With almost two decades experience in the music business, singer, writer, performer, and entrepreneur Mario shows no signs of slowing down. In 2016, Mario founded his own independent record label New Citizen, allowing himself the freedom for his own creative and business making decisions. And on October 16, through his label New Citizen, Mario will release his latest project Closer To Mars.
You started your career in 2002 with your hit single “Just A Friend.” Most people know it’s a play off Biz Markie’s 1989 hit. Did you get a chance to meet the Hip-Hop legend before recording? If so, what advice did he give you?
It’s crazy to know that I’ve been in the game almost 20 years. I didn’t meet Biz Markie before recording the song, but I did meet him on the video set of “Just A Friend.” He came by as a surprise. I shot the video in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland and it was a pleasure to have him visit and be a part of my first video.
What can fans expect from the new album? How has Mario changed as an artist over the years?
I think from this new project fans can expect a more mature and very direct lyrical experience. This album touches on different types of music, but it’s consistent in the aggression and shortness of my melodies and lyrics. This is definitely a great mixture between my youthful and mature side as a writer.
In 2016, you founded your Independent record label New Citizen LLC. What is the meaning behind the name and what was the biggest lesson you learned in the process?
New Citizen represents rebirth. It’s about understanding what it really takes to manifest your goals and your dreams. Every time I went to a new process of creating, I noticed that I was reborn again. New Citizen represents a mindset and a way of life when it comes to creating. The biggest lesson I’ve learned through this process has been about maintaining patience and being smart about how you spend your money through the process of releasing a project.
Last year, you went on the Millenium Tour with Pretty Ricky, B2K, Lloyd and more. What was it like being back on the road with them? Were you shocked at all by the fans’s response?
Last year’s tour was amazing! Seeing the guys in their element again was inspirational. It was friendly competition every night [laughs]. It felt like The Scream tour all over again, except everybody could really appreciate being mature and understanding the magnitude behind the creation of the art. Reconnecting with my fans from a performance space was another level of accomplishment for me as an artist.
Who is your favorite artist to cover? If you could sing one song (beside your own) word-for-word from memory, which song would it be? Who are your musical influences?
I will probably have to seay Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson’s music has so much color and range. “Human Nature” would have to be that song. The song has so many messages in it. The lyrics and the musicality was on a whole other level. Songs like that remind me how powerful and universal music is. Some of my influences are Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, D’Angelo, Maxwell. The list goes on and on!
How have you stayed creative during the quarantine period? Have you learned anything different about yourself as an artist?
Staying creative during this period has been very natural for me. I’ve used this time to dive deeper into my writing as an artist and as an author as I am finishing my first book as we speak. What I’ve learned most about myself is how to balance myself on a psychological and spiritual level. This time has truly been a test of our nature as human beings.
I know you’ve been acting for awhile, and most recently you played “Devon” on Empire. What types of roles would you like to play in the future? What shows are you watching right now?
Empire was a great experience. In the future, I would like to play more psychological thrillers and action films. I’m really into psychological dramas. At the moment, honestly, I’m not watching any shows – but I probably should [laughs].
Who are some artists you would like to work with on your upcoming projects? What new artists have caught your eye?
Some artists right now that I would love to work with are James Blake, Summer Walker, Queen Naija, Doja Cat, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla, Kehlani, Big Sean, just to name a few.