the ladies are award winners, having garnered two American Music Awards, an NAACP Image Award as well as a BET Award, they say their biggest reward is their fans. Being able to touch their fans and in some way affect the lives of those around them. “It’s important to make a difference in the lives of others and our communities. We try to give hope through our music, inspiration and encouragement for people to go out and get involved and do something for the elderly and for those in need. If people can donate monies they should but there are all kinds of ways to give. By using your gifts and resources, skills and abilities, volunteer or lend a helping hand. Get involved with your churches and those services that offer outreach to others,” said the duo who are themselves conducting a “Do Something Big” campaign, wherein they implore folks to think big, love big and provide big service to their neighborhoods, friends, families and community in general.
Born in Inglewood, California, God and music has always played an essential role in the sisters’ lives. After studying vocal performance at El Camino College, they eventually met songwriter/producer Warryn Campbell, who is now married to Erica. Warryn has been an important factor in the sister lives. He helped themsecure a song publishing deal with EMI, and remains their long-time producer and collaborator. Coincidentally both sister’s lives have parallels since both are married to unrelated men whose surname is Campbell. 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 their hits “Heaven,” “Yesterday” and “The Real Party.” A Mary Mary Christmas album brought even further success.
“Although we have performed in the Bronx before we have not performed at Lehman Center until now, so we are looking forward to turning out the house with our particular style of inspirational music,” both singers stated. “We want our music to offer hope. To be uplifting and to let both young and old know there are all types of gospel music, ours is inspired by R&B, jazz and praise. You simply have to be dead if you do not feel something when listening to our music because we make you want to get on your feet. It’s all good. So we encourage you to get down to the box office and get those tickets to come see us,” said the ladies.
Interested parties can obtain tickets to the Mary Mary concert at the Lehman Center Box Office, by calling 718-960-8833 and/or by going on line at www.LehmanCenter.org. Parking is free.