Erica Campbell: Spreading a Message of Love This Christmas

Wife, mother, nationally syndicated radio host, author and singer/songwriter are just a few of the hats worn by multi award-winning gospel artist Erica Campbell. Armed with a hit song ‘Shackles’, the singer shot to stardom in February 2000 as one half of the dynamic duo Mary Mary. Seven Mary Mary albums later, the gospel community was introduced to Erica Campbell, the solo artist. Erica’s debut record caught the attention of the Recording Academy who awarded her a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album in 2015. 

The singer has since gone on to release two further projects, and her 2023 release ‘I Love You’ is up for two Grammy Awards in 2024. After embarking on a gruelling two-month promo tour across America, gospel’s most hardworking female artist is ready to wind down and prepare to spend the holidays with her husband and three children. Akosua DF recently caught up with Erica Campbell to talk all things Christmas.

AKOSUA DF (ADF): You grew up in a large family, so Christmas in the Atkins’ home must have been special. What are your fondest memories of Christmas as a child?
ERICA CAMPBELL (EC): I think so many of my memories are of church and church concerts. We celebrated that way because unfortunately we didn’t have lots of money, so it wasn’t necessarily about the trees and gifts. Sometimes we didn’t have a tree and we didn’t have gifts, but the spirit of Christmas was about celebrating the birth of Jesus. That’s what the holidays were about: Jesus, and He always brought so much joy in our home.

ADF: What are some of your favourite Christmas traditions with your husband and kids?
EC: Aweeeeee, we always wake up on Christmas morning and pray. We take time to show gratitude for all that God has done, thanking Him that we’re still together. We then head to my mother-in-love’s house for Christmas breakfast. We hang out there, celebrate early, and open gifts. My kids are very spoiled; they have gifts at home then they have gifts at Nana’s house [chuckles]. They’re old enough now to gift others. It’s very sweet to see them excited about getting gifts for their father and I.

ADF: Anyone who follows you on social media knows that you can throw it down in the kitchen, but there must be at least one Christmas where the meal didn’t quite go according to plan. We’d love to hear that story!
EC: Last Christmas my stove was broken so we had three air fryers on the counter, and nothing was ready at the right time. The meat was done but the mac n cheese wasn’t done. The greens took longer to cook and baking the sweet potato pies was crazy. Preparing Christmas dinner was super stressful! It’s funny because I was literally on the phone with Tina this morning, discussing where we’d be spending Christmas. We have a lot of nieces and nephews and they’ve broken quite a few things over the years, so my husband said I don’t know if it’s at our house this year. Tina was like: “Well… I don’t know if it’s at my house this year…”, so we’re trying to figure out where to spend it because my nieces and nephews are quite rambunctious!

ADF [laughs]: Well, I’m certain you’ll have a fantastic Christmas once you all decide who’s hosting!Christmas/New Year is a busy season (professionally) for gospel artists. How do you manage to balance ministry and family?
EC: I’ve been doing this (music) for over two decades, so I no longer feel the need to be gone during the holidays. I’ve had booking enquiries about New Year and Christmas, but at this stage in my career I want to spend time with my family even though I have a brand-new record out. Work, church and family can get so busy that I think intentionality around family is important. It is a very difficult decision because it is your work, and it’s how you take care of your family, but if God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory, I don’t think I have to miss every single family moment in order for Him to do that. I say: “ God, I’m going to spend time with family and You’re going to supply every need that we have.”

ADF: I do believe that sometimes artists sacrifice family moments because of the fear of missing out on ministry opportunities so I do love your perspective. What’s your favourite Christmas album of all time?
EC: Oooh, favourite Christmas album of all time … that’s a good one. I can listen to Frank Sinatra sing ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ then listen to Barbra Streisand, Take 6 or Pentatonix with their beautiful harmonies. Of course, Kirk Franklin’s Christmas record is right up there with my favourites, as well as Bebe and CeCe’s and Mary Mary’s. My musical palette is very eclectic, so my playlist is literally on shuffle all the time. I love good music during the holidays.

ADF: You’ve been on the road these last few months promoting your latest project, ‘I Love You’. Things have quietened down a bit for the holidays but I daresay they’ll pick up again at the top of 2024. What can fans expect from Erica Campbell in the New Year?
EC: There’s a tour coming. I am, however, torn between my intimate ‘I Love You’ events and concerts that are a little bigger and more elaborate. I loved what I was able to experience during this promo tour. There was such a special sweet connection with every city I went to, and my prayer was that I would make a love deposit in every city. Though we have faith and serve God, when it comes to love our brokenness and pain can sometimes take a front seat, so I just wanted to illuminate and celebrate the love of God in ways that have moved and changed me. I wanted the conversation of God’s love to be louder. Knowing that you are loved by the sovereign God brings great comfort and joy. It’s such a powerful weapon against the enemy. At the end of my ‘I Love You’ events I literally walked through the audience hugging people, taking pictures and thanking them for their support. I am humbled that God would use me to share His love with people.

ADF: So, in 2024 you’re going to be sharing a lot more of God’s love with the world. And when we say the world, we’re not just talking about America but the big “ole” world [laughs].
EC: It’s so funny because I look at my comments and I see Brazil, I see Dubai, I see London and they’re saying don’t leave us out. I started my promo tour in Cape Town and Johannesburg, so I must come to London and go to all these countries where the fans love the record. I am truly grateful for the love and support.

ADF: Very random question… Ever since you released ‘I Love You’ I’ve been wondering what the inspiration behind the cover art was. It’s very different from all your other projects
EC: I’ll be honest… my husband said we don’t need another pretty picture; we know what you look like, we know you are beautiful. Let’s do something different [laughs]. So, we were on a plane with a composition book just writing and scribbling. We gave it to our graphic designer and voila, we had our album cover.

ADF: Very interesting. Before I let you go, I’d love you to share a Christmas and New Year message with our readers.
EC: Absolutely. Always remember that it’s not the magnitude of the gift that truly counts, but the heart behind it. One of my favourite Christmas stories is when my family had no money for Christmas, so we decided to give “the thought that counts.” We wrote down what we thought of each other. We didn’t have a big dinner, but it was a very special Christmas. Christmas has become so commercialised that it’s easy for people to get caught up in what they can get that they forget the joy of pouring into people just because you love them. If you don’t have money, don’t let the commercialisation of the holiday steal your joy. Ultimately Jesus is the reason for the season. Let the season be special because of people and not because of things.

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