How would your describe your new, unique sound, and how is it different from what you’ve been doing all these years with Mary Mary?
Well I’ll tell you what I was listening to, and where my heart and head were when I was making this music, especially “A Little More Jesus.” I was listening to Janis Joplin, The Beatles, John Legend, Michael Bublé, and then of course the gospel stuff that I listen to. I wanted it to have a stronger edge than Mary Mary. I know a lot of people when they hear “A Little More Jesus” think country, I kind of think more rock ‘n’ roll. And because I’m by myself now, there’s just a different freedom because I don’t have to be mindful of the move is here, she stands here, we do this now… I’m on autopilot when it comes to Mary Mary, but it’s still the mechanics of the movement, the placement, who goes where. Now it’s wherever I want to move, whatever I want to sing, if I want to scream right here I can, if I want to drop to my knees I can. There’s no reservation with anything. So I tried to put that feeling into the music. So with each song I was able to approach it differently. I didn’t want it to sound like I was taking Mary Mary music and throwing it into a microwave, warming it up again, and re-serving it to the people. I wanted to steer clear of the real funky, urban music that Mary Mary has done. I wanted that to be that, and this to be this. Just yesterday I had an epiphany, that me and Tina didn’t start out as a group. I started singing by myself as a soloist in my choir, and when she was like 17 she was super shy. Super-talented of course as you can see, but really shy. And when we sang together for the first time, I think I was 19, and it was a coincidence. She had a best friend named Erica who wasn’t there, and they just asked me to sing [with Tina] and I was like OK. No rehearsals, no nothing. And it worked like magic, and we were like oh, that would be cool, and everyone was like, ya’ll should be a group. Then when I met [my husband] Warren he was like ya’ll should be a group, so that’s when it happened. And I was fine with that. But my original dreams, the dreams that I had when I was like five and six, or 12 and 13, was what I wanted to do by myself — how I wanted to stand, how I wanted to hold the microphone. I mean, I would lay out on the bunk bed and play and imagine what my commercials sounded like… It was all kinds of stuff, and so now it’s like, wow God you didn’t forget. You blessed me with something fantastic, and I wouldn’t trade Mary Mary for anything in the world, it was fantastic to do all of that with my sister, but now I get to hear my own voice, think my own thoughts.
Is there anything in the process of recording and now promoting your new solo album that you’ve learned about yourself?
I’m stronger than I thought. Everyone calls Tina the strong one, even in my family with all of my sisters. Tina’s strong, she’s aggressive, she goes after what she wants. I’m always laid back and I’m never put in the position to have to talk. Tina’s always gonna overtalk me, even if I wanted to say something you gotta fight to to get in the conversation. But now my thoughts are different, because I don’t have anyone to rely on. Some stuff I didn’t even have to worry about because I know she’s going to send an email, she’s gonna call, she’s gonna do that, so I only had to worry about certain things in the group and we’d both kind of play our parts, me being more creative and Tina being more aggressive when it comes to the details and connecting with people. I miss her. It can be lonely, there’s lonely pockets in doing this by myself, so I have my sister GooGoo with me, cause I couldn’t just be out here with no sisters at all. You want somebody there. I tell her why are you not dressed up? Why are you not… And she’s like, “I don’t do… That’s you! I’m not Tina, I’m GooGoo.” So I’m trying to wrap my mind around just being me. It’s fun, but it takes some adjustment. Fourteen years is a long time, but now I’m just enjoying being myself and growing I think as an artist and as a woman. Now I’m looking at myself through different eyes and I kind of like Erica. I love Mary Mary, but Erica’s pretty great too.
Would you describe your family as the Cosby’s of gospel or the Will and Jada of gospel?
I don’t think we’re either. When it comes to me and my sisters, we’re the Atkins girls. Or the Campbells. I feel like we’re defining our own space. I wish I was more Cosby-esque, mom being a lawyer and dad being a doctor. It wasn’t that, but not quite Will and Jada either. Just somewhere in the middle that’s very normal, very dedicated to our faith and our God, but very regular people who lived in an urban neighborhood where the church was on one corner, and the liquor store was on the other. The drug house was behind us, and the thugs lived across the street. But my house was what it was. And people knew that Mr. Atkins was taking care of his daughters and they knew that we would have a good time, but we would only go so far and we wouldn’t cross the limits, because my parents was running the house for sure. So yeah, we’re kind of forging our own way and I hope encouraging other Christian families, or other artists that battle with if they can have a family and be committed to their faith and still be successful and commercial at the same time, some delicate balance and mixture of all that. I’m just liking this journey a lot, and my family is right along with me. That’s the best part. Tina is definitely my biggest supporter, absolutely, and I love that.
Where do things stand with you and your manager Mitch? You kind of lit into him on last week’s episode of your WE TV reality show Mary Mary, and we’re all dying to know what happens next.
I’m very big on resolve. What you will not see on the show is that we’ve had many conversations since then. I’m the boss and so I hire who I want, and nobody is going to scream at me and insult me when you’re getting paid by me. It just can’t work that way. And you’re gonna holler at my husband and my sister, and insult the integrity of what I’ve done for the last 10 years? That means that you don’t belong on this team. So, keep watching.
Erica Campbell’s hit WE TV reality show Mary Mary airs Thursdays at 9/8c, and her solo debut album Help is available in stores and online now!
Want more of Erica Campbell? Tune in to VH1 Soul this Sunday between 8am/7c and 4pm/3c as VH1 Soul airs her exclusive gospel video picks! #MaryMary @ImEricaCampbell @VH1Soul