Erica Campbell: ‘Help’ Is Here
When platinum selling duo, Mary Mary, released their hit single “Shackles”, they helped to usher in a new sound for Gospel music. That song was a certified success and catapulted The Mary’s to incredible heights in the music industry. Fast forward nearly 15 years, and they’ve earned multiple Grammy Award nominations, are 4-time Grammy Award winners, have 7 chart topping albums under their belt and have a mega-hit reality series on WE Tv. Now ready to take the music world by storm as a solo artist, Erica Campbell, has released her debut offering, “Help”. Having already received her first Grammy nomination as a solo artist, for her debut single “A Little More Jesus,” at the 2014 celebration, “Help” brings a fresh sound to Gospel music and is sure to touch the lives of all who listen. With everything that she has happening, and in between her promo tour for the album, Erica Campbell spoke with Heed Magazine about “Help”, creating her sound, and embarking on this new journey as a solo artist.
Mike Sanford: How are you today Erica?
Erica Campbell: I’m good, how are you?
MS: You know what, I’m really good. Thank you so much for giving Heed Magazine this time!
EC: You are very welcome!
MS: So, I’m going to jump right in! My first question for you is what has been the most fulfilling part for you about recording your debut solo project?
EC: That I actually did it and it wasn’t an idea that stayed on paper. That it wasn’t just a conversation. That I wasn’t too afraid of change and to actually branch out and do something different. That’s the part that I’m really proud of. You know, a lot of times people have really great ideas and dreams and aspirations and they take them to their grave. They never actually do it. I could have very well just stayed in Mary Mary and not do anything different, but I wanted to take that chance and I’m very glad that I did!
MS: And I’m very glad that you did it too! I was listening to the project and it’s incredible!
EC: Thank you!
MS: It really is, and I especially love “The Question” and “You Are”. “The Question” caught me off guard because I wasn’t expecting it start off that way, and “You Are” has a sick groove!
MS: So, I can tell that the album is very heartfelt and sincere, especially with the themes of the songs. What do you want listeners, both Christians and non-Christians, to take from this project?
EC: I want them to be inspired, I want them to be encouraged and I want them to know that God is our very present help in the time of trouble. No matter where you are or what level you are on in life; whether you have a great relationship with God or if you don’t know Him at all, He can be and will be your help. No matter what you’re dealing with, you won’t stay in a broke down place forever. You know, it’s how I feel when I listen to the music. My 2013 was a crazy year! At some points I did feel like it was going to break me, but it didn’t! I made it through and in the middle of that year I was making music that encouraged me to look up, when everything around me seemed to be falling to the ground. So, I hope that’s what people feel when they listen to the record.
MS: That ties right in to me next question. You’re latest single, “Help” with Lecrae is an extremely powerful song and I guess we can all relate to that song, but for you personally was that song was birthed out of a personal experience?
EC: Absolutely! That was indicative of my whole last year, you know? I’ve been in the fire so long, I can’t get burned no more. Thought you were putting out the flame, but it was rain from the storm. All of that is just what I felt like and I could only cry out for help. That’s all I could do because God is the only one I would call, because He is the only one that can repair and fix and that’s just what He did! I’m able to smile!
MS: And sing about it, and make incredible music!
EC: Yes! [laughs] Exactly!
MS: So, do you think it was a risk for you to put out “A Little More Jesus” as a first single? Thinking about the trend in gospel music, it’s very different, and in the best way! Was it a risk for you at all?
EC: No, because I know that the song is great. And I know that it’s very different, but I’ve never in my life followed trends. That’s never been my position at any point in my career, so as a solo artist I just kind of continued in the way that I always have. Me and Warryn were actually listening to the likes of Janis Joplin and rock bands from London and I think for very soulful music, it’s either looked at as church or rock n’ roll and for me it had more of a rock n’ roll feel. Like, if you listen to old Elton John records, or rock bands from London, they all have that element.
MS: It’s funny that you’re saying this, because I was trying to relate the project to a ‘sound’ and it does sound like British Rock. It makes sense.
EC: It was kind of a throwback to the 60’s, when Black music was Black music and we were actually proud of being artists that did Black music.
EC: Even if you listen to all things Motown. They became popular doing what they did, and that’s what I want to do. I want to do what I do best. I don’t want to try to do Pop or what anybody else is doing, I want to do what I do best and let that infiltrate the world and impact it because it’s so honest and so pure. I think a lot of times, especially in our genre, other cultures can do our music and really win and we’re still trying to figure out ‘what can I do next?’ I just say be true and what you do and they’ll listen, they’ll hear.
MS: In listening to the project, I could hear elements of what your fans have grown accustomed to hearing from you with Mary Mary, but I can also hear your evolution as well. Was it hard for you transitioning from the ‘Mary Mary’ sound to the ‘Erica Campbell’ sound?
EC: Not really, because with the absence of one there’s only the individual. You know, Tina wasn’t there writing so it was just me, my thoughts and my heart. I actually called her to the studio a few times…she didn’t come…but she did help me write “A Little More Jesus”! She wrote the second verse, but that was it. She would just listen to the finished product and cheer me on and tell me how much she loved it. Actually, when I did the song “Help”, she was like ‘I need that song in my life! I need to listen to this everyday!’
MS: I think we all do!
EC: That was very awesome for her to say that she needed the music. That means a lot to me.
MS: Was it hard for you stepping out in this season on your own? Because I know how it is singing with a group or singing with someone. You know that the other person is there or the other people are there. Is that sometimes difficult for you?
EC: Absolutely! I mean, Mary Mary is kind of on autopilot. We know what the songs are, we know how we present them to the audience, we know the band, we know our cues, and everybody has a system and how it works. You know, this is all brand new. If I need to stop and drink some water, I actually have to stop! I can’t go ‘Tina, keep it going for me’ you know? If I have to catch my breath, I’ll have to sneak a quick one in because the next note is still only mine! So, that’s been a bit of a challenge in figuring out how to make sure I keep the stamina. And the thing is, I’m in Mary Mary, we have the reality show and I’m a solo artist, so my body has been kind of taking a beating. So, I really have to learn to balance things better and say ‘no’ sometimes. I have to make sure I take care of me, because if I’m not good, I won’t be good. I have to be healthy in order to do all this stuff and still be a mom to 3 small children all under 10. You know, it’s not the easiest thing in the world!
MS: Well, by God’s grace, you’re doing a pretty good job! So, thank you! [laughs]
EC: Thank you! [laughs]
MS: You’re very welcome! You know, one thing that I like about you, Tina, the Mary Mary brand and Warryn is that we know that you all are Christians, but you have been successful at taking that message into a bigger arena. How do you balance being a Christian artist with being in a secular arena?
EC: It’s not really hard because I feel like it’s what I’m called to. The church that I was born and raised in and even my father who was a minister, he always had an unorthodox ministry. We went to the jails, we went to the prisons, we sang in the roughest parks in LA where there were a bunch of homeless people and people doing drugs, and we would go and give them Jesus in a way that they understood it. So, I feel like my music and ministry has been an extension of that. When Warryn first started doing music, he said he wanted to impress his father by saying, ‘I’m never going to do anything but Gospel music’. And he said his father told him ‘don’t confuse your salvation, with your occupation’. Now, don’t let your occupation run all over your salvation! But God wants us strategically placed in other areas so His light can shine everywhere! Everybody is not coming to church; everybody is not picking up the bible; everybody is not listening to your music! But if you put your music where they are, you have a chance to infiltrate and to be change agents and take Jesus in places where they don’t usually have a welcome sign for Him. If I carry the light, my light is most effective in darkness. You’re not really going to see it if I walk in a room with people who are already Christians. We’re supposed to go to church to get refilled and get empowered to go out into the world and draw people who don’t know. We’ve got to be smart enough and wise enough to introduce Him in a way where they understand that He loves them, He cares for them, He understands them…you know?
MS: Yes, I do know. What, if there are any, is one misconception about you that you’d like to dispel?
EC: One misconception about me? I don’t know!
MS: That’s good!
EC: I promise you, I try my best. The church I grew up in, the pastor was my uncle and he would say, ‘as far as I know, everybody love me and I love everybody and don’t you know tell me anything different’! The negative doesn’t empower me. I’m not the one like ‘I’m doing this for the haters!’ No, if you love come on board, but I’m not going to waste my breath on someone that’s mean mugging me. Why give them that much of my attention? It doesn’t deserve it. I do know that everybody is not a fan. Some people question my salvation. I guess that would be the biggest thing. They question my salvation and my true intentions to please God and give people God. That’s sad.
MS: It’s really sad when people do that. My last question for you! Why should people buy this album?
EC: Because you need it! If you need inspiration, if you need motivation, if you need to know that God is your very present help, you need this record. It is musical, it is not traditional, it is creative, it’s honest, it’s heartfelt…it is Erica Campbell, it’s me.
MS: Excellent, is what it is! I mean, I love it!
EC: Thank you, thank you! [laughs]
MS: Is there anything else you want to share with us Erica?
EC: Get the record! Buy the record, and listen to the whole record. Don’t cheat yourself by just getting the single!
MS: And that’s really important! I’m glad you said that, I guess I do have one more question. [Laughs] How important do you think it is for people to buy the complete record? There’s continuity in that and you can lose the integrity and intention of the record when you only buy singles.
EC: Absolutely, and we’ve always made sure we made the record an entire journey, an entire feeling that connects and is cohesive, as opposed to feeling like a roller coaster. You’re going up here, down here, around the corner; you don’t know which feeling you’re going to feel next. We’ve always tried to sculpt and create the records in that way. Warryn has been a genius when it comes to that, because that’s all his doing and I hope that people pay attention in that way. I think that’s the downfall of the music industry period because people don’t have to buy music. They can go to Youtube and listen to it, so they’re not mentally in that space, so you have to work a little bit harder and make it so that the music is so good that they have to have it! So, I created music that I hope people say, ‘I have to have it!’
MS: And I pray for nothing but the best for you! You’re a hard worker and I can tell how much passion you’ve put into this album. I’m looking forward to it soaring on the charts and everybody loving it and listening and giving you a chance as an artist! So, thank you for this moment!
EC: Thank you Mike! And you are welcome!
Check out her new video for “Help” ft. Lecrae
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Facebook: Erica Campbell
All Photos © 2014 Derek Blanks & Sterling Photography