R&B singer Mario is back and better than ever: wiser, stronger and resilient. From his 2002 breakout hit “Just a Friend” to the ultra smooth award winning track “Let Me Love You” (2004) to 2013 banger “Somebody Else” featuring Nicki Minaj, Mario isn’t the teenager we were first introduced to.
We’ve witnessed the 29-year-old grow into a mature artist and entrepreneur, making and breaking his own rules, right before our eyes. Through fame’s unforgiving lessons to disappointing label matters, Mario, born Mario Barrett, held his own, exemplifying what grace under pressure really looks like.
Fresh off releasing his first single, “I Need More,” a hype and new sound from the crooner, Mario readies his fifth studio album Paradise Cove, which he admits has a “darker undertone.”
Fine tuned and seasoned, the genre of R&B is set for a revolutionized sound, and Mario will help lead the charge. The Source caught up with Mario as he talked his new single, the hardest lessons he’s had to learn and more.
It’s a warm up record for sure. A record for me that’s more than just turning up, that no matter how much money you make, no matter how many material possessions you acquire, it’s never enough, you’ll always need more than just that to fulfill you.
That was my approach doing this record; I found myself in so many scenarios like that. It’s crazy how in the midst of enjoying yourself, when you get home and you’re by yourself or that young lady that was there for just that night isn’t there anymore you feel empty inside. And that goes for men and women.
But the whole concept of the record is bringing awareness to the fact that you got to make sure your foundation is right and that the void is filled with something of substance, not just parties and women and cars.
Your new album, Paradise Cove, will be your first since D.N.A. back in 2009.
Paradise Cove will be released toward the end of the year. I want to put out another single to let me fans know what they’ll be getting and that I’m consistent and giving them what they want from Mario; a project more personal and more relatable that they can ride to and really enjoy.
What makes this album different from your previous works?
The biggest difference with this album is the whole process of creating, me getting together with producers, keeping it consistent with one or two producers, and creating a project that’s conceptual, where the songs all have relation to each other in terms of the way I’m expressing myself.
And Paradise Cove is about finding yourself in the midst of all the craziness that goes on around you sometimes. Finding that paradise in the darkness, finding that place where you feel like its real and authentic because I’ve found myself so many times battling the journey, trying to keep myself sane in this crazy industry and the access you have as a male artist to do things that doesn’t really serve your higher purpose. I’m sharing different things in this project, its definitely personal, it definitely has a darker undertone that my previous music but it’s something that everyone can relate to.
For me, it wasn’t my intention to wait that long [seven years] to put out a project but I was on a label that was experiencing so many ups and downs and changes that it affected me and my career. And as the label was changing and growing and adding new people, I felt like it was time for me to change and grow, so I negotiated out of my deal and it took me two years to do. Once I got out, I started New Citizen, my new label, and that’s what held me up from putting out an album.
I wanted to put out an album in 2012 or 2013, which I put out a single with Nicki Minaj, but that didn’t work out because I was getting out of my deal at that point. But I don’t regret anything, I think everything happens for a reason. I’m happy I was able to learn from a young age of what this industry is about. Now I can use those experiences as references moving forward in my career.
What was the hardest lesson you had to learn?
Authenticity and staying true to yourself and being able to translate your creative intentions through the music, producers and people.
Sometimes it’s hard because everyone considers themselves an artist—writers are artists even if they’re writing for somebody else, producers are artists, but finding ways to communicate your creative vision would be a lesson I’d tell any artists. Make sure you concentrate on expressing your creative vision because that’s the way that people are going to get it the way you intend for them to receive it.
Who is the Mario of today compared to the Mario of “Just a Friend?”
He’s much more wise, more expressive, much more clear on who he is as a person. He’s more business savvy, more of a leader, much more creative, and more balanced.
How would you describe the state of R&B now?
I’d say it’s evolving, like everything else, things come back around. I think a lot of R&B artists out now are taking advantage of the fact that things are more urgent. Conceptually, yes, there’s a huge difference between traditional R&B, 90s early 2000’s to now. But conceptually the Bryson Tillers’of the world, The Weeknd and the PARTYNEXYDOOR of the worlds are writing really good lyrics, although sonically different, but it’s because we’re in a different space right now and the textures of music is different.
I feel like what’s missing is Mario. What I’m going to add to music is missing. Not to say that they’re wrong or right but what’s seen isn’t always going to be talked about. The absence of that is what’s missing.
Would you ever do reality TV?
I’m not really a reality TV guy, I don’t think it’s for me because I feel like what I have to share and my thought process is more authentic than reality TV. There’s not enough substance there for me, I’m more into high consciousness and something that’s intellectual, but I’m not that guy.
What else can we expect from you this year?
Shooting a video for “I Need More” within the next few weeks and you’re definitely going to see a different side of me.
I’m writing a book now called Life in Exchange, but that probably won’t be out until later next year. I’m also taking meetings now for film projects because I’m going to dive into that real heavy, I feel like that’s a whole another part of me that people would appreciate and I’m really looking forward to it now that I have my freedom. I’m excited to show growth and my excitement for art in general whether art, film and writing and even developing artists. That’s something New Citizen represents, the creative god in each of us, and I want to find artists to share with the world.