EBONY.com caught up with powerhouse gospel vocalist Erica Campbell and husband, Grammy-winning producer Warryn Campbell, to discuss their new TV One series, We’re the Campbells, as well as new music, a proper Mary Mary reunion, Snoop Dogg’s entry into the music ministry and more.
Make sure to check out EBONY.com all June as we celebrate Black Music Month with some of your favorite artists and original content, including ‘10 Fresh Gospel Acts to Help Get Your Praise On.’
Televisionwise, we know you guys from WE tv’s Mary Mary. How did We’re the Campbells end up on TV One?
Warryn: My wife just so happened to be a part of the TV One family already with Radio One doing her morning show. I thought that since we weren’t doing the Mary Mary show anymore there may be an opportunity for us there, so I called an executive over at the network and pitched it over the phone and they loved the idea!
Why did you guys decide to sign up for another reality show?
Erica: In my opinion, TV is an awesome medium that allows you to reach so many different people. Even when we did the first reality show, we wanted to showcase a Christian family and a couple who are happily married, and we wanted to continue that. We wanted to show that we continue to go through our ups and downs and how we deal with them, which, hopefully, is encouraging to viewers. We wanted to keep that going.
How do your kids feel about the cameras in your home? Are they shy? Are they complete hams?
Erica: [Laughs] I wouldn’t say they’re complete hams, but they’re not afraid to show their personalities or of letting the camera catch them being themselves. Also, because of what we do, they’re use to people asking questions, so they’re pretty chill with everything.
Warryn: Now, I have a different opinion. I think our kids are hams!
Warryn: Absolutely! Especially Zaya. If there’s a camera around, she feels like she needs to be in front of it. She says it herself! She’ll ask me, “Am I supposed to be filming today? Can I film today?” She loves being in front of the camera. As soon as the cameras come around, she starts acting silly and everything.
Would you two say being on reality TV has weakened or strengthened your marriage? Or have the cameras had no effect at all?
Erica: I don’t feel like the cameras have had any effect at all.
Warryn: Me either. We were who we were before the cameras. To be fair, if you look at most reality shows, especially over the past 10 years, they’re about people who are either trying to become something or used to be bigger and want that recognition again. They hadn’t done reality shows where people were in their prime and didn’t have to make up content out of nothing. They just followed us around, as we were, and put it on TV. It didn’t change the relationship, it just broadcast it. Reality TV is fine if you are secure in who you are.
Erica: In a relationship, whenever there is an underlying problem, the real of who you are is going to be seen. If you have issues, if you’re insecure, if there are problems that you don’t address off-camera, the cameras can sometimes highlight them. It definitely shows you things about yourself because most people don’t watch their lives, they just live it. Seeing your life played back makes you say, “Oh, that was harsh,” or “I didn’t mean to say it like that,” which leads to off-camera discussions so you can handle those issues privately. When you don’t really love each other for real, sometimes what you see played back can really hurt and break your spirit and the relationship.
Erica, you’ve done so much within the realm of Christian music, from traditional to what some would call “trap” gospel. Where are you musically right now?
Erica: It’s funny, because I don’t see myself headed in a particular direction, I just love music. Each song is dictated by how we feel. Sometimes, my husband will wake up in the middle of the night and make a track and we’ll find a melody together. It’s really directed by God and not motivated by what’s happening or trying to compete. I’ll literally be singing to myself in the house and Warryn will say, “Let’s record that.” It’s about being open to your creativity and allowing it to do what it wants to do as opposed to forcing it. It’s very organic.
Warryn: Well said.
Erica: Thank you, husband!
We saw you and your sister Tina reunite for the 2018 Stellar Awards. Are there any plans for a new Mary Mary project?
Erica: Absolutely! I don’t think Mary Mary will ever go away, but as our lives got busier with more kids and our individual ministries and solo stuff, it’s become all about scheduling and timing. But yes, Mary Mary will definitely be making another record–that is if our producer Warryn Campbell is willing to work with us again. Are you, Mr. Campbell?
Warryn: Look, as their producer and head of My Block [Records], we are owed another Mary Mary album. I don’t care if I have to sue my wife and my sister, we getting another Mary Mary album [laughs]!
Do you miss anything about the group aspect of creating and promoting a project?
Warryn: I’m not a part of the promotion process, but when it comes to creation, there’s this superstrong chemistry that me, Erica and Tina have when working together. I worked on both of their solo albums, too, which was amazing, but there’s something really special that happens when the three of us connect musically.
Erica: As far as the promo part, there’s the good and the bad. As sisters, we have a natural chemistry, but deciding things like, “What are we wearing? What time are we leaving? Who’s responsible for this and that?” All of that coordination is not fun at all. Once we actually get where we’re going though, it’s fun! Our bond is like no other, and I love spending time with all my sisters.
Snoop Dogg made his gospel debut at the Steller Awards. As two people who have worked with plenty of hip-hop artists, how do you feel about Snoop entering the realm of gospel music?
Erica: I’m totally fine with it! Snoop’s been telling us he wanted to collaborate since around 2003. Seriously, every awards show, every red carpet where we’ve crossed paths, he’d say, “I want to do a record with you.” I think he just finally had the time to do it. He told me he let his mama hear it and she liked it, so he knew he was on the right path [laughs].
I think everybody evolves in their own time. God is always shaping our hearts, always, and I’m proud that Snoop sat down and took the time to convey his love for God. I don’t think everybody was on board, but they don’t have to be, because when he stands before God, nobody else is going to be there.
When he asked us to feature, there was no hesitation. I’m honored to be a part of him stepping outside of his genre at a time when I’m sure much of hip-hop culture looked at him like, “What are you doing?” I think it speaks volumes, and I think he’ll be blessed for it.
Warryn: You hit the nail on the head. For me, I’m proud of him for doing it. We come from the same place, we both got our start at Death Row Records, and to see him survive all that and come full circle without losing who he is, it’s amazing.
We’re the Campbells debuts Tuesday, June 19 at 8 p.m. ET on TV One.
What's Your Reaction?
Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.