Q. What piece of advice did your mother give you that was particularly valuable and useful in life?
A. My mother always encouraged me to be true to myself. The older I get, the more I appreciate and understand the value of her advice. Do not be ashamed to be who you are and do not worry about what other people think. The only way to have success, happiness and peace is to be true to yourself. You can’t do that without honoring yourself.
Q. Do you have any concrete suggestions for young people about how to be true to themselves?
A. There’s not a concrete answer. You learn through the process of growing. We know what we like and what we don’t like. Don’t listen to the outside voices, like TV, radio, the Internet and your friends. The answer lies within. Trust yourself, as opposed to following the crowd. A lot of that you can’t put into one phrase. The mother’s and father’s role today is so important and requires daily conversation with the child that fits what the child is experiencing at the time. Whatever outside pressures there may be, pay attention to what is going on inside. Get a journal, write down what’s going on, understand what you like and don’t like, pay attention to the people you are hanging around with and the impact they are having on your life.
Q. Can you share an important piece of advice you have given your daughter?
A. I tell my daughter — who is a teenager right now — that she can come to me or anybody that is in our family or in our life with an issue or a problem. She can reach out and talk to one of us. I did not do that as a kid — I did not know there was a safe place. I did not know that I could find refuge there, and as a result, life led me down a different path. I try to convey to my daughter the issues of life come from within and you need to address what is going on inside yourself. You need to find an outlet — so the problems don’t come out sideways. You can live your life on your terms. I tell my daughter she is okay the way she is. You have resources available and there’s nothing to be afraid of. I make it a point to try to instill in her to seek a spiritual solution to everything. I try to live my life that way now.
Q. Any additional advice you would give young people today?
A. One of the things I try to convey to young people is to find something they are passionate about and find how to use that passion to serve something greater than themselves. From Henry Ford, to George Washington Carver, to Harriett Tubman and Bill Gates, all of them used their passion to help humanity. So, get an education but also find your passion and use that to benefit others.
Q. Do you have a favorite charitable organization?
A. I started a foundation called Mack and Third. We started with an event a couple of years ago to benefit the homeless. We did a live performance and had corporate sponsors. The Foundation’s mission is to raise money for organizations that provide services for the homeless, abused women, women making a transition — it’s an organization that helps other organizations. This summer we are doing an event again in the city of Detroit. Mack and Third is where Detroit’s rescue mission is located. There are a lot of homeless people and substance abusers in the area. The Salvation Army is there. It is the epicenter of a lot of need.
Q. What do you consider one of your most important professional accomplishments? What is on the horizon for you next?
A. My greatest highlight this year was being nominated for two Grammys — for best male R&B vocal performance and best R&B song for Why Would You Stay from my latest album Intimacy. I was up against great competition, people like Usher and John Legend. Being nominated for a Grammy is a pretty high honor. That was the highlight of my career this year. Right now, I have just come off tour. I’m still traveling on the weekends, doing one-off performances. I’m cultivating new songs for my next album. I have also developed a new fragrance which I am in the process of naming. My plan is to continue making great music and to use my music as a ministry that can help others and build upon the gifts I have so graciously been given.