Singer, composer, arranger Mario Brown’s life in Christian music began early. Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mario’s grandfather, Rev. Joe Orr, was the pastor of Greater New Life Church, and was particularly influential in encouraging both Mario, or Rio, in his spiritual and musical education.
“By the time I was four,” Mario says, “I was playing drums and singing with my sister in church.” Mario actually started playing when he was two. “My mom played the drums in church while she was carrying me,” Mario explains. “Then, my grandfather allowed me the opportunity and my uncle taught me and let me fill in for him at services.”
Mario wrote his first song when he was ten years old. “It’s called ‘Silent Tears.’ I wrote
love songs before I wrote Gospel. I was a fan of Brian McKnight.” His abilities led him
to be a featured performer touring the country with a Gospel group, “New Creation,”
and the Wisconsin State Youth Choir, as well as co-writing Gospel songs for them. Still
a teen, he joined an R&B group called “Special Request,” which then changed its name
to “Reign.” It seems Mario was exposed to secular music at a young age, too.
“In the studios they would have drugs in the vending machine. I could go up and press A1 and just get them,” reveals Mario. “The strip clubs. The lifestyle and the temptations. I was just seventeen.”
As is often the case, there was a particular moment for Mario when he decided to return to Christian music. “It was when I was recording. I was trying to record a part of a song. I just wasn’t getting it. I just didn’t feel the piece at all,” Mario explains. “I was nervous and upset. I realized at that moment that was the path I shouldn’t be on.”
“It wasn’t like that music was raunchy or anything like that. It was R&B,” says Mario. “I just wasn’t comfortable on that side of the fence. I had promised God I would use my gift to glorify Him. I had a lot of people trying to convince me not to come back. Normally, there’s more success in secular music than in Gospel, but I gave all that up for my spirit to be right.” He adds. “I never looked back.”
Mario became a full-time worship leader and is now Director of Music and Fine Arts at Parklawn Assembly of God Church in Milwaukee. He continues to write songs and has compiled fourteen of them into his debut album, “The Mario Brown Project.”
One of the songs Mario is most proud of is “A Father’s Love,” because his son is on the album with him. “He really can sing,” says Mario. “He was thirteen when we recorded that song.” He is following in his father’s footsteps in more ways than one. “He’s not comfortable doing Gospel yet,” Mario explains. “He likes pop and R&B.”
Perhaps he’ll have some more chances soon to sing Gospel, as Mario is always writing new songs. “As God gives me songs, I record them.”