The Donna Summer Tribute Site

An Interview With Mary Gaines Bernard

March, 2008


Once upon a time I got an email from someone saying, "Hey, I have a new CD out," so of course I checked it out. And I really liked what I heard.  So I rather impulsively wrote back asking if I could interview her for the site.  And instead of doing the sane thing (which would be to run away screaming  LOL), she said yes. That person was of course, Yoko Ono.....  ;-)   I'm just teasing. It was Mary "The Real Diva" Bernard.  And hopefully you guys will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed  doing it.

And Mary - thanks for all the typing!  I hope your  fingers have recovered.  :-)


I guess the best place to start is with the basics. So for the three people reading the site who don't know you, tell us a little about  yourself.

I was born Mary Gaines in Mission Hill Massachusetts into a large family, number six of seven children born to Mary and Andrew Gaines We were a pretty happy bunch, six girls and one boy. Growing up we were always singing on the back porch of our childhood home serenading the neighbors, whether they liked it or not. As a teen I had a band called Osceola and we played the college circuit. My sister Dara would often come sing with me songs my mother taught us from the big band era, but we specialized in top forty. We were so RETRO back then but it was great fun.

How did you did you get started with music, and when did you know it  was the career for you?

Singing for me was an activity that I shared with my sisters as we would perform throughout the house. But I was one of the younger ones, so I never got to be Diana Ross, I could only be one of the Supremes. When we were little my mother would take us to see plays on the weekends, and [after] seeing "Your A Good Man Charlie Brown" I knew I wanted to perform. They brought me joy and it seemed that they were having a great time too. The joy of the singers always caught my attention, and I thought to myself I could do that. And it was great to be with my sisters on stage singing with them, and winning some local Boston awards didn't hurt either. Well after that I was smitten.


What's been the highlight of your career so far? Maybe a moment that made you think "Wow! I'm really living the dream!"

Probably different than what most would think, because for me it is not one moment but is the culmination of many events. Like going to Poland and singing for the Pope. Also to be able to travel and sing and experience other cultures by being truly immersed in their environment. My dreams haven't really changed, I love what I do so I have never worked a day in my life.

If you had the chance to work with anyone at all, living or dead, who  would it be and why? 

Ella Fitzgerald because she knew how to finesse a song and I would just love to get in her head musically. And Joe Sample for his amazing piano skills. He gives voice to the keys and when he plays, the piano speaks in every language. I would love to jam with them, wouldn't that be amazing?

If you have one, what is your favorite song to perform and why?

"Selah", because its a song that you can put on your radio an just take a long drive to. It has a great groove.

What sort of music do you listen to in your down time? Or do you prefer to turn off the music and do something else entirely?

I love to read and absolutely love to listen to music. My styles are eclectic and can range from Israel and Fred Hammond to John Mayer, Alicia Keys.

Back in the day, you and your sisters did an album called "Watchin' Daddy Dance". Any chance of that ever seeing the light of day on iTunes or someplace? Or is that one probably lost forever?

I wouldn't even begin to know where that is. But maybe there is a fan who can find a copy. Wow I would love to hear it myself.... it would be fun to hear what we sounded like then.

This past December, a track you did with the Tom Alexander Trio called "Make December Stay" turned up on YouTube. How did you hook up with  those guys, and are there more tracks yet to surface from that collaboration?

It was a studio thing I did when I first got to Florida. I think its about five years ago I met Tom Alexander through a friend and he asked me to sing on one of his songs, and I did. I think it was the first time I did something as jazzy as that.

Okay, I wasn't gonna ask any Donna questions, but I'm gonna throw this one in and you can delete it if you want to. ;-) Once upon a time,  the Gaines family was just a normal family living in Boston. Then one day, Donna goes out and gets a hit record. Practically overnight she's a big star and obviously her life changes forever at that point. But what happens to the rest of the family? Suddenly your sister is a celebrity - good or bad, how does that impact the lives of the brother, sisters, parents, etc? And in watching Donna deal with all the ups and downs of  fame, did you learn anything from her experiences?

Yes celebrity changes everybody's life, for good and sometimes for bad. The good comes when doors open for you only because your the sister of Donna Summer, and that feels great for a little while. The bad however,  is that you become merely the an extension of Donna rather than a person yourself and then you start to question everyone's motives and you start to distrust people. It sometimes makes it hard to find true friends, and that is a very hard truth. The most important thing is to stay true to God and yourself.

And though I'm not famous, I have been in the business long enough to see the pitfalls and recognize that fame is an illusion. I do have my sister Donna to thank for that. I watched her navigate through some really hard situations and I have the utmost respect for her and all she has accomplished. I watched her give up things in her life to stay true to herself and her family. I always think of her as my Professor Higgins from My Fair Lady because I have been going to Summer University for quite some time now. I guess its time for me to graduate... huh.

So how did your album, "You Made It",  come about?

I felt like God whispered into my heart, "Mary its time to do a CD."  I wasn't really even thinking about it at all but God obviously had a plan -  he brought all the pieces together. And it has been bigger than I could have ever, ever imagined.

How long did it take you to make?

16 months.

Was this something you wanted to do for awhile? Or was it a  situation where the opportunity came up and you decided to go with it?

It wasn't in my mind or in my plans.

Who did you work with, and what was it like working with them?

My producer Erich Bulling is one of the most talented people I have ever met. He produced the CD at Capitol Record recording studios Los Angles and I was able to work with some of the most amazingly talented musicians, singers, and some incredible engineers. It was the most fun I have had in a long time, being creative and really getting to participate in the decision making. I had CRAZY FUN meeting new people and exploring new talents.

Were you involved in writing any of the songs, and if not, where did you find the songs?

Well Erich Bulling and I co-wrote all the songs for this project - well really God wrote them because I don't write this good.  LOL LOL No really.

Was the experience of recording a solo album what you expected it to be?

No, much more fun than I ever imagined. Like I said before, I had CRAZY FUN for real. I could do this for a living. I loved it so much.

Did you learn anything from the experience?

Yes I did. You know you go about your life thinking that you have done pretty much everything - at least everything you thought you wanted to do, and here  comes God dropping a new dream in your heart and he takes you for the ride of your life. This is as good as it gets. What I learned is that dreams have no expiration date and that God really does love me.

You sing a couple of songs in Spanish and Portuguese – what inspired you to do that, and do you actually speak those languages?

No, I do not speak those languages yet, but I am learning. The reason I recorded in those languages was because I wanted the Spanish and Portuguese people at my church to have some worship in their own language. They are so supportive of me.

Shameless plug time – what does the future hold for you? 

I will be doing the Nights of Joy at Disney in Orlando, Florida in September 2008. And in April  of this year the CD will have mainstream distribution in Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Borders and all Christian book stores. As for now the CD can be purchased through iTunes, at and Calvery Chapel bookstore in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I will keep you posted on the future ... OK.

Any final thoughts for the readers?

No matter what the future holds from me ,I know that God is always in my corner. And that is my prayer for everyone who has supported me as Donna's sister. And I know that many love me, just because,  and I am so grateful for that. And I love you right back.

We love you too Mary.  :-)


Check out samples from You Made It.
For those of you who bought You Made It through iTunes or another download service, you are missing the CD booklet with the lyrics and the liner notes.  So I am providing a scan of the liner notes here because I know a lot of you love to read them. Click any image for a larger version.
notes1.jpg (494951 bytes) notes2.jpg (866311 bytes)


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