Mary Mary on Grammy wins & an Entrepreneurial 2010

Twelve years ago if you were to tell sisters Tina and Erica Campbell that they would be three time Grammy winners, have a platinum selling debut album and three Gold certified albums, they would have probably laughed in disbelief. Gospel music rarely crosses over into the mainstream charts and any artist – regardless of their genre – is extremely lucky to have a career that spans over ten years. “Sometimes I look around and I have to pinch myself to believe that this is really happening. Did I really achieve all this?” says a very humbled Erica, one half of acclaimed gospel duo Mary Mary.

She begins to reminisce, “Tina and I use to share a tiny apartment, so when I look back it amazes me how far we’ve come. I have to thank God for all he has done for us, he has really blessed us and for that I’m truly grateful.” With the guidance of producer Warryn Campbell, Tina and Erica were making a name for themselves in the late ’90s within the Gospel music scene. But it was 2000’s hit “Shackles (Praise You)” that put the duo on the map and broke them into the mainstream market. “I had no idea the single would be that huge” she says. Performing under the name Mary Mary, the single was a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic and their debut album Thankful – released later that year – went Platinum.

A decade later and five albums down the line the singers are still going strong and staying relevant in today’s music scene, with the last twelve months being one of their most successful years to date. They dominated the gospel and Christian charts and broke three Billboard records whilst picking up a host of awards along the way, including an American Music Award, Soul Train Award and, most recently, a Grammy Award in the Best Gospel Song category for “God In Me” – their hit single [from current album The Sound] which spent a record-breaking 64 weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

“Winning the awards never gets old. It’s still just as exciting as winning the very first one. The WOW factor never really goes away,” Erica says. You can feel the excitement in her voice. “With the Grammy’s especially, you know you’re up against the best musicians in the world, so it’s such an honour to just be nominated,” she gushes with a huge sense of gratefulness. “It’s probably even more rewarding now, knowing that after ten years we’re still making music that people enjoy.”

But Erica believes the awards and chart positions should not be the factor that defines an artist. “As great as the awards are, you should never let them validate you. Because what happens when you don’t win? Being true to yourself is the key,” she adds. “When you begin to believe the hype surrounding you, that’s when the line between reality and make-belief get blurred. I know who I am and I know who I’m not.” Family is a vital part in Erica’s life. “My mother keeps me very grounded. Whenever she tells me something I take note. I have a great family and really good friends.”

Long-time producer and Erica’s husband Warryn Campbell has been a very big factor in the duo’s success, playing a very influential role in the sister’s career from their first album Thankful, right through to current smash The Sound. “My husband is a very big part of my life. Not only has he been a huge part of Mary Mary, he also keeps me grounded and humble in general.” Her voice warms up in a bright way when she talks about her husband and family life. “We live a very normal lifestyle and just try to be the best parents we can possibly be.”

Things haven’t always been plain sailing for the Campbells. In April 2008 Warryn was diagnosed with a form of Kidney Cancer and had to undergo emergency surgery. “When I first learned of Warryn’s cancer, I was in a store when he called me,” she recalls. “I began to cry. Then when I left the store I let out the biggest scream. I was in a state of total shock, I just couldn’t understand why this was happening to us.”

Erica’s faith played a very big part in dealing with her husband’s illness. “After that initial cry, I made sure I was positive from then onwards,” she says defiantly. “We never once planned a funeral or even contemplated how life would be without him.” The devout Christian only focused on his recovery process and blocked out any negative thoughts. “Through the Grace of God he made a 100% recovery and was completely cancer free just seven days after surgery, without having to go through chemotherapy. I’m so grateful and extremely thankful.”

MM_TheSoundIn late 2008 Mary Mary were back at work and released their fifth (and current) album The Sound. It reached #1 on the Gospel and Christian chart and peaked at #2 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts and #7 on the Billboard 200, paving the way for an incredible 2009.  “It really has been an amazing year. I’m thankful and blessed for everything in my life and never take anything for granted.” She continues, “I know what a bad day looks like so I’m very appreciative of the good ones.”

The last year has not only been a successful one career wise for the sisters, but more importantly family wise. Tina gave birth to a little boy, TJ, three months ago and Erica is seven months pregnant with her second child. “I’m extremely lucky that I have the opportunity to have the career I love and still lead a great family life all well. I always make sure that I let my family know that no matter what happens they always come first.”

If 2009 seemed like a great year, the bar will be raised even higher in 2010; this year will see Mary Mary broaden their brand. Alongside working on their sixth studio album, soon the girls will launch ‘BE U’ – a product range that will consist of a bath, body and candle line, with a message that promotes “honesty, strength and integrity.” They will also be releasing a book of the same name on April 6th through Simon & Schuster publishing and have a clothing line that will be available in Walmart stores from June.

“We don’t want to limit ourselves to just singing,” Erica explains. “All the gifts and all the talents and all the entrepreneurial ideas that God has given us, we want to use them.”

Mary Mary are currently featured on the single “We are the world: 25 for Haiti” – All proceeds will go towards the Earthquake relief.

Mary Mary online: | @TheRealMaryMary

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