been discovered in a local talent contest at just 11 years old,
US R&B star Mario released his first record at the tender
age of 15. Three years later, his new single Let Me Love You is
all set to bring him to the attention of music fans the world
over. We met up for a chat, some chocolate, and maybe even a cheeky
Mario! Welcome to Virgin.net, put your feet up, we have brought
you chocolate gifts - Easter is near.
Mario: Oh man, this is cool. Yeah this is fresh candy, I'm feeling
VN: Love is in the room. How are you enjoying London? Is this
your first visit?
Mario: I have been here three times before but it's always a treat.
I love the UK - London might just be the best city in the world.
VN: Have you been setting the town alight? Are you fond of the
Mario: Oh man, yeah, the British girls are awesome, they are really
fine. I always party when I come here and this time is going to
be no exception.
"It is a really special tune and has a way of touching people,
it seems to cross all boundaries. It's magical."
VN: Are you
single? Are you able to enjoy the "sights" of the city?
Mario: Oh absolutely man, I'm not attached and I know how to have
a good time - spread the word!
VN: Oh good, we can hook you up. Here at Virgin.net we like to
offer a celebrity dating service. Can we offer you the delights
of Girls Aloud? Any requests?
Mario: Who are they? Are they nice?
VN: Oh yes, very special. Five different flavours - there must
be something that will meet your tastes. What do you look for
in a lady?
Mario: Oh, she has to have a good heart - just somebody special
and somebody who I can connect with.
VN: Your new single, Let Me Love You, must have the ladies dropping
at your feet? It's a gorgeous love song, on top of the American
charts for over two months now - quite an achievement.
Mario: It is a really special tune and has a way of touching people,
it seems to cross all boundaries. It's magical.
VN: So how did the song come about? Did it fall from heaven into
Mario: It was Scott Storch who I wrote it with - he is amazingly
talented. I'd always wanted to work with him - he came up with
this vibe and the song just seemed to come together. It has had
such an impact, it's amazing - so many people seem to be able
to feel it.
VN: People in the UK maybe don't realise that you've been a hugely
successful recording artist since you were 15. You're only 18
now - do you feel like a pop veteran already?
Mario: I have been very blessed in my career and I know how lucky
I am. This song has opened me up to many new fans in Europe which
is great, I think this year is going to be really exciting for
VN: The legal drinking age is 21 in the US, but in the UK it's
18... we'll let you have a legal Babycham here. Have you taken
advantage of this fact?
Mario: No way man, I don't drink when I go out to party, I don't
need alcohol to have a good time. If I drank it would just be
wild, I'm crazy enough without anything to drink.
VN: Alcohol is not clever. I once wet myself at a party thrown
by Enrique Iglesias. Then I got my head trapped in the sink and
he had to rescue me, it was very dramatic. He hates me now. It's
ok, though, it's mutual...
Mario: That's good, man.
VN: Do you like Enrique? Any plans to work with him or any other
Mario: I would love to work with Beyoncé.
VN: Wouldn't we all. So tasty.
Mario: She is a very talented lady, she would be great to duet
with. There aren't that many other acts I would like to record
VN: Alicia Keys is one of your best friends - any jiggy jiggy
or is it just boring and platonic?
Mario: She's just a friend. We've been friends for a long time
and she'd been a great support through my career - she's a wonderful
VN: Do you want to go out and party wild tonight? I can show you
where my girls hang out...
Mario: I have a really bad cold, I'm not feeling so good.
VN: You have to be strong, it will be worth it. We will have you
home before dawn. Maybe.
Mario: No man, I need to get some rest, I think I caught this
cold on my flight from LA - I need to get a proper sleep.
VN: You snooze, you lose, Marion.
VN: Yeah, ok, whatever. A final message of love and joy for the
wondrous Virgin.net users? They are very beautiful people...
Mario: I'd just like to thank them for their support. I hope they
like my new song, and I will keep giving back my best.
VN: Marion, you are a legend, enjoy your chocolate.
Mario: Cool man.
It Yourself: Mario Answers Your Questions
Nnweaver: I love your music and think your voice is wonderful.
What does it take to get into Mario’s heart?
Mario: I like
real people. I like girls that work hard for good things, have
their own and are mature. I definitely like girls who are confident.
Who did you come up with the words to “Let Me Love You?”
They seem to fit so perfectly.
song was actually introduced to me by the CEO of the label I’m
signed to. I heard the song and I love the song and the lyrics.
It wasn’t something I was just singing but something that
actually meant something to me and it was a special song for days
like Valentine’s Day. I think Valentine’s Day should
happen all year round if you care about the person.
Was it your decision to cut your hair? Why did you cut it?
Mario: I guess
it shows my thinking. I have changed. Having braids was really
something that, when I was coming up, I really wanted to have.
I always wanted to grow my hair because my man did it. That was
just something I started out with. At first, I was like, “I’m
never cutting my hair; it’s my trademark,” but I did
it just to see how it feels.
Now that you’re older, would you say that you’re ready
to be in a serious relationship?
I don’t know you really can’t plan something like
that. If someone comes along then fine. I meet a lot of people
so I don’t know. If you have a good thing, you don’t
let it slip away.
were you gone for such a long period of time before coming back
with your new album?
was a lot of stuff going on with me; I was still in school so
that took up a lot of my time. I was also recording the new album
while I was on tour. With me going through big boy changes all
of that it took a long time. I have been blessed that God has
brought me back to do what I like to do.
By Matt Barone
Like a proud
parent watching his or her child successfully progress through
maturity, R&B listeners have both seen and heard the effortless
progression of velvet voiced Mario. Two years ago, the Baltimore
native was crooning about such innocent affairs as hair braiding
and the always dreaded "friend zone", but these days
adult feelings such as seductive love, sexual practices, and infidelity
are Mario's desired subject matter. Now 18-years-old and sounding
better than ever, manhood has welcomed Mario in nicely, and, as
evidenced on his recently released sophomore album Turning Point,
his talents should easily continue to develop.
this comfortable point in his career has been an eventful journey
for the dedicated young man. After being discovered by current
manager Troy Patterson during a performance at a college talent
show while only 11-years-old, Patterson brought the wide-eyed
singer to the attention of J Records mogul Clive Davis. A jaw-dropping
rendition of Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love To You" sealed
the deal, and his self-titled debut hit shelves in 2002, powered
by the hit Biz Markie update "Just A Friend 2002".
youthful appeal was seemingly limited by time’s constraints,
however, as the natural trials of pre-adulthood began to present
themselves. Realizing that this maturation needed to be evident
on record as well, Mario put pen to paper, co-writing several
songs that could capture his personal growth for the new album.
Led by the undeniable soul of the Scott Storch-produced smash
"Let Me Love You", Turning Point is a fitting collection
of grown-up R&B that manages to transcend age boundaries with
its genuine skill and execution.
fine wine, Mario seems to be improving with each passing year,
promising a lasting career full of high expectations. With industry
elite such as Alicia Keys, Lil Jon, and Jadakiss cosigning on
his potential, Mario's Turning Point may, in actuality, be his
true genesis. In the midst of his hectic schedule, Mario took
time out to build with AllHipHop.com Alternatives about his journey
into adulthood, his fans, and his bright future.
been successful at such a young age when Mario dropped back in
2002, what lessons did you learn about the industry that helped
you in making Turning Point?
man! Be able to work really hard and be ready to not get as much
sleep as you wan to. You got to be ready to be up for long periods
of time to get the job done. Basically, giving up things that
you are used to doing and having. You have to give up a lot of
things that are important to you, and make some real sacrifices
in order to reach that level of success that you want.
sacrifices did you have make that you weren’t expecting
at first, and maybe had trouble dealing with at such a young age?
Mario: I wasn’t
able to be with my family as much once that album came out. Being
away from home so much because I was constantly on the road was
a lot for me to deal with at that time. It was very surprising.
After awhile though, you start getting used to it. You start to
realize that that’s what happens when you’re doing
what I do. Everything happens for a reason. You learn what is
needed to get where you want to go, and how you have to make it
happen. It all depends on where you’re trying to go with
things. I’ve known from the beginning that I want to make
great music that will stand the test of time, so to make that
happen, I made the necessary sacrifices.
away from your family and your home for such long periods of time,
how are you able to keep yourself grounded?
learn things and you see that you only really have God. Once you
realize that, you’re able to keep moving and keep going.
Once you lose focus on the fact that you’re not bigger than
your success, you lose focus of the fact that God is on top of
everything. That’s when you just lose it, period. You have
to try not to lose that.
that important sense of awareness now, it seems that you’ve
matured nicely coming into this new album. Were there any concerns,
though, about how you were going to approach you growth musically
and from the fans’ perspective?
man. I always hope that people take this album the right way,
and that the record continues to touch people. I hope people get
the same feeling from the record that I did. It’s just a
great R&B record. I think it’s a timeless record. The
emotion of love is something that will be around forever, and
that’s something that I think helps the record make sense.
I’m at the age where I’m learning how to be a man,
and be able to give that affection the right way.
first single is huge, and it definitely seems like the perfect
first look at your new growth. When you finished recording the
song, could you tell right away that it was big?
at first I didn’t think it was the single. The CEO of my
label, 3rd Street, kept telling me that ‘Let Me Love You’
is a big record. He kept saying, ‘That’s the single!’
I didn’t think it was my single - I was wrong. [laughs]
I wanted to come out with a big club banger. The part that made
me realize that ‘Let Me Love You’ was the right single
though was [that] once I recorded it, I got a feeling from it
that I had never gotten from a song before. The song had a certain
chemistry to it. The lyrics and the simplicity of the song got
thing that is crazy about ‘Let Me Love You’ is how
it has touched all listeners, from the females to even the most
thugged-out guy. Does it trip you out how even the thugs are loving
does touch everyone. That’s an emotion that everybody feels,
though. I don’t care if you are a stone cold killer; you
still love somebody. You can’t really escape from that,
and that’s why everybody can feel a song like ‘Let
Me Love You’.
have some co-writing song credits on Turning Point. How often
do you write now?
I write a lot more lately. I want to be able to do a lot of songs
for the next album. It took a lot of time to get used to doing.
It’s an art. Once you find yourself, then you can write.
did you find yourself?
Mario: I just
asked myself, ‘How do you capture a chemistry?’ Like,
when you go into the studio, what has to be done so that you are
comfortable and get in your mode? You have to have a hot track.
First of all, it is different than anything I have felt before.
Once you find that chemistry, you start to get the melody going,
and once you start writing the words, it becomes something that
is a part of you. A lot of the times when you first start writing,
you think a lot of it can be better. When somebody else on the
outside listens to it, they’ll be like, ‘Yo, that’s
crazy!’ That’s when you find yourself as a songwriter.
do you think you’ve been able to groom your voice?
I real little, my mother would take me to the barbershop sometimes.
I would be in there just singing, and some of the dudes would
be like, ‘Yo Mario, sing something man! I’ll give
you a couple of dollars.’ All of the dudes would give me
a dollar from their little booth. It was funny. From there, I
started doing a lot of talent shows. I traveled a little bit and
sang at different shows. The CEO of 3rd Street heard me and he
had some relationships with somebody from J Records, and got me
a deal up there.
AHHA: On your
first album, you were talking about innocent subjects such as
hair braiding, but on this album, you’re asking your ex-girlfriend
why she’s teaching some new guy the ‘ghetto kama sutra’.
How did the people close to you, like family and friends, react
when they heard this new adult style?
of the reactions that I’ve had have been really good. Everybody
understands the transitions that I’m making. They agree
with it. When something is natural, I don’t think you can
Keys had some input on your first album, and you seem to have
a strong relationship with her. What kind of feedback has she
given you on this new album?
loves everything about it. She thinks I’m going the right
way. She told me that I’m on the right road to success.
Alicia tells me to keep a level head and stay focused, and that’s
definitely the most important thing. Stay focused, and always
be humble. She is always smiling and is always humble.
as you have gotten older, so have your female fans. Have you noticed
the ladies becoming more wild now that you are entering adulthood?
They know more of what they want, and more of what I’m trying
to do. At that time of your life, as a young girl or a young man,
you’re looking for a soul mate. So, for me to come out with
a record like ‘Let Me Love You’ - that’s how
I feel. I feel like I can love her now. [Women] look at it as,
‘Wow. He loves me’. Come on, you know how women work
off of their emotions, boy! So, that’s perfect. It’s
has been the craziest thing for you, as far as how the female
fans have grown?
the craziest part for me is to see how my fan base grew. That’s
the craziest part for me. Like, my fans really grew with me. Some
of my fans on the first album were a little older, though. Then
I have the mothers coming to me, and the fathers coming to me
and telling me I have a hot record. If the whole family can sit
down and listen to the whole record, then you know you have a
hot record. [laughs]
AHHA: On the
track ‘18’ you say, ‘I got seven years to catch
up’ - referring to your older R&B competition. In what
ways do you think you have to catch up?
me explain that song to you. First, I think a lot of people didn’t
think I could make the transition from a teenage artist into manhood.
I just needed a record that explained to them that I’m not
trying to be like anybody else. I have time to grow. So, just
give me that chance to grow. I’m 18 now. As you grow, you
learn, so I can’t sit here and tell you what I’m going
to learn in the next few years. But I know, whatever I do learn,
I will use that to better myself as a person and as an artist.
AHHA: At this
point in your career, what is your ultimate goal as far as music
ultimate goal right now is to change music. To make an impact
on music in a way that will go down in history. I want somebody
years from now to say, ‘Mario has always had great music.’
It doesn’t have to be the number one song in the world.
Just great music.