In spite of what has historically been my music preference and the irony that is my personal beliefs, I’ve developed into quite the supporter of the ladies of Mary Mary since meeting them back in 2012. Needless to say, that was pretty late in the game considering they broke into the music industry in 2000, but I was familiar long before our interview and have caught up since. In the last couple of years we watched in support as Erica Campbell found solo success, cheering her on every step of the way. Almost simultaneously we watched Tina Campbell go through some very hard times in her personal life, literally before our eyes thanks to their WE tv reality show, Mary Mary. Without a doubt, we knew Tina would bounce back bigger and better and that time is now. Tina thanks her restored faith as well as her refocusing on the Bible and the word for leading her to the release of her debut solo album, It’s Personal and her first book, I Need A Day To Pray, both being released on May 7th. It’s nearly impossible to hear Tina’s story and not be motivated and inspired. When she sings, she captivates, and she holds the same power when she speaks, particularly when it’s about the love she has for her Lord and savior, her feelings for her husband, Teddy Campbell or even the message she hopes to spread through her book and album. We discussed it all in our lengthy and thorough interview.
Parlé Magazine: So let’s start off with the upcoming solo album, It’s Personal. I know you said this wasn’t a project you planned to release, and it just came to you. Talk to me about some of the emotions and thoughts you put into this.
Tina Campbell: Every feeling and emotion that a human can have, that I’ve had in the last year is on this album. It came from a reflection on my life, my situations, and a reflection on God, and his ability.
Parlé: The lead single, the inspirational song, “Destiny.” Tell me about what you were going through when you wrote that.
Tina: That’s a song I wrote before I was through my situation, but I had been praying and I had been trying and I was trying to just change where I was and change my situation, change the way I was thinking and apply my faith that everybody in the whole wide world knew me from singing about but it was hard to apply and adhere to any of those while I was going through my situation. “Destiny” is a song that reminded me to see myself where I planned to be and not where I was. Faith is not about what you see, faith is about what you believe and hope for. Keep believing, keep hoping, keep being determined to make it through this, grow through this, be better as a result of it, all because you put your faith in God.
Watch Tina Perform “Destiny” for the first time here:
Parlé: At what point did this music go from being your therapy to being something bigger?
Tina: All of these songs are extremely personal. I wasn’t trying to put a record out, I was singing these songs to myself, to help myself and remind myself to strengthen myself. Now I’m able to share them with the world and hopefully they can help someone else in the same way they were able to help me, remind me and strengthen me and encourage me. It’ll be their reason to dance as oppose to their reason to cry, it’ll be their reason for hope as oppose to feeling despair, it’ll be their reason to smile and look forward as oppose to looking behind them.
Parlé: This album is definitely more of a contemporary Gospel album as opposed to a lot of the Mary Mary stuff people may be more familiar with, is that right?
Tina: Um, it ain’t like Mary Mary. I don’t know how to classify this record but it ain’t Mary Mary.
Parlé: You have the song with Stevie Wonder on the album, “Love Love Love,” tell me how that came about?
Tina: On one of my really good days when I feeling good about my relationship I wanted to write Him a love song. So I just started walking down the street singing, ‘all I feel for God is love, love, love.’ And so when I got in the studio with Warryn Campbell, I told him I want it to have a Motown feel. In the middle of him putting music to it, I’m like ‘oh, what if Stevie Wonder sang this song with me?’ When you say that kind of stuff about legendary people you don’t think it’s going to happen, it’s just like a little girl saying, ooh, I want to marry Michael Jackson. You just say it because it’s something to say. But then my husband, who’s good friends with Stevie said, “you want me to call him?” I was like, ‘yeah do that.’ I’m familiar with Stevie, he’s familiar with me, we’ve worked together on a couple things but we weren’t up close and personal where I’m like texting him or anything like that, but my husband has a relationship with him like that. I wasn’t even thinking about it like that. My husband calls Stevie and two days later he calls him back like, “absolutely, I want to do it.” So I’m sitting here with my mouth open like, ‘did the man just call Stevie and Stevie said he want to do it?’ It was challenging actually getting together because he’s got a busy schedule, we’ve got a busy schedule, so it was maybe nine months in the making.
Parlé: We saw on the show that you told Warryn that you didn’t want to put the project out on his label, but obviously he worked on the project and that’s great. Did he do anything besides that record?
Tina: Yes, yes, yes! Warryn produced four songs on the record and it’s quietly kept, but Warryn has been one of my biggest consultants on this record. Warryn knew that this process was extremely personal and he is my brother and he’s amazing at what he does but he is a label and this was personal. The personal agenda that I had was just to share the music, share the message, I don’t care how it does, I just know whoever gets to it, it’s going to have a great impact. Warryn is my brother in law, he respected that and he understands that and he produced more songs than any other producer on the project. So he’s very involved in the project. And he’s proud of me for putting it out independently.
Parlé: So the project is officially independent, I know early on you were considering your options, tell me what it came down to in the end.
Tina: Yes, just me and my husband, our label Gee Tree Creative. I knew when I decided to put this out I couldn’t just just walk this into a label and do a traditional deal. First of all I will never do that again because I realize I was giving away all my power, all my creativity, all of my ability to get wealth in exchange for a big deal and a big advance check. I basically gave up the rights to something God gave me to benefit from. And that’s what a lot of people did by going with the traditional labels. A lot of people did benefit but for the most part everyone makes more money than you off of your creativity. And then you pay back everything that you got off the small percentage you got off the record. So this time I didn’t want to do that. I knew this time I didn’t want it to fall into a corporate system that has it’s own agenda and ‘this is how we put a record out, this is what we pursue and this is what we need to do.’ I didn’t want to do that because I knew that this music was literally just about me healing. I want to give this music to people to heal. Not to be number one, not to go number one, not for a label to throw it away if it doesn’t do well or sell a certain amount of records before a period of time. I don’t dislike the labels because they do serve a purpose and can help build your career, but I couldn’t put it in a corporate system that’s so agenda driven. I didn’t want it be misconstrued.
Parlé: No distribution deal either?
Tina: I thought I was going to do a distribution deal or a mild deal to get some assistance from a label but it didn’t work out that way. I am literally putting this out by myself and sending it to be pressed and distributed. Me and my husband are the entire label, distribution and publishing company. We’re doing a lot, a lot of work and figuring out a lot. In the past we’ve had great teams of people to work with us and the truth is I don’t know everything that these people do and before I could even learn it all I’m faced with doing it all myself. I’m learning a lot and I’m learning to respect all of the different people who have worked for me and in all of these different capacities. I’m learning to respect it all a lot more now that I’m having to do it myself. I haven’t had the time to equip myself with the right personnel to do these things because I didn’t even think, I just started doing it. Before I knew it I couldn’t stop to hire some one because I got deadlines to meet. But me and my husband, we’re working as a team to get it done. When this comes out it’s going to be another miracle. Here we are, not knowingly executives, we’re utilizing a lot of friends and a lot of people with a lot of ability and a lot of wisdom, but we’re facilitating it all ourselves.
Parlé: How’s it coming along thus far?
Tina: We’re coming along. It’s a lot of pressure and a lot of challenges but we’re coming along, Gee Tree Creative that is. And I’m very, very proud of that because every single piece of this work we have had to do. So I’ve learned a lot, more than I’ve learned being in this business all these years up until now. It’s great because it’s probably preparing me for things that my journey and my life will probably consist of in the future anyway.
Parlé: Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about the book, I Need A Day To Pray. I’ve heard pieces of what will be featured but what should readers expect from your first book?
Tina: The book was my personal journey to God. I wasn’t trying to write a book for nobody I was just in such a broken place. I was living this “happy life,” but I had a miserable life. I had a fulfilled life but I had a frustrating life. I had a lot of things that I wanted but I was not happy with a lot of what I supposedly wanted. My life was just confused and unhappy. I started writing this prayer at the end of 2012 and then all these things started happening in my life, with my relationship and you know with my father dying, getting sued and changing our whole team, all this stuff started happening within 6 months of this prayer that I started. So I was like God, there’s so much confusion and discontent going on with my life, I don’t want this. I’ma take some time off, I’ma pray, I’ma get refocused and centered and God’s going to help me through this. I did not know all the extra things that God was going to need to help me through, but when all these things started happening in my life I just kept adding more and more to this prayer. And I was just trying to keep my sanity through it all, plus I have five kids that need their momma. I was adding to this prayer every single day, all day because the Bible says that God’s word will do exactly what it says. So I figured let me get into this Bible and find out what God is saying about my life because this stuff will come to pass. This is the only option I have any way because money ain’t working and fame ain’t working. My husband can’t buy me back because I ain’t that type of chick. None of the things we’re trying is going to remove the pain. Thirteen months of counseling wasn’t helping as much as what I was reading in the Bible. Nothing is going to bring my daddy back. And we’re still getting sued. I still got these kids, I can’t throw my life away because they need a momma. I’m dealing with all this stuff. So I’m writing this prayer to help me with all these different areas of my life and I just started compiling what I called my 2013 prayer, confession and declaration because it was what I was praying, what I was confessing and what I was declaring over my life. And now I’m living all that stuff.
Parlé: I know there’s been talk of a play too. Tell me about that.
Tina: Needless to say your girl is over here trying to do everything. It’s funny, when I first thought to do this, I didn’t think it out. If I had thought it out I would have put the brakes on it. First of all, you not a record label. First of all, you not a publishing company. First of all, you got five kids. First of all you’re still doing Mary Mary, how you gonna start a new career and do it all by yourself??? First of all, you’re not a promoter, you’re an artist. If I would’ve thought this out I wouldn’t have gone through with it. If I would’ve been thinking with my regular logical reasoning, I would’ve said there’s no way I ‘m doing all of this. But I didn’t think. And if I can be blatantly honest with you I am feeling the pressure of the decisions I made right now because I am doing a tremendous amount of work and no one person should assume this much responsibility. It can drive you up the wall. But I am hopeful that just like God has worked out every other area of my life through prayer and believing in him and just continuing to work, not stopping and not looking back, it has benefitted me more than anything I have ever done in my life.
With that said, the play is going to happen on May 30th. It’s where I will have an opportunity to combine the music of the album, the message of the book and the testimony of how all it makes sense together in a dramatic presentation called An Evening With Tina Campbell. It’s kind of a kick off to my tour that’s going to happen in the Fall.
Parlé: I want to switch gears a bit back to the Mary Mary show. You are now four seasons in, to have this type of success as positive sisters making Gospel music, what does that mean to you?
Tina: I don’t generally look at it this way, that question generally is not at the forefront of my mind. What I can say is that integrity will take you far. Erica and I have always stayed true to what we believe in, true to ourselves and when you sign up to do a reality show, not a scripted up, doctored up show to help us grow our brand, we signed up to share our lives. We stayed true to our identity. We stayed true to our faith even though you have ups and downs and you have moments where sometimes you want to consider, should I walk away? We allow all of our truths to show for the world to see, for you to gain something beneficial from it and for you to scrutinize as well. And we did it even considering all that. All the shameful, embarrassing moments that the camera is on and you have to work through. There are countless shows that are cancelled before a second season. We have four seasons with a promise of a fifth one. And the show is successful and means a lot to the network and to television amongst women on a Thursday night. It’s not just the Gospel chicks throwing their religion around. It’s us living our real lives, showing you how we live our life when we not at church, reading the Bible, singing or being inspirational. Sometimes when that is a part of our lives, we let people in and again it’s been able to garner great ratings and get much support. We’ve been able to share our faith and it’s been helpful to a lot of people. I’m grateful to be able to say that I’ve stayed true to who I was as a Christian, as a Gospel singer, I didn’t have to sell out and become something else, I didn’t have to be pretentious and create what I thought people wanted, I was just myself. Good, bad or indifferent I stuck to my faith, I stuck to what was true in my heart, I let my integrity lead the way and it paid off. I’m grateful to say that because there are a lot of people in music and other forms of entertainment where that’s not their story. They have to sell their soul to tell their story. It’s wonderful that our integrity and being true to our faith has paid off. The only other show that was reality based that was of Christian faith and was able to open the doors for our show was the Run show, Run’s House. But the truth of it is that he was already a mega celebrity because of the iconic status of his group.
Parlé: It may be because both you and Erica have solo projects now, but on the show this season and a lot of what I’ve been seeing on social media has been Erica Campbell vs. Tina Campbell. I want to get your honest thoughts on that.
Tina: Me and Erica, our life is never Erica vs. Tina, it’s Erica for Tina and Tina for Erica. Yes, we may get into it on the show, it wouldn’t be TV if it didn’t show more of our disagreements than our agreements. Any time we have a bad day, every time we have a disagreement the show seems to show that, why? Because people seem to be more interested in that. They don’t show all of the making up, or they show a very brief moment of it but the truth about TV, they’re more drawn to the drama. That part gets frustrating for me because sometimes I have to get through several episodes before we get to the making up and the fixing it at the very end, and that’s very frustrating because the truth of our lives is we don’t wait months and weeks to resolve things, we get over things immediately. Our parents made us do that when we were growing up or we would’ve gotten our butts beat—no one likes to talk about that anymore because they call it abuse—we were not abused, but our parents were not having it. You ain’t holding no grudges, you not being mad, you not living your life being in opposition to one another because we are family. That’s how our parents raised us and it’s gone on into our adult lives and we still maintain that. So the show will show the break ups more than it shows our make ups and it will show our mess ups more than it will show the fix. It will show the problem, more than it will show the solution. But Erica and Tina are each others biggest supporters. We are the best of sisters. Teddy will probably be my best friend first and foremost and Erica’s husband would be her best friend first and foremost but we probably got that second spot with each other. We love each other, we ain’t in competition with each other. I’m not Erica, I’m not trying to be Erica, she’s not me, she’s not trying to be me. The world can put us in competition with each other and do all those things but I would suggest that they don’t because that’s not our truth. We’re real sisters who really support each other.
Parlé: Got it. That said, what is the latest time line for a new Mary Mary project.
Tina: I’ma tell you the truth, I don’t have no date for you, but we are not abandoning Mary Mary forever. We’re not that kind of group that’s like, ‘I’m tired of that group, now it’s time for me to be solo,’ that’s not us. Mary Mary is the business if I could just say it that way. I’m a fan of Mary Mary and that’s the reason why anybody in the entire world knows me. Mary Mary has given me and my sister a platform to grow together, to use our creativity, to share it with the world and be embraced. Why would we be mad at that? Solo success is great but Erica and I know that we have something that is great together. And furthermore Mary Mary is personal to me. Before I was writing a song to encourage myself through this, before Erica was writing a song, it was Mary Mary’s songs, the new ones that are not even out yet that I would just play over and over again to encourage myself and get myself out of the pit. I’m totally looking forward to getting back with Mary Mary but I don’t know when it will happen, just know that it will.
Parlé: Bringing things back around to the new projects, it’s about to be a very busy time for you. What do you want listeners and fans to understand from everything you’ve got coming out?
Tina: I just want them to understand that God is everything and your life ain’t going to be the best it can possibly be without him. I want people to know that faith is real and it works if you work it. I want people to know the Bible ain’t fake, Jesus ain’t no trumped up story, or some myth when you need something to hold on to. The Bible is real, it changed my whole entire life. And when your life is changed and you make it through some horrific situations that made you question if you would ever get through or be the same, or ever be good afterwards, my truth is yes. And it was all because of this faith. Is everything absolute and perfect in my life? No. But do I feel like I have the best life I can ever have? Yes. Because everything has worked out for me. I want to show people that you can heal, you can live again. The love for my husband is nothing short of remarkable even though it was everything horrible, but it’s just remarkable and with this music and this book I’m able to show people that.
Parlé: On that note, just want to touch on something we’ve seen you mention on the show, the wedding album with Teddy Campbell. Have you made any progress on that?
Tina: (Laughs) The wedding album done got put on the back burner. I guess I can’t do every single thing. This year is our 15 year anniversary but I can’t put it out for that since I’m doing all of this other stuff. Maybe at some point in time it’s something we’ll put out, because it was really beautiful. It would be really awesome to put it out at some point but I just don’t know when.