Erica Campbell prepares for her greatest challenge yet

Words and Photography by DeWayne Rogers; Makeup by Ashley Gray; Hair by Tre Baines; Styled by Darryl Anderson

Erica Campbell could probably use a nap. That assessment may sound like a harsh critique of the beautifully kempt mega talent, but the observation is actually meant to be a sign of both concern and respect. As a member of the record-breaking duo Mary Mary, the goodwill built up by Campbell and her sister, Tina, is hard to argue against. Just drop the name Mary Mary, and you’re guaranteed to have a sold-out show with thousands of adoring fans lined up to catch a glimpse of the long-standing sister team.

But that’s not what Campbell is up to these days. Currently, she’s on the promotion trail alone, ministering as a solo artist with twice the message, but half the team. It’s a journey that has found her going above and beyond the normal call of duty for a press tour.

With such a rigorous schedule, it’s no wonder that Campbell can be found on the set of her photo shoot with rolling out closing her eyes from time to time just for a brief respite from the grind. But once those eyes reopened, we saw a woman intently focused on spreading the gospel in a way that’s both totally unorthodox, and completely needed in today’s time.

This is the journey of Erica Campbell … and she’s enjoying every last second of it.

You’ve been on the road nonstop promoting yourself as a solo artist. In fact, it seems a lot more rigorous than a typical promo run for Mary Mary. Are we correct in that observation?
The promotion for Help and Help 2.0 has been pretty rigorous. So many people know me from Mary Mary so that’s what they’re used to, and when you’re introducing people to something new, it just takes some time. I understand how much work it takes to really get people to see, feel, respect and pay attention to your ministry, your music, and what you’re trying to convey to the world. So it requires a lot of travel, shaking hands and smiling. But it’s good. As long as people get the music and the message, then I’m doing my job.

Do you think this campaign requires more than the traditional style of promotion?
Being Erica Campbell definitely takes more than being Mary Mary because we have 14 years of history, and 14 years of music. We also have Sony, who is a very big machine. And while being with My Block and eOne is amazing, it’s not as large of a team, so it takes a little bit more work and dedication to reach the people. But I feel like we are doing a very good job, so I’m enjoying the whole process.

What is the feeling and connection that you’ve felt from your new single? How has the response been?
The response to my new single, “I Luh God” has been great. The song helps me share that I know I would not be here if it were not for the help of God. In church you need something to praise to, but you also want something to turn up to. So I decided to put it all together in a song. People were calling it “trap gospel,” but I really don’t know what trap music is so I just did what I felt. My husband created the track and it was banging and we just went with it. I just hope people hear my heart. I know that everyone won’t and that’s OK with me. I’m so unbothered by all of that because I know my purpose and I know my goal. And anytime that you know your purpose and your goal in life and you know beyond a shadow of doubt who you are and what you were put here to do, then they can’t tell you who you are.

How did you get to the point of knowing your purpose and not caring about the opinions of others?
For starters, I love who loves me. So if you don’t love me, then you don’t have the right to speak into my life or speak about my life. Now, I know you’re going to have your opinion. You can even have a whole blog bashing Erica Campbell 24 hours a day … but I’m not coming to that site. Why would I waste my good gospel energy on a person who doesn’t like me?

How has traveling the world and meeting different people changed your perspective on God?
Traveling the world just opens your eyes. You go places and you meet different people and you find out that we all cry, we all rejoice, we all love, we all want to be loved, we all get discouraged, and [we all] ask questions. So as I travel different places and meet different people, I remind myself that God is not Black, and he’s not Pentecostal … he’s God of the world. So whatever continent you’re on, God is there, too. It really can make you more selfless because we can all be so self-absorbed and think that everything revolves around us, but it doesn’t. Traveling the world helps me see that.

Recount a time when you got an unexpected reminder that your life and career were on the right track.
Tina and I were doing an event called “Women of Faith” and it wasn’t just a concert, there was also comedy, music and dancing. So at the end of the event, we did an autograph table and this girl came running up to us really frantic. She said that she was an atheist, but she heard “God in Me” in the club, and loved the song. She said that she went and bought the record, but when she listened to the first song she thought, “I don’t want no gospel record ­— what is this?” But because she loved “God in Me” so much, she listened to it and at first she thought that maybe she’ll just go to church once. She ended up going to church and giving her life to God. It changed her whole life. She was crying and saying thank you so much. To me, that’s better than any award, a Grammy, or even a million albums sold. It’s better than the most famous person in the world talking about how much they love my music. To change someone’s life in that way is priceless. I think that’s the kind of stuff that makes God happy. That’s the only reason I do this.

Do those moments outweigh the tough industry moments? The music industry seems to get tougher by the day.
The music business is tough … but I am tough. To whom much is given, much is required, so you may be in a little more pain than the average person. And you may have to work a little harder, or endure more than the average person. I mean, my sister Tina … look at what she went through in front of the whole world. Everyone will go through problems, but how you deal with them is very important. How I deal with the fact that the industry is very crazy is important. I can go through this industry, and be complaining about it all the time. But I won’t do that. If you’re in it, just be in it.

How important is it for you to be able to sleep at night with a clear conscience?
Sleeping well at night is very important to me. Looking in the mirror and liking what I see is very important to me. I have worked in a grocery store; I’ve been an assistant to a hairstylist. I’ve been a girl that just sold programs at the theater and there were people who were nice and there were people who were mean … I never want to be that mean person. It should never be your intention to hurt someone … that’s so ugly. If you feel good being mean to somebody else, then you need to look at yourself differently. If I’m the odd girl out because I want to be nice to people, or I’m the odd girl out because I’m married and I actually submit to my husband, then so be it. I love my kids, I love my husband, I love my family and I love God.

 

Go behind-the-scenes with Erica Campbell for her exclusive photo shoot with rolling out.

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