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Award-Winning Gospel Duo Releases ‘Something Big’

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
June 16, 2011

The duo Mary Mary has reigned over the gospel charts for the past 10 years, yet their sound has crossed over to many genres, including jazz, hip-hop, R&B and pop. They have won three Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards and an NAACP Image Award.

Their first hit “Shackles” brought the duo big success in 2000, but it was the 2008 record-breaking “God in Me” that propelled sisters Erica and Tina Campbell to international fame. Now they’ve come out with their sixth studio album, Something Big. During its debut week, the album sold over 42,000 copies and scored one of the top spots on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart.

During a performance chat with Tell Me More, the sisters talk about growing up with parents — a choir director mother and youth minister father — who barred all music but gospel from their home. But, Erica says, “The music that we did have was so amazing to us. I didn’t feel cheated or slighted; it wasn’t boring. It was cool, it was funky, it made them feel alive. In that respect, we were born to do this.”

Erica Campbell says she wanted to sing starting at age 5. At Christian school, when everyone else read scriptures, Erica sang. And on Easter, when others delivered speeches, Erica sang.

By contrast, Tina Campbell says she did not exactly want to sing at first. “I’m a perfectionist. I was very self-conscious. So I was totally comfortable having fun and being the life of the party, but when it came time to do something serious and I knew I wanted to be completely perfect, I did not want to be in the eye of the public.”

Tina says her first studio was the space behind the couch, where she sang Clark Sisters songs into a recorder. Around age 16, she says, she realized she had a musical gift. Then, at age 20, she got much more comfortable and realized, she says, that she was born to perform music.

Their name, they explain, comes from two notable women in the Bible: Christ’s mother Mary, who was widely considered perfect, and Mary Magdalene, whose flaws and life improved after receiving Jesus’ love.

The sisters say they have their feuds, particularly over song choice and administrative and creative issues, but also about simple things like time.

“We quit Mary Mary at least six times a year but always come back because we realize that what we have together works. It’ll be more effective together,” Tina Campbell says. “Plus, we can’t break the family up,” she adds jokingly, then says to her sister, “You got to come to the family reunion and family functions just like I do. This is going to mess up the taco party!”

What’s next for Mary Mary? More people, music, inspiration, love and transformation, they say.

“When we started off with the album titled Something Big, we didn’t know all that it would evolve into, but we knew it was something that was put in our hearts and our heads and our minds,” they say. ” ‘Something Big’ is not just the name of a song — it’s a movement.”

With a new campaign, they encourage their friends and followers to do something big. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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