Have you had a pivotal moment where you felt like you’ve come to embrace yourself in the industry?
Every new moment is a defining moment, especially when you’re involved creatively, able to be more introspective within the music, and create in a comfortable space. I have my own label so I’m able to create, take my time, and make music that I feel is more representative of where I am right now in my life-as an artist, as a creator, and as a producer.
This past summer, you released your first single in 3 years, titled “I Need More.” Did this go hand in hand with the inspiration and freedom?
The song itself and the vibe of the record is just me being free, having fun, and testing the waters in terms of what I can do creatively, and what my fans like and don’t like. Having the platform to do this project, and the opportunity to experiment, resulted in “I Need More.”
Is there anything that you did to get yourself into this frame of mind? Was there a change that provoked it?
After I put out my last record on RCA, 3 years ago, the idea for me to start my own label was born. It was based on the perception of creative freedom. During that time, I grew the most, I was able to reflect the most on my career, what I wanted to do with music, the impact I wanted to have as a person and musician, and how they work hand in hand when it comes to influence.
Has this influence impacted the sound of your new album, “Paradise Cove?”
“Paradise Cove” is more of an experimental project; the culmination of a creative age within myself. I feel like my fans will get to see a new side of me, a new perspective, and a new sound, but I’m still going to give them the classic Mario that they appreciate and love. I think it’s a great balance between the two. Inspiration wise, I pull from everything: my life and creative perspectives. I’m definitely more into the production phase of it…I’ve produced two songs myself and co-produced a few others. People are going to get closer to Mario, the artist. The thing that excites me most about it is actually performing the songs live and getting to connect with my fans from this new perspective.
Can you tell us about the studio vs. the stage? What are the different mindsets and energies you need for each?
They go hand in hand! Both are just as creatively pleasing. I love sitting with my band and figuring out the sequence of the show vs. the sequence of an album. It’s the same when it comes to catching a vibe and trying to capture a certain feeling within that moment. You have about 3 minutes for a song, and from the moment it starts, you have that time to capture people’s attention and keep it. In both situations, you have to make sure the music is captivating and creative enough for you to stand out.
Earlier this summer, you performed “Let Me Love You” on ABC’s “Greatest Hits” with Zendaya. How did it feel performing it after so long? Was it nice to share that moment with somebody else?
It was cool because I got to have a female perspective of the song. She really felt what those words meant to her, which is what I liked about this collaborative effort. Zendaya’s a really dope artist and creative person, so to share the stage with her was really inspirational for me, as a male singer, to know that women still want to hear that. They still want to hear those songs that make them feel appreciated, and protected, and to know that there are guys out there that still know what love is.
You’re very hardworking, very respectful, and very talented. This also goes hand in hand with The Do Right Foundation. Can you tell us a bit about it and what you’ve done with it?
The Do Right Foundation is a foundation I started on behalf of my upbringing in Baltimore, where substance abuse was all around my family. I grew up there, and a lot of my friends and their parents were addicts. I wanted to start a program where kids having those issues could get counseling and join a program that was part of the curriculum in 6-7 schools in Baltimore. We’re actually going to start the programs back up sometime next year, with our new partners. I would like to take it national. I feel like there’s a big issue in the US (and the world) when it comes to young adults having substance abuse problems so early on in life.
You’ve been in the industry for about 15 years. Throughout your career, what’s been the biggest change between then and now?
The highlight for me would be re-introducing myself to my audience again. There’s a new generation of fans and then the ones who grew up with you. It’s about grabbing the attention of the new fans but also reminiscing with the ones who have been with me since day one. There are so many platforms these days, so how people connect is different. It’s bigger than just the music, and that’s what makes it exciting for me; to have all these ideas about things I want to do outside of music that are going to make my brand and journey more iconic.
PHOTOGRAPHER: JD Barnes
CREATIVE DIRECTOR & STYLIST: Brendon Alexander
GROOMER: Zarellie Washington
RETOUCHER: Jordan Hartley
STUDIO: West St Studios
INTERVIEWED BY: Rebecca Besnos, Editor @ VULKAN Magazine & Maxwell N. Burnstein, Director @ VULKAN Magazine
Post expires at 2:17am on Thursday October 12th, 2017