December 3, 2023

Today we’ve had a chance to interview another very talented musician Mary Cross. A highly sought-after independent artist with a unique, instantly identifiable contralto vocal instrument described by some as ‘the Mother of Cool Smoke’. Mary’s musical influence began when introduced to the music of Phyllis Linda Hyman and Nancy Wilson.

The impression was not only the iconic voices but the elegant attire, and audience engagement and response. These women of song solidified Mary’s commitment to create INSPIRING music and a memorable moments through engagement with audience members and the hats and gowns worn. This songstress, is back to CELEBRATE Love with her Second release. ‘Promise’ does not fail 2INSPIRE and bring JOY to listeners. On January 8, 2021 this highly anticipated single will debut worldwide. The timing of this release is significant…a new year, a fresh start, appreciation for and celebration of love, life, commitment, the pursuit of happiness and relationships. 2021 represents a Rise from the Phoenix, and Mary is looking forward to the future opportunities and appreciation this post- Covid19 crisis will provide to businesses, venues, and artists worldwide.

Mary’s debut single entitled: ‘In Love There’s A Risk’, was written and produced by Philadelphia’s own Grammy Nominated Producer Donald Robinson (Rachelle Ferrell, Nancy Wilson, Phyllis Hyman, Vanessa L. Williams and many other artists). Mary’s rich and dynamic vocals consistently deliver show stopping performances across the United States. The NJ-born and raised singer-songwriter takes audiences on a journey, as she masterfully executes renditions of contemporary and old-school Jazz and Classic R&B. She has opened for Eban Brown, former voice of the Stylistics, Chris Thomas (The Mayor) Comedy Showcase, ‘Luther Relives’ William Smooth Wardlaw and many more. Tonalities often compared to the late, great Phyllis Hyman, Mary borrows elements from artists such as: Nina Simone, Burt Bacharach, Lizz Wright, Gladys Knight and many more. The 2021 Love Project will include songs written by a variety of writers and producers including Israeli Composer Misha Segal. For more information on this gifted artist, please visit Mary’s music is streaming on all media platforms and continues to be played domestically and abroad. Mary is seeking to tour heavily in the fall of 2022.

Lisa: Hi Mary! How did it all start for you, when did you start writing music?

Mary: I sang in church since the age of 12 after friends insisted I could sing because I called myself mimicking Captain & Tennielle’s song entitled: ‘Love Will Keep Us Together…’they insisted I had a singing voice! So, I guess you’d say, my childhood friends discovered I could hold a note.

I then went to church with one of them and joined the choir…and sang in the choir at church lifelong!

However, my love for all genres of music is why I was driven to put a band together and sing at local venues.

*As for my writing music, that was a fluke. I used to dabble with poetry but never considered myself a songwriter…as I never took it seriously. However, on a few occasions, various Professors encouraged me to write as they felt I had that gift. An ability to give life to words (to write as if speaking)

Lisa: When you create music, what is your personal purpose or goal?

Mary: I truly have an appreciation for artists who have long spans between release of new music. I have to be inspired.

My purpose is 2Nspire when I create music by providing Quality rather than Quantity. I hope my music and message are relatable and give one time to digest it…enjoy it. Hear my heart. Believe it and commit to it…whatever the LOVE message that I have interlaced throughout.

There is so much noise and negativity influencing the inhabitants of the planet. I yearn to share messages of hope, love, inspiration, acknowledgement, joy and kindness…an experience /reminder of the good things and good times or hope for same. What the world needs right now more than ever – is love.

When you think about the human condition and man is not meant to be alone, this pandemic requires people be apart. What and who are we without LOVE and the human touch/interaction/relationship? This doesn’t even include the loss of loved ones… People were starved for this simple act of attentive kindness long before the pandemic and now it is far worse but we have to find a way to reconnect. Imagine not being hugged and limited or no companionship. Getting ill and no personable time together prior to loss of life…just the ability to facetime..unimaginable but the reality.

I founded the band 2NspireU (which was always my message and intention…2NSPIRE PEOPLE!)

During concerts, I insisted on creating a memorable experience/moment by engaging the attendees. There life celebrations, serenading them, dancing and singing with them and even a sing a long for the entire audience. I was always grateful that out of all the places these wonderful people could have gone…they chose to spend that time with the band and I doing what we love…music!

So providing a great performance and getting all glammed up for the audience gave me drive and the main goal. I am intentional about the material I perform. It is important to me to relay a message and connect with the listener. Music is the universal language and conjures up memories by mere words and/or the melody of a song. Its amazing to be able to remember a time or space from a melody..and it takes you right back to that moment.

Lisa: You have a unique and amazing voice, how much do you practice, and how much do you think is a talent?

Mary: Thank you so much for the encouragement!

I tend to sing randomly throughout the day as there is always a song in my heart and on my mind and of course I listen to a lot of indie artists and other music platforms.

As far as dedicated rehearsals, usually a 1 to 2 hours a week unless an upcoming performance. Then things go into gear and we have 2-3 hour band rehearsals one day per week (2 as date of gig draws closer). Those sessions are in addition to my personal sessions.

As far as how much is a talent…some believe you can be taught to sing. I believe that its deeper than that.

I sing because to me, it’s like breathing. I cannot imagine my life without music. Through many a dire situation, I have been comforted by ability to sing…even if soothing to myself. Music is very therapeutic.

In my travels, audience members have shared comments about my gift of song. Some say it sounds like innocence. Some say there is a tear in it. There’s say it sounds different than anything heard…or similar to an artist who is no longer among the living. But in all that they say…the description I give is…its my heart speaking. Sometimes it feels as if an out of body experience. Its like a song that is in my heart. Not like anyone else’s…just mine. It makes me happy and I need to sing for it gives me life and a way to communicate with others when words fail.

I am very serious about my love to give a great concert. I care about every person who is in attendance. I’d be singing to empty seats without them and that gives no motivation.

Lisa: I loved your song and video for “In Love, There’s A Risk”. What’s the story behind it?

Mary: Donald Robinson, Grammy nominated producer, is a good friend of mine. I never had a desire to record so, I figured I could ask for his help in recording a song to appease my fan base who would attend my shows and kept asking me to provide music they can purchase that I recorded. So, one day Donald said he wrote a song and we went to the studio and recorded it in one session/day. We were able to meet the deadline to have the song written, recorded, mastered by the date of a performance which is where we debuted it for all who were in attendance. Then the love and interest of others was piqued. And the CDs sold – the song took on a life of its own. At first I wasn’t sure if sales were from biased concert attendees…but I soon realized – they sincerely enjoyed the song! As if they missed that classic soul.

Donald also assured me that a few music professionals who heard the song provided great feedback on the vocals and the beautiful compilation he wrote.

We were unprepared the demand and love for the song as witnessed by Canada and the UK! The listeners kept asking for new material and the DJs relayed the message but this wasn’t supposed to be anything other than a way to pacify my audience atttendees who continued to ask for a recorded song. Lol Nice problem to have, huh?

Lisa: What is your most favorite song you’ve written so far, and why?

Mary: Without a doubt, my latest single PROMISE is my favorite song I wrote. It celebrates people who have made a commitment to the PROMISE in matrimony or long term relationships.

In this current season, folks are so quick to discard human life and a person who loves them and has a history with them…upon first though of boredom, tough times, etc.

PROMISE is that celebration of the ENDURANCE, decisions, sacrifice, reminder to those who COMMITTED … / chose to stay despite it all. LOVE PREVAILED long after the love had lost its ‘shine’. Relationships are work and the choice – whatever it is, is ours to make.

The other unforeseen caveat: so many lives taken by the pandemic. Sudden and leaving folks reeling from such tragedy you are never prepared for.

We are now realizing the importance of interaction relationships with YOUR special someone… The pandemic promote anti-socializing and limits random encounters with others. (Choosing to do so could cost you or a loved one their life.)

Lisa: Do you miss the live shows, and if you could choose your favorite one, which one would it be, and why?

Mary: YES, I miss the live shows! The energy from the audience. Their interaction and response to my shenanigans (questions and interactions were priceless).

I’ve had sooo many great memories of LIVE performances –

I’d have to pick two that come to mind…

Robert Wood Johnson I am booked there annually for a few events each year. On the last gig for staff / employee appreciation…these healthcare workers were so grateful and fun! The love from staff and employees was AMAZING! They spoiled us and we were in awe with the appreciation and loving kindness extended. It was wonderful to witness such appreciation for staff regularly. THIS WAS BEFORE THE PANDEMIC!

The second event is bittersweet…a friend booked our band for her birthday party and a coworker attended whom I had the opportunity to spend time with / and got to know better. So engaging and kind – encouraging and loved the band and music! He was looking forward to the next show (post covid).

Last week he lost his battle with Covid. This one stood out to me as he was a wonderful person whom I will miss for he left an indelible imprint with his warmth, kindness, support, on the entire University – everyone he encountered.

I wish I could have known him longer…or just knew he was ill and made an effort to be present or see how I could have assisted…

The lyrics to PROMISE…”promise that you love me, always thinking of me…” is a reminder of just how fragile human life is and the many great people who are no longer with us due to – a direct or indirect covid experience(s).

The losses I have experienced of friends are staggering and its not over yet. That’s why we must wear a mask, wash our hands use hand sanitizer and stay 6 feet apart for the protection of all parties. I am yearning for a HUGE celebration with those I love when all this is over! Whatever the new norm is, by then. We just have to all make it to the other side of this.

Lisa: What can we expect from The 2021 Love Project?

Mary: Honest music. Great stories of truth. Reminders of the beauty of great lyrics…sweet maybe even baby making music. I am always quick to say my musice is timeless and grown folk music. But above all things: the music must be Inspiring and Encouraging with messages of HOPE, LOVE, JOY, an Organic transparency. But above all…L O V E.

Lisa: Do you enjoy recording? And where was your current project recorded?

Mary: No, I do NOT enjoy the recording sessions. I would prefer to be home with pjs on having a warm cup of hot chocolate! I always feel I sing better impromptu. lol

I find I sing best and can come up with great ad libs and diverse vocal work when at home nice and comfortable. I am stressed when in the studio as it’s a foreign entity. I want the work to be organic and natural and I have a tendency to think too much. Not once have I ever left the studio feeling I had one GREAT work…but rather I know I could have done that better ‘if’…blank. PROMISE was recorded at Donald Robinson Studios in Narbeth, PA. The vote anthem I also wrote entitled ‘YOU Can Change It’ was recorded at Morning Star Studios. In Love There’s A Risk was recorded in South Philadelphia.

Lisa: What non-musical entities and ideas have impacted your music?

Mary: The ideas that have impacted my music have to do with the music business and how politicized it is.

For one, many local radio stations in the USA will not spin our music. Slots for airplay are purchased by those who have the money to pay – celebrity artists & signed to record label’s. Promoters wanting to charge exorbitant amounts of money for airplay that is forced on the ears of listening consumers who may not even like the song – but it plays so frequently, it grows on you or you catch yourself singing it.

This business is not for the faint of heart. Unless a song gets to Billboard there will never be a way to gain compensation for the monies spent by indie artists on studio time, paying musicians, production, creation and time for music videos, etc. The music I write is created with LOVE as the premise. I refuse to rush it and I work painstakingly to ensure there is a method to everything I decide to do concerning my brand, the message I convey and recognizing what I do or say can have an impact on some one or some thing.

Unfortunately, there is only a handful of US radio stations (internet based) who show love for indie artists: UK, Japan, Canada, and other countries.

*The acknowledgement of the music of indie artists outside of the US is staggering and the reason most artists start there to gain notoriety and acknowledgement One thing is certain: there is a great following and interest in Soul music in the UK!

The presenters, DJs, and listeners are amazing. They get us to #! On Amazon UK New Hot Releases. That provides great encouragement and hope to artists who may never get noticed in the US market. Thus, we ask them to stream, buy, Subscribe, Add our music to their play lists. (Jesus wasn’t received in his own land…he was identified as the carpenter’s son.) Same story, different day.

Lisa: What are your plans for the future?

Mary: My plans for the future include: Completing my album in 2021; Touring worldwide. Writing more music. Encouraging other artists to continue the journey. Being a light and hope and sharing whatever I know that may assist the next generation of artists courageous enough to want to pursue a life in music…for the love of it.

I want to open a creator’s spot for people of all ages to come and share their gifts I want to use my platform in hopes of helping to create a Mental Wellness grant in Phyllis Hyman’s memory for the Mental Wellness research and help to those identified with it in creative arts.

I would love to help raise funds for a center for those struggling with mental wellness…a safe haven for hope and help to creative genius’ that walk among us. Taraji Henson often sheds light on this and used her platform to honestly depict the struggles with depression and hopelessness that wash over us all at some stage. They need support. If Phyllis Hyman had it, her story may have ended differently.

I am INSPIRED by Phyllis Hyman, Nina Simone, Cecily Tyson, Dorothy Dandridge, Billie Holiday and so many others. Whether it was identified or not. The depression was evident in the times and situations these great artists found themselves in. Each handled their lot in life to the best of their ability. Rather than judge, my hope is we do our best to shed light and provide hope and refuge so others don’t have to go through this.

Lisa: At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?

Mary: At the end of the day, if I can INSPIRE someone to want to do better, be better, be kinder, give hope, spread Joy, show love, be kind, be genuine, exercise selflessness, be transparent, grow and be patient and gentle with others…but above all things…LOVE – than my living has not been in vain.

I think I shall search life long to be the light, love, kindness, hope, joy, help, and beauty that change…that realness I want to see in the world…and if in doing these things…it encourages another to reflect and see such goodness reflected back to them with a desire to change – then although not easy, I will say it is definitely worth it.

I am so grateful to Ms. Cicely Tyson’s honesty that is not an embarrassment or red letter – but POWER and a testimony to others that WE CAN DO THIS! Keep moving. Life is fleeting and I hope I make a difference and can leave the earth well spent. Now that’s a legacy!

Thank you kindly for your thought provoking questions and kindness. It definitely did my heart good. Cheers!

Thank you Mary!

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