The UK Interviews Mary J. Blige "What's on: Mary J Blige"

November 5, 2010

AS she brings her Music Saved My Life tour to Manchester tonight, Mary J Blige tells us why her songs are more than just mere entertainment.

Mary J Blige didn’t have an easy time growing up.

When she was four, her jazz musician father Thomas walked out, and she reportedly suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend a year later.

But before he left, her dad taught her an invaluable skill - to sing.

He encouraged her vocal talent, which Blige credits with keeping her spirits up.

”I never lived in a good situation growing up,” she admits, in her husky voice.
Following her father’s advice, she sang her heart out on church days, which she says helped her “get out of the situation I lived in”.

”God gave me a voice. He gave us songs to sing, to be optimistic and to inspire us to live another day. That was used to save our lives - music!” she exclaims.

Now 39, Blige has continued to use her voice to build a successful music career, and to address her own problems. She has sung honestly about dealing with drugs and drink and her abusive relationships, and this open approach has won her many fans.
”Music helps so many people in their lives, even today. There’s always one song on the radio that helps somebody who might be really depressed get out of bed,” she says.

”So many people come up to me and say, ‘Your music saved my life’, or ‘Mary, I was about to kill myself, I didn’t want to live any more but then I heard No More Drama and I wanted to live’.”
Blige now has nine Grammy awards, for hits such as Be Without You, Never Gonna Break My Faith and He Think I Don’t Know, plus eight multi platinum-selling albums under her belt and is known as the queen of hip-hop and soul.
The tough-talking, Bronx-born diva says her concerts are an opportunity for her to bond with her fans, and it is for this reason she is hugely excited about bringing her Music Saved My Life tour to Britain, where she will perform in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
”I’m always excited about returning to the UK. I love London,” she says.
”I’ve been there so many times, it’s like coming back to New York. The food, the shopping and the energy just reminds me of New York, period. It’s exactly like my second home.”

Blige, who will be celebrating her seventh wedding anniversary with manager Martin ‘Kendu’ Isaacs in December, promises an enjoyable time at the shows.

”It’ll just be what fans love. New stuff, new production, old stuff, it’s just what we do,” she says.
”If you’re a fan, you already understand that. The only thing will be the new materials sprinkled in and a gigantic new production.”
Former Fame Academy finalist Lemar will be her opening act. “I’ve heard a lot of great things about him, so that’s why he’s opening the show. I heard his music, and it’s great,” she says.
”I can only deal with people I respect and admire. That’s when I either go and work with them or they come out on the road with me.”

Blige, who is impressed with the state of the UK music industry, is also excited about checking out British rising stars.

”I have to catch up on who’s who and who’s cool out there, you know?” she reveals. “I haven’t been there for a while and I’ve been so engrossed in my own stuff I can’t even focus on anything else right now - but I’ll find out.”

The project that is taking up her time is her 10th and, as yet, untitled album.
”There’s a lot of amazing stuff that is coming out of the studio,” she says. “A lot of great people are teaming up to make it amazing, but I hope that people will be happy. I know that I am happy when I hear it. I just hope that my fans will love it as much as I do.”

While there is talk that she has teamed up with the industry’s hottest producers and performers, Blige says she’s still coming up with her final list.
”There are a lot of people who are already on board. We have Jerry Wonder from the Fugees and JUSTICE League, that’s really it for right now.”

She adds: “I don’t want to use 20 producers, I’m trying to be as limited as I can but get what I need.”
Blige does have a collaboration in mind, but is refusing to name names. “It’s a dream so I don’t want to say who I want it to be. I just want to wait and see if that person will really come true.”

But it seems that music isn’t quite enough to occupy her time. Following appearances in TV shows and films, the songstress, who launched her own record label in 2004, is also branching out into other business ventures, including fragrance and sunglasses.

”Aside from my album, I have my eye wear line, Melodies by MJB, which will be launching in the US,” she says.

”My fragrance My Life, with the Carol’s Daughter range, is doing well, which I am happy about, and I really want to bring them here. My plans are that I will.”

Hearing the steely determination in her voice, there’s no doubt she’ll do just that - and more.
* Mary J Blige is at the Manchester Arena on Friday, November 5. Tickets £40 and £45.

Great Interview! I know the Next Mary album will slay, I can't wait! Mary never let's her fans down!


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