Mario Interview

His album has been pushed back for over a year and his mother’s heroin addiction was documented in “I Won’t Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom”, yet Mario Dewar Barrett still finds a way to smile. In fact, he’s downright giddy. He’s excited about his new album “Go” and what the future holds for this 21-year-old singer/songwriter, producer and actor. Mario opens up to Rhyme Revolution about the effect the media had on his mom’s situation, his first album that comes with a parental advisory sticker and his new production team.

RR: Toronto misses you, man. When you coming up here?
M: Yeah Toronto. I got to get out there soon. Probably around the album, you know, we’re releasing on December 11th so I’ll definitely be there in the month of December.
RR: Cool. So “Go!” is only a few weeks from hitting stores. Are you satisfied with how everything is coming together?
M: Well, I’m satisfied that we got a firm date! (laughs) December 11th is a firm date so I’m excited about that. It hurts me more than it hurts the fans to keep pushing the date back because I definitely don’t like to disappoint the fans. The project itself has been a masterpiece since the summer so I’m definitely excited for the fans to hear the finished mixed body of work instead of hearing it on the Internet!
RR: Besides the new album, what else can we expect from Mario?
M: Well, definitely more films. I have some projects that may be in the works top of the year. They aren’t in pen yet, we don’t have a contract. Definitely more touring, going out to the UK, I’m excited about that. And fashion, man! Getting into the fashion, you know, seeing me doing some interesting things in the fashion world.
RR: Like a clothing line?
M: Well, not a clothing line just yet, but more like runways and just really being on the fashion side, more fashion-forward. What else? More production. I’ve got a production team I’m working with on different projects.
RR: Now I want to talk for a minute about your MTV documentary. It takes a big man to be as open with their personal life as you have been. Why did you decide to share your story with the world not only through your music, but also in the form of a documentary?
M: We’ve been talking about doing it for a while. Well, before we even get into that, there were a lot of different press outlets that have put stories out about my mother and about me and, you know, no one can really tell your story better than you. Unfortunately as an artist, it’s like anything that happens that gets out in the public, you know, people take it and run with it. So for this to be out as a documentary, it’s all truth there. Nobody can fabricate any stories because you’re seeing what’s real. I definitely don’t regret doing it. It was something that was real, it was something that was very honest and you’re right, it does take a lot of courage and takes a lot of strength to do something like that. But I was dealing with anyway so it was something that made me the person I am today.
RR: So what kind of feedback have you gotten?
M: Everyone gives different feedback. I’ve gotten positive feedback. The most surprising feedback that I’ve gotten was from people who don’t buy albums, who aren’t into music, who probably have heard my records but never bought a Mario album. They’re people ranging from 30 (years-old) on up that have come to me and told me they’re very touched by the story and they can relate to it. More than anything, I’m surprised by how many people can relate to it. Sometimes you don’t realize that you’re not the only person that goes through something like that. It’s very powerful to see how many people go through or have been through the same situation.
RR: Exactly. Now what did your immediate family think of documenting this?
M: Well, to be honest with you. I haven’t really talked to anybody in my immediate family about it. I’ve got younger brothers, but they don’t tap into the television world like that. They already knew about it so they didn’t have a bad or good opinion about it, it was just support.
RR: Was it more difficult keeping your personal life a secret from the world or having a film crew follow you around and document your difficult personal moments?
M: It was more difficult having the world find out about it, you know, because you’ve got to defend yourself. They’ve got their own fabricated stories of what’s really going on. I’m an artist. I’ve been doing this for a while. My life, in some ways, has been on TV a lot. Even though this is more personal, after a day or two, you get used to the camera.
RR: Alright let’s switch gears now. Where do you take your musical influences from? Who does Mario look up to?
M: Musically, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, R. Kelly even as a writer and a composer. Man, there’s a lot. Even Clive (Davis). He’s got a great ear for music, he’s signed great artists and I think that he has a great love for music, so I definitely admire what he’s done for music.
RR: Where do you see yourself in the R&B game today? You’re only 21 but this is your third album. Do you feel like a veteran?
M: In some ways. I feel like musically, I have a lot of growing to do. And conceptually, I have a lot more to offer than just this album. I think this album just says, ‘Okay, I’m going to be around for a while.’ Usually when an artist gets to their third album and it does well, which it will do, it kind of puts a stamp on their career and I’m just happy to be at that point where I can definitely say my third album is an incredible project and still have time to grow and show my fans and other people new things and new concepts musically.
RR: Your musical introduction to the world was your Biz Markie-inspired “Just a Friend 2002”. Your follow-up lead single on your second album was “Let Me Love You.” How do you feel about your current lead single, “How Do I Breathe”?
M: I feel like it’s a great record. If I could go back I definitely wouldn’t have put that record out first.
RR: Why not?
M: Well, I just feel like my fans already heard that record. They already heard a record like that. It was similar to the “Let Me Love You” vibe. But at the same time, for some people, they loved it. But I think I would’ve come with a different record, a different vibe.
RR: Is that the direction you’re going with your second single?
M: Oh yeah, definitely. There’s not another record on the album like “How Do I Breathe”. Every record is different. But “How Do I Breathe” made its own statement at the same time. It’s a very personal record to me, I definitely would put it on my album but I wouldn’t release it as the first single.
RR: So that being said, do you think the tremendous success of “Let Me Love You” – being the number 200 song played in radio history -- was both a gift and curse? A curse because it might be difficult to top?
M: Well, you got to think about it like this. When “Let Me Love You” came out, music was in a significantly different place. There wasn’t an R&B record out there like that. R&B was kind of lost and it was looking for a new direction. “Let Me Love You” gave it that direction. It was just a very special song. It was one of those songs that was perfectly put together, perfect concept, great music, it just made sense. And it made sense for where I was in my career. People knew I could sing so they wanted to hear a record with me actually singing something that meant something, something that was passionate. Could I create “Let Me Love You” right now? No, because it’s a different time. I have to create a record of this time where we are in music.
RR: Tell us about “Go!” How does it differ from your first two albums?
M: I definitely think it’s musical. I’d compare it to my first album before I compared it to my second album because the first album was way more passionate than the second. The first album was a classic. I was hungrier, I was fresh. The only thing I was focused on was my music. Whereas with the second album, I was getting into a lot of other things so I was kind of distracted. The passion wasn’t the same. This album kind of comes back to that passion for music and singing and for making records, so I’m excited about that.
RR: So you’re focused now?
M: I wouldn’t say I wasn’t focused, just that the passion wasn’t the same. My voice was going through a huge change and now my voice has definitely grown a lot and I use it in a different way then I used it in the second project.
RR: Who’s featured and who’s producing on the album?
M: I worked with Polow Da Don, who’s has “Crying Out for Me” the second single, we did that together. Pharrell, Timbaland, Akon, Collipark, Sean Garrett. I worked with Knightwritaz which is a production team I’ve been working with for a minute now. We’ve joined forces together and have made a lot of great records. And I worked with Ne-Yo, he’s on the bonus track for the Overseas edition.
RR: Is there a record on the new album that might surprise your fans?
M: “Do Right” with Akon. It’s a more introspective record. It’s very concept-driven. I’m talking about very personal things and it’s actually on my MySpace right now if my fans want to listen to it or you want to check it out. It’s just one of them records that’s more introspective than I usually go.
RR: Is it true that this is your first album that will come with a parental advisory sticker? Why is that? Are you getting your grown & sexy on?
M: I didn’t plan to put the parental advisory sticker on. There’s just one song on there that has maybe a curse word or two and its’ just more aggressive than any record I’ve ever done before. It’s just more edgy, it’s more risky. It’s actually the record “Go”, the record I did with Pharrell. Nah, it wasn’t planned! (laughs) Getting your grown and sexy on doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to curse. We just let people know if you listen to it, there’s gonna be a curse word. It’s law. If I don’t do it, they might sue the label or sue me and the label definitely doesn’t want to be sued so that’s why the parental advisory sticker is on there.
RR: Talk to us about Knightwritaz – your production team.
M: The Knightwritaz were already a group when I met them and I decided to join forces with them and just start to create records together because I like the vibe we have. We did about 7 records for my album. 2 of the records remain and the other records will go on other projects. I just think it’s important to have a team of people that you can call your team and that’s the reason I got with these guys. There’s a lot of other young cats that I work with that are very talented, but the Knightwritaz – Marcia Ambrosius is a Knightwrita, she’s from Floetry. Sterling Simms he’s a Def Jam artist, he’s a writer. Steve-O is a writer. Oak is a producer. It’s constantly building, constantly growing. It’s the first record we’ve done together and I’m happy we could make it on my album. We just did one of the most incredible R&B albums of the year called “Kryptonite” and it’s on my album.
RR: How does your mindset change when you’re producing records for yourself to when you’re producing for other artists?
M: It’s a different approach to creating a record. You go in with an idea of what they want and I think it’s definitely more difficult for me because I can write from personal experiences but it’s more just writing from creativity. Me personally, I like to sit and create a world for which this situation could’ve taken place, like if I’m writing about a woman who lost her boyfriend because he wasn’t ready to get married and she was, I would have to create that world in my head and almost feel what she’s would be feeling like or feel ‘What would she say?’ or ‘How would she feel?’ if that were to happen. So it’s a more creative and imagination-based way of writing.