With the state of the music industry in flux, artists are at the mercy of their record labels. Last November Mario planned to release his third studio album, “Go.” A year later the project has yet to see store shelves, but finally will make its much-anticipated arrival on December 11th.
Since DJBooth last spoke with the 21-year old singer in May, a lot has changed. In late October MTV aired the special documentary, “I Won’t Love You to Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom.” The program revealed the physical and mental strain on the Barrett household as Mario assisted his mother in her quest to end a length heroine addiction.
During an interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Mario explains how his album delay has helped his career, why his mother’s struggle helped to shape him into a man and what he would do if he could stop going and just relax.
Listen to the Interview
Mario Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a man who will finally be ready to ‘GO’ on December 11th. Please welcome R&B singer, and my friend, Mario – how are you?
Mario: Z, what’s up, buddy? How you doin’?
DJ Booth: I am great, and I’m sure you’re about to be great too. Last May, when your new album “Go!” was set for release in July, we talked, and you were real excited. Now, four months later, the project is finally gonna be available next month…
Mario: Absolutely. Trust me; it’s harder for the artist than it is for the fans to have this pushed back, because when my fans are disappointed I’m disappointed, and that’s really not the intention of an artist. It’s worth the wait, man, I must say – the project is amazing. We got the new single out right now, “Crying Out For Me,” it’s heatin’ up the airwaves, and we got us some amazing records on the project.
DJ Booth: In the time it has taken you to fully finish “Go,” you could very well have written and recorded another full-length album’s worth of material. How is your catalog looking these days?
Mario: My catalog is sick right now. However, every day there’s a new revelation, every day is a new concept. I’m always workin’ on different material. I don’t think I could ever do enough material.
DJ Booth: Very true. I think Tupac Shakur would agree with you.
Mario: I’m sure he would – I’m sure he does.
DJ Booth: Mario, multiple setbacks usually hurt an artist. Do you think in your case it can actually help you?
Mario: Well, I hope that people still go out and support. There’s nothing like hearing an album mixed and mastered, and as a full body of work. People have been hearin’ music here and there, some snippets, some records on the web, but a full body of work itself is amazing. I still have amazing visuals I wanna do for the next singles, and things that would just add a new vibe to the record. The setback – it was a little setback, but nothing that’s going to stop the momentum of the record, and the momentum of the sales. And you’re right – people have heard and have been giving great responses to some of the records they’ve been hearing. “Go!” of course has been out for a while, and it’s been getting a great response. Like you said before, records like “No Definition,” produced by Timbaland.
DJ Booth: Let’s jump into “The Mix,” a portion of questions that focuses on a few of the new songs off “Go.” First one is “No Definition,” produced like we said by Timbaland. The idea that a relationship does not necessitate a definition is something I’ve been campaigning for a long time. The women I’ve dated, however, they have a tendency to probably disagree, as I’m sure you’ve been familiar with from time to time…
Mario: Yeah, sometimes for me – and I guess it depends on the type of person you’re dealin’ with – it’s easier if we go into things blind, you know what I’m sayin’? Go into it with no expectations. Just enjoyin’ each other’s company or enjoyin’ each other’s conversation. I don’t get a lot of time to spend dating, because I’m always doing something different. So I find myself meeting new girls and new women everywhere I go.
DJ Booth: That’s not a problem!
Mario: No, it’s not a problem, but at the same time you do just wanna find that one person that you could kick it with. It’s kinda hard to find one person that you can talk to every day that you can see all the time– it’s almost impossible in my line of work. So when you have no definition, even when you do find that person, it shows that there are no expectations and no labels on what you guys had, and it can help the relationship.
DJ Booth: Do you think that your song can be an ample substitute for men who lack the ability to tell their women they don’t want a title? So instead of saying, “There’s something I’d like to tell you,” it could be “Sit down – I’d like to play a Mario song for you.”
Mario: [laughter] Or just have the song playing in the background and kind of hint at the conversation or whatever, and then I think they’ll get the point. I think that music is such a communicator these days that it don’t need an introduction. So to answer your question, yeah, I definitely think it could be.
DJ Booth: Next song I’d like to talk about is “Go!” produced by Pharrell. As a professional who works in both music and acting, it’s obvious you’re always on the go. If you could slow life down to a halt and just stop for one full week – no cares, no worries, no responsibilities – how would you spend your time not going?
Mario: Wow, that’s a great question. I’d take my dog and we’d go out to the beach somewhere.
DJ Booth: Relaxing on the beach, sun setting, with the dog by your side? That sounds nice, that sounds pleasant.
Mario: Yeah, my homegirl, man – I got a dog, and she’s one of my best friends. I’d probably have my favorite band come and play live for me. I definitely wish that James Brown was still alive and I could see a show, like see him really kill it. He’s a great performer, and I really enjoy watching him do what he do.
DJ Booth: Well, the next best thing is just to put a bunch of his albums on your iPod and take that out with you.
Mario: Yeah, but live would be so much better, man. And then I have Sade come and do a personal performance.
DJ Booth: It seems like you’ve given this question a lot of thought, I think you were waiting for me to ask you this.
Mario: You know what? I wasn’t that far off, man.
DJ Booth: Last month, MTV aired, “I Won’t Love You to Death,” the story of Mario and his mom. For years, I’ve been lambasting that network for its failure to actually televise music videos, however this was one reality program I really feel everyone needs to see.
Mario: Before we continue I definitely want to mention, it wasn’t a reality show; it was a documentary. And I think that sometimes people can get reality shows mixed up. They aren’t as authentic as they may seem. And this is something that’s far from a reality show – it’s more like a month in a life. And there was a month period where you see, you can continue.
DJ Booth: Maybe what you would term a “real” reality show.
DJ Booth: ‘Cause there is a big misconception that reality shows are based on what actually happens in life, and we all know that of course that isn’t the case. What gave you the courage to tell the world, through this documentary, about the hardships that your family, you and your mother, have suffered?
Mario: It’s my life. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve come from, the things that I’ve gone through. As an artist, you’re out in public anyway. People find out about things, but they put their own twist on what they think it is. Nobody can tell your story better than you. And I think that there comes a time in every artist’s life, especially artists who’ve been in the game for a long time, when nobody can tell my story better. This is what drives me, the things that I’ve been through.
DJ Booth: The song “Do Right” focuses on the relationship between you and your mother. Since being admitted to rehab, returning sober, and staying clean, has the friendship between you and your mother changed?
Mario: We have a bittersweet relationship, to be honest with you. Sometimes we love each other; sometimes we don’t want to be around each other. I think a lot of that was because we didn’t have the regular mother-son relationship for a long time. If anything, I think it’s definitely helped us to become stronger individually, but together, we definitely believe in each other, and appreciate each other for so many different reasons, as more than just a mother-son but as a friend, as a counselor, as someone to just talk to.
DJ Booth: Mario, what is the biggest misconception about the lives of start musicians, athletes, or actors and actresses, which you feel that a documentary like yours revealed?
Mario: That we forget where we came from. Something like this documentary definitely shows that I didn’t forget where I came from. And charity starts at home, man. It starts with the people you love, and from there, reachin’ out to help other. It’s therapeutic in a sense, but it can also be a downfall for you if you’re not a strong enough person to handle those responsibilities. ‘Cause sometimes somebody else’s life can feel like it’s on your back.
DJ Booth: Is that a responsibility, at that time, you didn’t want?
Mario: Absolutely. And I think that part of me, helpin’ her to get herself together was to relieve myself of that.
DJ Booth: What has it done for you as a man?
Mario: Patience. It’s taught me patience. In terms of being assertive and efficient, and being able to get your thoughts across to another person. As a man, my faith level is at its highest potential right now, after seeing her actually get clean. I’ve watched her use for years, and plenty of treatment centers she went to, but for her to say, “You know what? I’m gonna do it now,” and actually do it – it’s just a powerful thing.
DJ Booth: It’s huge, and with good reason that you should feel that way. Obviously this year has been huge for you. You’ve anticipated the arrival of your album, “Go,” which will finally be in stores this December. A few movies on screen – the documentary aired on MTV, busy year for you! What’s 2008 lookin’ like?
Mario: Well, 2008 hopefully is gonna be a lot of tourin’, overseas and in the states, more films, more projects. Participation, in terms of me workin’ on other people’s projects. And hopefully I’ll be finishin’ up another album, because I’m ready already. I’ve been hearing this album for a long time, and I’m definitely ready to continue to work this project and to get into some new music. And I’ll definitely bring a new album out sooner than two years – no more than a two-year wait before an album.
DJ Booth: Mario, go ahead and give everybody your website, or a Myspace page, to find out more.
DJ Booth: I appreciate your time and I wish you nothing but the best of luck. I said it last time, I still mean it now, but I really wanna see that album out. So as soon as December 11th comes around, I will be in the stores, picking up my own copy.
Mario: Man, I appreciate that. I’m an album-buyer too, so we might run into each other at the store.
DJ Booth: Well, if you buy yours in Chicago then I will definitely run into you.
Mario: All right, man, talk to you soon.