The spring months are now upon us in the year of our Lord, two thousand and eleven. As the winter ice begins to thaw, and the budding flowers hint of new life on the horizon, a change beneath the surface is also under way. For platinum recording artists Mary Mary, a similar change has been in place since early 2009. It was at this time when they first entered the studio to begin work on their sixth album, aptly titled Something Big. The “something big” referenced in the title mirrors that of an undisputed life truth: Change is inevitable.
The change embraced by sisters Erica and Tina Campbell was rooted in a sincere belief that it was time to expand their sphere of influence. For the past decade, the group dominated the gospel music charts in a manner that could only be rivaled by Kirk Franklin.
But saving and re-saving church folks was never good enough for the sisters. They needed to go bigger.
As if right on cue, bigger they went with Something Big. The album, which is set to hit stores March 29, marked a purposeful quest into the unfamiliar territories of mainstream music, where more impact could be made, and, ultimately, more lives saved.
But this journey didn’t come without cost.
With every gospel album sold using melodies and instrumentations often reserved for the club comes a steady stream of criticism from purported gospel music purists. In their eyes, the group had somehow sold out and bastardized the Gospel.
Erica and Tina barely flinched in the face of such talk.
“Whenever you present something to the public, you open yourself up to public scrutiny,” Tina shared. “That’s something that doesn’t bother me because, in my heart, I believe that I am completing God’s assignment. He put us on this earth to touch people in a special way, and I believe that’s what we’re doing. To me, that’s all that matters.”
Erica agreed. “We know that we aren’t going to please everyone with our style. And that’s OK … that’s OK.”
One would expect the murmurs to subside after one platinum and three gold album releases, along with a boatload of awards to boot. One would also expect the pair to place added pressure on themselves to re-create past glories — a point that Erica was quick to shut down.
“We don’t try to chase what we’ve done, and we’re not in competition with anyone else for that matter,” she explained. “We just know that God has given us a gift, so we try to make excellent music every time out.”
Point well taken and certainly justified by the album’s first single, “Walking.” With its sunny, mid-tempo melody and pulse-pounding bass line that drives itself into your subconscious, “Walking” encourages listeners to walk the walk and not just talk the talk of living right. By embracing life, mistakes and all, the impressive single reminds one to take it one step at a time.
Even the sisters deal with this concept on a daily basis.
“I’ll be the first to tell you that I make mistakes,” Tina said with a laugh. “But never have I tried to paint myself as a perfect person. I make mistakes just like the next person when it comes to being a mother … or just a woman in general. But I make sure that I learn from those mistakes and use them to help me be a better person and a better woman.”
The sincerity in her response was unmistakable, as the mother of four seemed intent on sharing her own vulnerabilities as well as those experienced with her sister during their decade-long run together in the music industry. Through those peaks and valleys, the sisters found peace in the increased fellowship with God as well as a heightened awareness of why they’re ultimately here.
“In everything that we do, our intent is to show our love for Jesus,” Erica pointedly explained. “That’s why we’re here, and that’s what you will get in our music.”
It’s a simple understanding of one’s purpose that we should all hope for.