Mary Mary's Erica and Tina Campbell are God-fearing, Christian women, but that doesn't mean they can't let their hair down once in the while. The award-winning pair have been blessing listeners with spirit-filled gems since 2000's hand-clapping "Shackles (Praise You)," which solidified them as Generation Next's gospel ministers. Now, their latest effort "The Sound" delivers more of the good praise and worship that their fans have grown to love. ESSENCE.com caught up with the dynamic duo to discuss Christian stereotypes, their new line of bath and body products, and whether it's a sin to love God and sex.
ESSENCE.COM: Your new album, "The Sound," is as inspirational as your previous works. How has today's political, social and economic climate influenced your music and vice versa?
ERICA CAMPBELL: Gospel influences the times and the times influence gospel music. I'm stressed out by gas prices and irritated with the economy like everyone else. Everyone is just trying to excel, win and enjoy life. I'm trying to do all those things but making sure that God is at the head of it all.
TINA CAMPBELL: Honestly, when we write all of our songs, we don't think too hard sometimes about the material. Sure, we take note of what's going on in the world, but we're inspired to be authentically creative first, which means going with what we're feeling. Of course whatever is happening in your life will affect your material. We have songs about forgiveness, helplessness and so many diverse topics.
ESSENCE.COM: Which song lays the foundation for this album?
ERICA: "Get Up" is so important to me. It speaks to those procrastinators who are constantly in chill mode. I know firsthand, because up until this very album, I was still second-guessing myself and overanalyzing, and saying I need to sing this way or that way. I made every excuse in the world about why I felt like I wasn't doing my best. It's also inspiring because it motivates you when you think you can't do anything more. My husband [Warryn Campbell] was diagnosed with cancer one week, and by that following week there were no traces, and within six months the doctor gave him a clean bill of health. You never know what's taking shape in your body or life, so you have to stay up and get up to make things happen.
TINA: (Laughs.) I don't know how she could choose; there are so many songs! I'd have to go with "The Sound." It isn't about the worlds you hear but the tone, emotion and passion expressed when those words are spoken. It is in how someone [emotes] that they begin to believe what your expressing through the passion.
ESSENCE.COM: So I hear you two spa junkies are blessing us with a new bath and body collection. What inspired the launch and what is the significance in its title, Be You?
ERICA: We put our hearts into making Be You. It will speak to women and we hope will encourage and inspire them to be themselves in every way. Be beautiful. Be honest. Be everything God intended you to be. And we truly are spa junkies but we'd love the idea of helping the ladies pamper themselves. There are quite a few spas we frequent, but now we can bring a little of that good feeling to all women with Be You.
TINA: Bath and body line Be You will be picked up by Wal-Mart in December. The concept behind the name is that we have principles. Be beautiful. Be intentional. Be honest. And just be you. You are much better when you deal in and speak truth. When you be yourself, you won't allow your life to happen by chance; you will put forth your best effort to make sure your hope and dreams are realized. So we encourage every woman to be her unique self.
ESSENCE.COM: There are often debates about whether single Christians can love God and sex if there only choice is to abstain. What are your thoughts?
ERICA: I think the choice should be abstinence. [Sex] is such a beautiful , irresistible thing that God created so that a husband and wife can share an undeniable bond. It wasn't meant for selfish gain because it's too beautiful to be taken for granted. When you share intimacy with your husband, it's a difference, and I know what I'm talking about because I've been on both sides. Not only is it loving, but there's security. I know some might argue husbands be tripping and you get divorced, but when you do it right and it's God's right, there's a certain amount of maturity that you develop as a couple. Women don't want to be responsible, but you are cheating yourself out the fullness of marriage and sex when you [sleep around]. A preacher once said, "If God made anything better than sex, then he left it up in heaven!" (Laughs.) It's not for kids so it's not to be toyed with, and that's when you start having problems, like diseases you can't get rid of, single mothers and fatherless children, because of unnecessary casual sex with random partners. When you get married, then you do what you will, and you shouldn't feel because you're a Christian you can't do certain things with your husband; that's the time that you blow back out and he blows yours.
TINA: Sex is one of God's greatest top five creations! God made it so a man and woman would be able to procreate, and that's a beautiful thing to be able to bring life into this world and make existence happen and leave a legacy. It was also created to be enjoyable, but it can be very hurtful and damaging when it's used in the wrong way. A woman who has no ties to a young man as far as a lifetime commitment and thinks he'll want to spend forever with her because she chose to give herself to him freely often finds herself stuck with a baby with no husband, which means that child will never truly have a healthy balance or know what a family truly is.
ESSENCE.COM: What's the one false perception folks have about Christian women?
ERICA: The biggest misconception is that Christian women are boring; we don't like to have a good time; we're scared of everything; we don't go to the beach because we can't wear bathing suits and it's just silly. I remember I was walking down the street In New York and some dude hollers, "Hey, Mary Mary, those are not gospel jeans you're wearing!" And I said, "Well tell me where to buy "gospel" jeans!" and then he was like, "My bad, you look nice." It's just funny, and while I am thankful that you want to show me respect, people need to understand that we're normal and don't have to feel like they have to tell us to listen to gospel, or that their parents go to church, and that we say hello and not praise the Lord everywhere we go.
TINA: That we are not normal; that we are perfect; and that we don't have lives. I lives my life, enjoy myself , my family and my choices. I'm not mad at anyone who chooses not to live by God's standard because no one is perfect or great, but I don't have to do what a non-Christian does to enjoy my life. Nor do I have to walk around and say hallelujah all day long. Overall, we're normal people who let God lead their lives.