Mario: Still Dancin’

When Mario busted onto the scene with his hit single “Just a Friend” in 2002, he was a cute sixteen year old singing about getting to know a young lady who had captured his eye. With several hit singles and a few movies under his belt, Mario have made the full transition into a grown man with star power and lots of soul.

In our interview with Mario, we had a chance to speak with him about that transition from teen heartthrob to philanthropist (via his Do Right organization), television star and bonafide R&B crooner. Let’s talk about what you’ve been up to recently. You were one of the stars of this season’s “Dancing with the Stars,” what made you go on the show?

Mario: They just called me with the opportunity. Honestly being around and having an album out and still promoting it, I’m like I’m not gonna have time to do the show, you know? They [wanted] me for about two months. I know for a fact that me doing ballroom dance was a far stretch [laughs] from what I actually do in R&B but I was up for the challenge, you know! So when I started the show and I realized how many people actually watched and what they appreciate about the show is the fact [that] they really get a chance to know you, your personality and what you bring to the table. If you want to be in entertainment, if you want to be respected as such you gotta show that side of yourself. I felt like I was still able to show the “entertainment” side of myself for the show. Well you really did a good job on it. I was rooting for you to become a finalist but hey you know how it is with the reality shows.

Mario: That’s the other part of the show that I didn’t really focus on: the fact that they still had to make the show. For me it worked. Everything the show was supposed to do for me it did. I feel like I was able to entertain my fans, I was able to break that age barrier with that audience. Hopefully, you’ll probably see more young artists on the show and that’s a good thing because before I did it, you didn’t see it, you know? So what was it like having to tango one minute, then foxtrot the next, then mambo the other? What was that like for you physically?

Mario: I mean physically it was challenging; it was very challenging. It was tough. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I mean, it’s a great workout. It was good for me because in the future I want to do more dancing. I want to incorporate dancing into my shows and I want that to become a part of who I am as a singer. So it was a great introduction to that for me. So were you concerned that being on the show would hurt your image with your fans at all?

Mario: Umm…Yeah, to a certain degree I was but I want my fans to know that anything I do I go into it with 110%. Because I started so young, it’s like…I realize that all of this stuff is good for me. There are things that I want to try, there’s things that I wanna do. I don’t feel like being stuck in a box is fun when you’re an artist and there are all these different opportunities out here. I feel like it’s important to grow as an artist and as a person. And your growth as a person has to be simultaneous in order for you to show that to your fans. Rumors started flying, and I’m sure you heard them already, but the rumors started flying that you were dating Karina [Smirnoff] who was seeing another Mario, which is Mario Lopez. They had rumors that you guys were spotted kissing and they just went on and on, so what did you make of all those rumors surrounding you while you were on the show and even after [you left]?

Mario: Honestly, I’m like wow. I didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect all these rumors to start because our chemistry on the dance floor was just fiery and I guess we did our job. When you see something like the rumba, which is a very sensuous, sexy dance, it shows the relationship between two people up there dancing. You can’t help but to think that they’re somewhat into it because that’s just what they sell. I feel like I’m naturally a charmer. I feel like I’m naturally into the art of being sexy. That automatically came off as, “Okay. They’re having sex. He is boning her.” And I’ll have people like say it to my face like, “I know you’re boning her,” and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” Don’t get me wrong. Don’t get it twisted. I think that she’s a very sexy woman. She’s obviously sexy I think. I appreciate her talent and what she does in her art just as much as she appreciates what I do in my art. That’s what it is. What have you been up to since the show?

Mario: Well, I’m on a tour that started on June 12th in St. Louis. Also, I’m reading some different scripts right now on different film projects. There are a lot of projects out. Then I’m going back in the studio starting in July to record my next LP. So I’m just keeping it moving. I’m doing summer jams all over the country. You launched your Do Right Foundation earlier this year at Challenger’s [Boys and Girls Club]…

Mario: Oh man, how could I forget that? Actually it’s the second half of my tour in conjunction with my “Go” tour for my album. We’re teaming up with the Boys and Girls club and we’re doing a lot of things together. We’ll be doing press conferences about the foundation but also about kids who can relate to my life and my story and the things that I’ve gone through personally aside from music. I think that’s where the problem lies sometimes when you can’t overcome an obstacle it’s because you haven’t spoken about it. You haven’t admitted or dealt with the fact that, “You know what? This was a part of my life that I lived through, but I made it through it…” Those are the things that I’m going to be talking about. That’s awesome because a lot of kids don’t have an outlet.

Mario: This is just the opening and the beginning of my foundation getting out there. Hopefully moving forward I’d like to actually change some kids’ lives. I think it’s going to take more than these conversations. Our foundation teaches kids personal influences you know and having people there for them weekly, someone they can call and talk to anytime. How can people get involved with the foundation?

Mario: If you want to get involved, you can definitely send your information to the website, You said you were going to start working on some new material for your new album. Do you feel any pressure with all the Ushers, the Chris Browns, the T-Pains…Do you feel any pressure to adhere to a certain standard?

Mario: Absolutely. I feel like you just have to keep raising the bar creatively, sonically, everything. Our motto at is “I Love R&B,” it would be great if you could tell us why you love R&B.

Mario: R&B was the first type of record I ever tried to sing to when I was kid. And it was all around the house: Luther, Marvin, Joe, Stevie Wonder, Boys II Men… That’s what I became accustomed to; listening to and singing along with, so that was my first love and then I started listening to other types of music from rock reggae to jazz…My grandfather was a jazz [musician] so anytime I went over to his house that was all he played. But I love R&B because of the content; because it’s always relatable. —— By: Interview By Seattle Slim


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