SISTER ACT: Mary Mary AKA Tina (left) and Erica Campbell
NOT content with making soul-stirring music and widening the fanbase of urban contemporary gospel, US duo Mary Mary have also undertaken the role of judges on the BET (Black Entertainment Television) show, Sunday Best.
The popular reality TV show singing competition, which is hosted by gospel legend Kirk Franklin, sees the Grammy award-winning duo – comprised of sisters Erica and Tina Campbell – join fellow gospel star Pastor Donnie McClurkin as judges on the show, which is best described as a gospel music version of The X Factor.
Mary Mary, who scored chart success with their 2000 hit single Shackles (Praise You), say they’re thoroughly enjoying the show.
“We’re have a blast doing Sunday Best,” says Erica, who, it was announced last month is expecting her third child with her husband, music producer Warryn Campbell. (Coincidentally, Erica and Tina both married unrelated men who both have the surname Campbell.)
“We enjoy experiencing the [competing] singers – as well as those who really should not sing but they think they can,” Erica continues. “It’s fun because we were in those shoes once; we were aspiring artists who thought we should have a platform. Now, we know what it takes to get here and then to do it well. It’s wonderful watching these singers on their journey.”
Born into a Christian family, the sisters’ faith remained with them throughout the years into adulthood, so much so that they chose to spread the gospel through music. Since embarking on their music career, the duo have earned both Christian and non-Christian fans, with their contemporary sound. In fact, their smash hit Shackles (Praise You), which transcended the gospel music arena and earned airplay on numerous mainstream stations, is widely acknowledged as being one of the best-known gospel songs of the modern-day era.
However, their mixture of R’n’B and hip-hop tracks, though laced with faith-inspired lyrics, haven’t been well-received by some Christian audiences, who feel that the group’s sound isn’t in-keeping with Christian values.
Notably, the pair received quite a significant backlash after collaborating with US rapper David Banner on their track, Superfriend. But Tina – who Erica says always tells it like it is – feels that the church needs to learn to be less closed-minded.
“I hate that when someone that’s Christian pairs up with someone who doesn’t necessarily represent Christian music, some people in the church have a problem with it.
“If you say you represent God – who is a God of love – why would you object to someone else, who represents something else, talking about their relationship with God and how that has impacted their life?”
She continues: “Jesus represented loving everybody. That doesn’t mean that He agreed with everything that everybody did, but He loved everybody.
“He didn’t condemn and bash everybody, so it’s not our job to do that. It’s just our job to share our message and let it impact the world the way it impacts the world.”
Having released their latest album Something Big earlier this year, the duo remain focused on their music and they say they feel good about the lives that they are impacting through it.
“All we will ever do is speak our truth, be who we are, be proud about it and try our hardest to represent the love that has been shown through our faith,” Erica says. “Some people will love it, some people will not, but we feel good about what we’re doing.”
Offering advice to other aspiring gospel artists, Tina said: “Don’t aim to make it in the mainstream industry, aim to be excellent and reach as many people as you can. That should be the bottom line.
“If you represent gospel music, you’re about representing God in a big way. If you’re focus is ‘I gotta be a star’, then your heart cannot possibly be into the message that you’re promoting.
“Your heart has to be in the right place and you’ve got to want to reach as many people as possible.”
Sunday Best in on BET (Sky channel 191), every Sunday at 8pm