Gospel Powerhouse Tamela Mann & Comedian Husband David Mann Talk Joining Forces on New Album, Book & Tour

D. Lacy
David & Tamela Mann

Togetherness has always been a crucial component in David and Tamela Mann’s success. Though Grammy-winning gospel singer/actress Tamela and her actor/comedian husband David have achieved much in their individual careers, the couple have always relished the chance to work together. This fall, the Manns are taking togetherness to a new level with their first duet album, a book chronicling their 30-year marriage and a family tour.

“It just made sense right now,” Tamela Mann tells Billboard of their musical collaboration Us Against the World: The Love Project, out Friday. “So many of our fans have been asking us for years when we were going to do an album together, and with the book coming out, it just seemed like the right time.”

Even though the timing was perfect, David Mann admits he was nervous heading into the studio with his Dove Award-winning wife. “I was intimidated to sing with the Tamela Mann. She’s one of the best singers,” says David Mann, an NAACP Image Award winner known for his role as Leroy Brown in Tyler Perry’s Madea films and the television show Meet the Browns. “The title track was one of the first songs that we recorded, and with me not being in the studio for so many years, I was really nervous. I was shaking in my boots.” 

His wife says he needn’t have worried. “I’m just so proud of him,” Tamela Mann adds. “It all turned out so amazing.”

Keeping it in the family, their son, David Jr., co-produced the album and pulled together a team of songwriters that helped craft the 10-song collection (six duets and four solo songs). “It’s all outside [songwriters] because we were busy writing the book,” David Mann says. “I literally sat with these guys for hours and told them some of the stories that were in the book and some of the subjects that we felt were important to cover. They hit it dead on. These songs are the soundtrack of our life together.”

Both Texas natives, the couple met as teenagers and began their performing careers singing with Kirk Franklin in a gospel group that evolved into his platinum-selling Kirk Franklin and The Family. Their acting careers blossomed when they began performing in Perry’s acclaimed plays and carried those roles on to film and television. David Mann has gone on to become a successful comedian and Tamela has established herself as one of gospel music’s top vocalists with six No. 1 songs on Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart, the most of any artist. The couple also has a comedy series on Bounce, Mann & Wife, and will star in a Christmas movie on TV One this holiday season called Merry Wishmas.

Her standing in the gospel community made her a little concerned about their duet album, as it is a project of sultry love songs and not an overtly religious effort. Even so, their faith shines through, particularly on songs like the first single “Good Love.” “It’s so different from us doing gospel music, but it still speaks of our faith, that we’ve made it this far because of our faith and with God being a part of it,” Tamela Mann says. 

David Mann adds, “The song was inspired by our new memoir, Us Against the World. It was important to us to release this track because it’s a compliment to Tamela’s gospel roots and speaks about the love we’ve shared for more than 30 years.” The tune is nearing the Adult R&B Songs threshold to chart and was up 158 percent in plays in the week ending Nov. 4 compared with the week prior, according to Nielsen Music. 

The Manns are on the road with the Us Against the World -- Mann Family tour, featuring their daughter Tia and son David Jr. “It’s not the typical show you’d see from a ‘gospel’ artist,” David Mann says. “There’s comedy, love music, worship music. It’s really not only a concert, but more like a party, an experience. We hope people leave uplifted, spiritually encouraged, and feeling hopeful about love, life and relationships.”

Their relationship is chronicled in their new book, Us Against the World: Our Secrets to Love, Marriage, and Family, published by W Publishing/Harper Collins Christian. They are hoping that sharing their story will encourage other families. “It seems like we’re living in the times where two-parent homes are the minority,” David Mann says. “Kids are going to school now and surprised when other kids live with both their real mom and dad. That’s a sad narrative that we’re getting to in our society.”

His wife agrees, commenting on the high divorce rate and adding, “Most people are dealing with a blended family, so we just wanted to encourage people that we can make it through all of this, all of the ups and downs.”

So to what do they attribute the success of their 30-year marriage? “First of all, it’s our faith, and in the beginning we said to each other that divorce was not an option,” Tamela Mann says. “I know we’re going to have disagreements, but I don’t want our disagreements to divide us to where we can’t make it. Some people just start tolerating each other and just stop celebrating each other.”

Being committed partners in every season of life is also key, even with a challenge like menopause. “I’m willing to make adjustments, like now at this stage of our lives, I don’t say, ‘She’s going through menopause.’ I say, ‘We’re going through menopause.’ I make the life adjustments,” David Mann says, which includes adjusting the thermostat to accommodate hot flashes. 

“I’m walking around the house in a hoodie,” he laughs.

Tamela Mann feels other couples will relate. “Sometimes people feel like they are the only ones going through something,” she says, “but the truth is we’re all dealing with many of the same things. We want to encourage people to know they can overcome challenges and be victorious too.”