tv Tavis Smiley PBS November 15, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PST
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. mary j. blige released her first album at the age of 21. it immediately went to the top of the charts, catapulting her into the limelight. "my life, was named by rolling stone magazine as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time. since then she has won nine grammys, sold 50 million records
, but her latest is her first holiday cd, titled "a mary christmas." with "have a merry little christmas." and have yourself a merry ♪ttle christmas now you are sounding good, looking good. happy holidays to you. i could not wait to put it in, and as is my custom, i pull out the cover and want to read the
liner notes. i started looking at the people you collaborated with on this. >> i needed it to be a masterpiece and something special. this is my first christmas album. i didn't want it to be, you know, just anything. i wanted to do something special, and i wanted all my fans to just be involved with it and love it. tavis: tell me about your friendship, your relationship with david foster. >> i know david. i have known david for a while now. i worked with him before on the , and the rodi song stewart song. i have worked with david on several things, so i have a relationship with him. itis: i was saying earlier, david knows a little bit of everybody. [laughter] >> david has relationships. just saying, david
knows a lot of people. i saw you and barbra streisand hanging out. that is serious. foster knows her very well. they are friends. he asked me if i wanted to do a duet with our. why would i say no? ra a while ago at one of her birthday parties, and she was really down to earth. we click. i really like her. so when david asked me, i was like, why not? why wouldn't i do that? is there anybody, as beautifully as you sing, anybody you have been intimidated to sing with? you have streisand you just mentioned, andrea bocelli, has anybody ever intimidated you? me,o one intimidated because i'm not trying to do
what you do. i can do what you do. i can only do what mary j. blige can do. competitionof the and that whole thing. so i am not intimidated by any singers at all. tavis: this is one of those obligatory questions you have to ask about a christmas cd. there are so many great christmas songs. how did you figure out what you wanted to do? >> i wanted to sing all my favorite christmas songs. on there is mostly my favorite christmas songs, for songs from growing up in childhood, songs i started to get to know as an adult. some are david's choice, not many, but some of them. tavis: how do you approach a project like this? i'm always fascinated by artists who at whatever point in their career decide to do a christmas cd. if you are choosing traditional christmas songs, how do you put
your own feel on a christmas song? >> you just do. i can explain it. , and it is my soul, it is my spirit, so that's what you're going to get. i'm not trying to do what barbra did. then when you do "have yourself a merry little christmas," there is no other way to do it but the way i do it. there's no other way to do it but the way you do it. inis: for you to be here november talking about a christmas project means that you must have done this sometime in the dead of summer. >> i did it in march. ask how was about to you get the christmas spirit to a project when it is 80 degrees outside. >> well, when you are going to do a christmas album or whatever
you are going to do, you have to put your mind into it. so i had to put my mind and christmas mode. i had to go back to being a child and remembering all of that. to do aous, when i go project, i am serious about it, so i wrap my world around it. so it had become christmas time to me and i'm singing songs like it is christmas day. you spendhow do christmas these days as an adult? you have a little more now than when you were a child. it was not quite this way in yonkers when you were a baby. [laughter] the food, the family, the neighbors, the fun. now it is on a whole other level, but it is still family, there is still christmas music, they're still great food, there is love, and reminiscing for the
past. the mary j.you play project during the christmas season? >> oh yes, over and over. tavis: >> there are some artist who can listen to themselves, and some, no matter how many records they have so, don't particularly like the sound of their own voice. there are actors who won't watch themselves. that you are not one of those. how just started learning to do that, because i have to. if i'm going to be the best in what i do, i have to study what i'm doing. i have to see it and hear it. i'm just starting to appreciate myself and the way i can look at , or listen to myself as much as i do now. is starting to be like, hey, i
like myself now. then i can grow that way. what i did back in the day, i don't want to see it or hear it, i cannot grow. that is why listen to myself and watch myself now. >> i'm going to put you on the spot here. i know what we think of your music, all the fans. if he asked me what do you love , what is your favorite song? about ask you a question mary. when you talk about listening to yourself now, when you hear your voice, what do you hear? are there things you think you can still work on, things you are trying to perfect, are you happy with your voice at this point? >> i love that question. i see nothing but imperfections. i am my worst critic. i like the fact that i can listen to myself now, make fun of myself, i need to work on
that or the us. i like the fact that i am my worst ready, but i don't beat myself down. i am my worst critic because i need to be able to fix and get better so i can be the best me that i can be. it doesn't bother me anymore, it used to bother me. now i am like, gosh, i've got to fix that. god has blessed me with that now, to be able to go to the next level that i need to get to if i'm going to still be around. emotion in that note, so you are good on that. as long as you don't mind it, they are not going to mind it. tavis: >> if you were right now to hear "real love, go what do you hear about your voice now that you did not hear then. >> i hear that i was a baby. that, gosh, i was
real talented. i had something. whatever it is, it wasn't always the right note. a lot of it was off key and even flat, but there is something god benefit my generation , or what he gave me that people.my people are like, that is all right, mary. i always appreciate your transparency and your honesty. fans,ll the rest of your i appreciate watching you grow over the years. haveour time together, you always been honest when i ask you something, or whenever we have conversed. one of the things you just said a moment ago is something a lot of artist would never admit to, and persons who were critics of yours, you were like, the girl
has got some talent but she is flat on too many notes. she sings off key sometimes. she will go over or under the notes. the note thing rove some people crazy. you phrase that, god gave you something. for me, there was so much solely what you were doing. there were others that saw it differently, that had a problem with you missing notes. how did you process that? >> i would hear a lot of things, and there's nothing i could do about it. i met one of my favorite singers and he said i was off -- she said i was off key. it did not make me cry, but it really made me think about singing on key. i was like, if she is saying it and she is one of my favorite
singers, she is amazing. let me go check that out. there was a time for that. i needed to be off key or theever i was, to do ministering are the healing that came to my voice. i guess that what -- what it was needed for. i got the message from this woman that i needed to sing on key, so i went to investigate that and try to fix it. once i get all emotional, there is no perfect note, forget about it. it's going to be all over the place. but we are going to have fun. but i have been working on it. i don't care about being pitch perfect or crystal clear i don't care about that. all i care about is that my fans are being nurtured with whatever
i am putting out there. tavis: i'm glad to hear you say that. i asked that not knowing what the answer was going to be, but i'm glad that is the answer, because i think people can get screwed up by other people. they ought to do something with the gift god gave them. they thought the loneliest was missing notes back in the day, and now he is an artistic -- monk wasght thelonius missing notes, and now he is in artistic genius. you got the last laugh. something is working here. [laughter] is getting what you are giving them, even if it is not pitch perfect. >> that's not my gift, obviously. i'm not those women, i am this woman with this boys, and what
ever my voice is that my fans love so much, that's all i have. tavis: >> it turns out on this project you are doing a little spanish with marc anthony. tell me about that track. >> it is silent night. latino fans out there. like i said to you earlier, i really wanted my fans to be a part of this album and playing in their house, everywhere all over the world. travel, how is your gift regarded by fans around the world? is there a distinct difference in how you are treated are greeted around the world? >> if they love you over there, they really love you. if they don't, they don't.
apollo.ike the [laughter] pick a place in the world, i'm just curious. you can ask any artist and they will give you a different answer. name a couple of places in the world where the people love you and there is nothing you can do about it, they just love you. london, my fans over there love me. france is definitely another place that is just like over here. if they love you, they love you. if they hate you, they will be a your show with their middle finger up in the front row. [laughter] fors: the french are known that. they are not terribly shy. this is one of those obligatory questions.
is there a favorite christmas song that you have loved since you were a child? >> nat king cole's version. it feels like christmas when he opens his mouth. i cannot describe it. it was playing on the radio a lot, and during christmas time they played christmas music on regular radio stations. not christmas for me until i hear nat king cole, and donny hathaway. smooth.oice is that's why i had to cover that one. tavis: speaking of people's
voices, putting you on the spot again, are there people's voices when you were growing up why johnny mathis, who you referenced a moment ago, that the voice just did everything for you? that "songs inr, the key of life." over and over again to that whole album, trying to learn the words. he made us feel like we were a part of what he was doing. i cannot even describe what he did. tavis: how does it feel years later to grow up and be an artist and hang out with stevie, to perform with him? how do you process that journey in this short life? >> i'm just so grateful. i'm so blessed. i remember what stevie made me feel like as a child. he made me feel like i wanted to
be part of his movement. where are you going? i need to know what you know and see what you see. and now, here i am. i'm so grateful. bigs: stevie does a christmas toy drive here in l.a. i know if the tickets are not already sold out, they will be. year, he isrt this doing from beginning to end, "songs in the key of life, g the whole album. he performs every year. that is like one of the greatest the whole showe. from top to bottom is "songs in the key of life." the whole album is classic.
christ did everybody play these songs? -- >> did everybody play the songs? tavis: it used to be when we were growing up that and artist would come out with an album and you really would dig every track on it, top to bottom. that doesn't happen a whole lot these days. the last time i saw you, you were here in l.a. concert, andital you did "my life." which i thought was really cool, and i listen to your stuff all ipod.me in rotation on my be a record that comes out these days and there may be one or two songs on it that i like.
to put together a project like this one that goes from top to those, it seems that records are not coming out as quickly as they used to. make acan't be afraid to full body work like we used to do. you want people to see the movie id, liker. dre d everybody get back in the day. you make a movie. everything is so single driven, so people are only thinking i'm going to make an album, but make sure there is one record on here. you have to have the kurds to make a full body of work that people will listen to. tavis: i hear your point. so why aren't more people seeing and doing it that way? >> i think it is the labels that
say this is what is in now. you're going to sell 60 million singles instead of 60 million albums. that is the big thing, is singles right now. but if you are an artist, you're going to want more than just that. you're not going to be afraid to give your people a full movie or a full body of work. you've got to be not afraid to lose. out on something, but the bottom line is, you can't he afraid to make the movie. labels,ince you mention how would you grade your experience as an artist to date, overall, with regard to your relationship with music labels? that is a treacherous path for a lot of people. it is the music business.
do you think you have done relatively well, have you been disappointed? >> i have done well, i have been disappointed, and i think it all goes back to -- you are a business, so you have to protect yourself. in my case, i didn't have a lot of protection. i could not protect myself at the beginning, so it was not too good. when you are responsible, it is good for you, but when you are not responsible, it is bad. good, becauses i'm responsible. when i did not have any control and i did not know what was going on, it was bad. you don't know who is doing what. tavis: let me go to this nativity project that i know you are involved in. tell me about the nativity project and the role you play. >> i play an angel, a singing angel.
name. you have a great platinum fro. >> there is a picture on the screen there. that was for the movie. tavis: you have had some hairstyles over the years, though. >> i know. [laughter] that was not a surprise. tavis: i know when to get out of a conversation when the subject of a woman's hair comes up, it is time for me to exit. i'm going to exit stage left after i tell you this new project of mary j. blige is called "a mary christmas." this is the first time she has done a full on album of
christmas music him and i can guarantee you, you will love it. i am loving it already. my mother is a huge christmas music person. she literally listens to christmas music in june or july. it will be like 95 degrees and she is listening to christmas music. is one she will listen to in june. tois: i will be sending it her right about now when we get off the air. good to see you. >> it is good to see you always. i love you, too. tavis: that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with writer stanley crouch about his
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