Contemporary gospel duo Mary Mary have seen many titles precede their names. From ‘Grammy winning’ to ‘best-selling’ and even ‘ground breaking’, the Californian sister act have seen their musical wings span across multiple genres in the music industry. A feat which has won the two-some about as much acclaim as it has criticism.
Nevertheless, the sisters – Erica and Tina – press on to enlarge their territory. Most recently nabbing their own reality show on WeTV (aptly titled ‘Mary Mary’), fans get to a side of the ‘Shackles’ singers like never before.
Recently dishing on the hit series with That Grape Juice, the soulful siblings chat talk about everything from the inspiration to the show, criticism from the haters, and even their thoughts on transitioning to R&B!
A great read indeed, get into it all below:
Mary Mary Shout Out That Grape Juice
TGJ: We love your new WeTv show. Whose idea was it to do a reality show? How did it come about?
Erica: The concept was actually presented to us. We had been in a lot of meetings about being in different kinds of reality shows and by the time we finished the meetings, the executives would always tell us: “why wont we do a reality show about you all?”
We weren’t really sure if we wanted to do one about our lives. But after going through countless meetings and always hearing that, we thought, “perhaps we can inspire beyond our music, perhaps it may be good to let people in and see how we make Mary Mary work and what all goes on behind the scenes”. It was a little scary going in, but we’re glad we made the decision to do it.
TGJ: As are the million of people watching every week. So, Why WeTV?
Erica: WeTV was just a perfect fit for us; they’re about family, they’re about women, they’re about telling your story. When we went in to have a meeting with them in New York, when we sat down we felt like they understood who we are and what we wanted to do and what we wanted to achieve with this show. The very first time we met with them, we knew it was the right place to be; WeTV was just the perfect fit for us.
TGJ: As one of the most successful gospel acts of all time, did you have any apprehensions opening yourselves and your world up to such a large, and varied audience?
Tina: Of course! Initially we were wondering how would people perceive us. People know us just from doing our music and they know what we select to show them, what we select to answer in interviews and all of that kind of stuff. When it comes to who you are when you’re on stage, when you’re off stage, when you’re really in your own personal space… it can be a little scary. When you open yourself up to public scrutiny that’s what they do, they scrutinize. We realize we don’t have perfect lives, but we have a pretty good life and our faith that guides us when we are making music is the same faith that guides our lives.
We have a high standard that we require from ourselves when we are on stage and off stage, if people can’t see who we really are through what might not seem perfect, what they might not agree with every little episode, if they can’t see who we really are and know that we’re good people with good intentions, good family, we love each other, we might have conflict but we resolve it. If they can’t see that, that’s them. You’re not going to win everybody, but there will be a lot of people that will see that. That’s what kind of gave us the push to go ahead and do that. It’s amazing that the responses we had have shown that that’s what people are seeing.
TGJ: Congrats on recent birth and pregnancy announcement how was it adjusting to cameras during such a personal time?
Erica: I don’t think people saw the nicest side of me while I was pregnant. I’m always willing to work, as you see. My patience was really, really thin but I think real women understand that. They understand what it means to be in front of people and deal with your hormones all over the place. I have to say for me, what you guy are about to see unfolding about me in the pregnancy on the TV show, I didn’t really want all of that to unfold on the TV but because we did sign up and agree to have our real life shot on TV. There were some moments that you would kind of prefer cameras were not around but happened [anyway] because the cameras where following us while it was happening. Who want to have a moment where you feel vulnerable, or weak, or not this big strong inspirational person that the world see you as?
Tina: It would be totally hypocritical for us to sing about our salvation if we’re Christians on stage and off stage, but be too embarrassed to show our lives off stage because it wasn’t as Christian as we sing about. That would be sheer hypocrisy. I feel good about the fact that we can show that we are honest with ourselves, with our lives, with our relationships with God. What we are determined to do is always show the results and that even if we do screw it up, we make our best effort to get it right. So far, that I feel good about it.
TGJ: We are proud as well. What would you say are your favourite reality shows beyond Mary Mary?
Tina: T.I. and Tiny’s show…that’s something I’ve watched [but] I don’t really have a favourite reality show. I have to be honest, I don’t watch a lot of TV. I don’t even see myself on the television. Most of the time I’m gone or consumed with life responsibilities [because] as we said we’re mothers of multiple children, so if it’s not one thing it’s another. Ice T and Coco, I think that show is a really good show.
Erica: I have seen quite a few episodes of T.I. and Tiny. I’ve watched Brandy and Ray J, we’re friends with them. But as far as consistently watching a show it’s kind of impossible with our schedule.
Tina: I like to laugh, I like drama. Not chaos, not fighting, but a dramatic story unfolding. All of what you see in reality is constant fighting, everyone stepping on this one to get ahead but nobody think positive of anybody but themselves. It seem like it’s all about selfishness and just being rich and having a bunch of material things. Honestly I can’t connect with all of that. I like to see stuff that I relate to. I can’t relate to hating all the other women and all the men in the world, not being a real mother because it might mess up your celebrity, or going out all day everyday shopping and trying to numb everything else in life by buying diamonds and jewellery and buying clothes.
TGJ: So shifting onto the music, you’re new album ‘Go Get It’ hits stores on May 8th. What can fans expect from the set? We hear it features both new and classic material.
Tina: Oh my God, let’s just speak to the single ‘Go Get It’. This song is like your “complete and total motivational anthem”. It’s that song that speaks to living life with great expectation, especially if you’re a person that know you’ve prepared, you planned, you put the time in, and you are just ready to win and you will not accept anything else except the championship. This is the song for you. This I how Erica and I have lived our lives. We haven’t had the typical gospel career and we’ve been able to go beyond a lot of the boundaries and limitations that are set for faith based music because we don’t see boundaries and we don’t see limitations. We don’t adhere to them, we just go after what we want and we believe that we can get it because our faith tells us that we can have it. So that’s what the song ‘Go Get It’ is about. You can dance to it, you can boogie to it, you can get peep up to it!
Erica: You can work out to it!
Tina: Right, this is all of that. We have another song called ‘Sunday Mornings’ that is going to be on there – that’s a great song. I think a lot of our base will love that song. We have a lot of songs that people love and gravitate to that have not necessarily been singles that we have revamped so they feel like they’re brand new. So you got something old that feels new and something new.
TGJ: Anyone you haven’t worked with that you would like to work with?
Erica: I would love to work with David Foster, he’s an amazing producer. I’m really a big fan of big pop music like Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Michael Buble. So I would love to do a song with him, that would be amazing I think.
TGJ: Which acts are on your iPods?
Erica: Robin Thicke, Karen Clark, Kirk Franklin, Brandy, Beyonce, Donnie McClurkin. It’s a montage of gospel and R & B. Oh, you got to have Adele in there.
Tina: I think people will be amazed at what I listen to. In my iPod I have Francesca Bascachelli, who is a Christian artist (she’s amazing). I don’t have it yet but im going to get the Isaacs, I’ve got Luther Vandross, Rascal Flatts, The Canton Spirituals, Michael Jackson (all the time), Mary J. Blige, Mary Mary, Soul Seekers. I like music you can feel. I like music that makes you think and puts you in whatever they’re feeling make you feel it. I like that kind of music. It could be blue grass, country, soul, hip-hop, whatever. I think Jay Z is amazing, I got some of his stuff.
TGJ: In many ways, Mary Mary are fascinating to both supporters and critics. For, unlike any act before (and arguably after you), you’ve managed to not only fuse a contemporary sound with gospel, you’ve adapted well to today’s means of “selling” your music and brand. By that, we mean things like the reality show, as well as looking great with the hair, make-up etc.
Erica: We have to be really careful. We are very protective of who we are because everything is not for sale and everything is not able to be negotiated like my faith. I am a believer period, hands down. So if there is something that people want to do that put that in question, we wont do it. Whether it’s a collaboration or wearing something or being a part of something. I have to sleep well at night. Even before it gets to the people, before it’s a Mary Mary issue, it’s an Erica/Tina issue. Everything we’ve don’t up to this point, I feel good about. Some people have been supportive and some who are industry have not, but it’s okay if they don’t understand everything. We know that we have made good decision and good people around us to make these decisions. You just move forward, certain thing about the industry I don’t even worry about because I don’t want to be part of those things. That not to bash anybody or their lifestyle choices. You wont see Erica hang on the corner, certain things happen when people get more famous, that not me.
Tina: We’re very confident in the decisions that we make. We’re not kids anymore, we’re not new to this business; we’re not new to success to the hype and all that. We’ve been through those stages and that’s not to say we’ve made good decisions through all of those stages, but at this point and stage in our lives we’re very confident in the decisions that we make. We are confident in the team and people that we surround ourselves with, very confident in our vision that we have, and who we are as people. So we’re not swayed by more or less success, not too much by people’s opinions. You want to make your fans happy and you want people to continue to support you. You cannot base who you are and everything you do based on ‘well everyone likes this’ and as I said, we use our own integrity, we use ‘what makes me sleep well at night’ as out gauge for what we will and not participate in. We can’t do that because if we where always trying to gauge what the people like, we will never make the mark, there will always be somebody that doesn’t agree with you. Fortunately for us there have been a lot of people that have been very blessed and inspired by what we do, so we take that approach to life and it’s been working so we’re going to continue that way.
TGJ: Secular music is oft criminalised by some sects of the gospel community. Being more open to it (as per what’s on your Ipod), is R&B (for example) an arena you’d ever visit – even if briefly?
Tina: I have no desire to sing R&B music. I love it and enjoy it as well as other styles of music, but I don’t have a desire to sing something that is not my greatest passion. My greatest passion is gospel. It’s how I live, it’s who I am, it’s who I will always be. That’s not to say I would never participate in a song that is not a “faith faith” song “so to speak”. I will never sing a song that contradicts what I believe, what I stand for, what my morals are. I find no fault in love songs, I find no fault in talking about life, but in terms of my artistry I feel like the best I can give the world is singing gospel. So that’s what I’m always going to do.
Erica: Ditto, 100%
TGJ: MARY MARY has seen alot of “firsts” associated with their name. What is the next “first” you’d like to see attached to your name?
Erica: Wow. The first to sell our Madison Square Garden, The O2 arena, either or.
Tina: I’d love to see us do well with a children’s line. We having babies every two years now. We got so many ideas that we put on hold because it conflicts with what we are doing with Mary Mary, would be wonderful to take them ideas of the shelf in the garage and actually put them into play, but as Erica said we would like to literally sell out every arena we go to, in every state, in every country that we go to there is Mary Mary…… until we get there we’ll die trying so to speak.
TGJ: With Mary Mary being the only charting girl group that has withstood the test of time, over a decade, what advice would you give to other female groups on the come up who too want to sustain?
MM: The relationship that you’re in with the person you’re working with is the most important. You’re going to have highs and lows in your career, you are going to have hits and misses, you’re going have some records that people love and some records not so much, and you’re not going to win every single time. If you’re committed to who you’re in a group with and if you make good business decisions, you will last. That’s truly what I believe. I think we’ve seen some incredible groups come and gone because of relationship differences and not being able to handle business well together.
Don’t let one minute of frustration screw up a lifetime of greatness. That what happens with a lot of groups, one bad negotiation, one bad tour screw up, one bad decision and you lose a lifetime of greatness because you cant get over that moment. If you’re committed to fame and stardom, you’re going to fail hands down. A team of one never wins, you need a great team around you. You absolutely do, so don’t think you are the only thing that’s great in the whole equation. Understand what you have and don’t screw it up on some personal stuff, some ego stuff. You’ll find yourself sitting at home saying wow we used to be something back in the day not anymore.
TGJ: Granted we’re currently watching season one of the show, are there any plans for a season 2?
MM: It’s going pretty good up until this point. We will say this everybody continue to tune in and keep your fingers crossed.
TGJ: And final question, when the dust has settled, how does Mary Mary want to be remembered?
MM: A group who loved what they sang about. Two women who had integrity on stage and off.
Catch ‘Mary Mary’ the reality show, Thursday nights (9/8c) only on WeTV!