An Exclusive Interview With R&B and Soul Singer, JOHNNY GILL On His Brand New Solo Album ‘Game Changer II’ and More!
Posted On 12 Sep 2019
On September 6th, Johnny Gill released his newest album, “Game Changer II.” Before the collection came out, the singer put out the singles, “Soul of A Woman” and “Perfect.” The latter track features New Edition band-mate Ralph Tresvant. This song is an ode to the quintessential woman in the form of natural beauty, strength and intellect. Johnny’s first single “Soul of a Woman” did hit #1 on Billboard’s on the Adult R&B & featured Emmy award-winning actress Tiffany Haddish in his video.
Johnny Gill is the sixth and final member of New Edition, and was also a member of the supergroup called LSG, with Gerald Levert and Keith Sweat. Gill has released eight solo albums, three albums with New Edition, two albums with LSG, and one collaborative album with Stacy Lattisaw.
On the philanthropic side, for many years, Johnny has been involved with the LA Speech and Language Therapy Center which helps children with Autism. https://lasentinel.net/singer-johnny-gill-and-the-honorable-jan-perry-honored-for-autism-work.html. He also uses his love for golf to help raise money for various charities by signing up for a number of celebrity Golf Tournaments.
Check his latest music online here:
Learn more about Johnny Gill in the following All Access interview-
What do you think you’ve most been excited about for this year?
Looking at the overall body of it, what has taken place with the outcome of the album itself, from an artistic standpoint, it has been… you know, you hope and you strive. You strive to continue to keep getting better and ultimately, I know that I can say I’m beyond happy and satisfied with the outcome. The bottom line of putting together and taking the time to put together such a great project that I can feel proud about.
You know, you sit back and look at the work you’ve got. It’s like, “Wow, we got it done. We good.”
Clearly, growing up, music was very important to you and such a big part of your upbringing. So, I’m curious whether how that has changed over the years. How has the importance of music in your life grown and developed?
You know, music follows us in trends, but it’s also following all of us in our lives. It’s the fabric of our lives. I think that no matter what era you are in, what you know, when you are growing up or where you are now, there are songs that come out that have an impact on you. From back in the day, growing up to where you are today with relationships, or a number of things. That’s how powerful music is. It’s just that I’ve evolved, and as much as I’ve evolved and lived, so has my music and music in its entirety.
We have a whole other generation now that has a different level of language, that, you’ll scratch your head and go, “Huh?” It’s their language, just like when we were coming up. Our parents looked at us and asked, “What is that y’all listening to? That ain’t real music.” We had a different language from them. But you know, it’s pretty awesome. I’m so open to different types of music. I just embrace it all.
I read in your in your press materials that you have this new level of respect for the industry. Can you talk about that and how that came about?
Yeah, just because I’m a record company owner, since 2010. Coming into the game as a record company owner, there is a lot of decision making that has to be made. There’s a lot of new elements that come with being and running a successful label and having music to have a shot at being successful. It’s a lot of work, a lot of pieces that comes with this that you don’t really realize or recognize when you’re just an artist.
We always go as an artist, you always go, when done sold 2 million, 3 million records. Oh we could’ve sold 5 million. You’re never satisfied. Until you’re in that shoe, in that seat to understand the impact of what it takes to get music played and out there, and making sure it’s in front of the jury, which is our fans and people, so they can make a decision whether they like it or not. It’s a lot. It’s challenging fun, but at the same time scary, but it’s still a blessing.
Now, let’s talk about the new music. Let’s talk about the inspiration for, you know, songs like Perfect and Soul of a Woman. How did these songs in particular come together and get to be on this album, Game Changer 2?
For Soul of a Woman, to be honest with you, I never really considered it for Game Changer 1 album. That was just one of those songs I would listen to for my own listening pleasure. At some point, I said, “I’m going to record this song and see how it goes when I do the next album.”
So I had that song almost 5 years.
It was the very first song that I started recording for the for the Game Changer 2 project. I remember recording and playing it, just a rough for my mother, and she loved it. She just kept saying, “Play that again. Play that again.” I said, “You really love this, huh Momma?” And she said, “Yes! This is going to be big.” And I said, “Really?”
Sure enough, I tell you, it went straight to the top. It went out and shot up like a rocket and straight to the top. I guess mother knows best! (Laughter)
She does, she does. I’m a big Tiffany Haddish fan, so I, I loved that you got her for the video. How did that happen?
Well, all credit goes to Chris Spencer, who is a great friend of mine, who actually was the one that initiated that. I’ve been knowing Tiffany for many years, and she just said, “Well Johnny I’ll do anything!”
That was such a blessing and so sweet of her, because you know, she’s one of the A-Listers in Hollywood. For her to take the time out, to want to do that for me when she doesn’t do videos, I’m so fortunate, grateful and blessed.
I bet you, you laughed a lot on that set with her.
Oh, definitely. I forgot, we actually forgot that we were at work. Yeah, that was just a memorable time and great time we had.
Now you also got to collaborate with Santana and Sheila E. on this album. What was that like?
That was my dream come true. I’m a guitarist. That’s where I started. I always idolized Carlos Santana. I bought guitars, the Paul Smith guitars, because I thought I was going to sound like Carlos Santana plays. I came to realize it wasn’t the guitar. But such a huge fan and to actually have him to be a part of this. I have to give credit to Barry Bonds, who is my brother. Barry lives across the street from Carlos Santana, and I’ll never forget playing the song. Barry has always been, even on the Game Changer 1 album, had input from the musical standpoint, because he’s got such a great ear as well. I said, “I would love to get Carlos Santana on this music.” He was like, “Dude, he lives right across the street.”
He said, “He’s such a nice guy. I’ll just go over and talk to him.” He talked to him and he said, “Carlos said he would love to talk to you, knowing you really liked his music.” From there, we started talking! Before you know it, we were in the studio getting it done. I was like, “Wow.”
Then my baby, Sheila E! She’s just the sweetest woman on the planet. For her to just step in was so awesome.
I know you like to mess around with different genres and these two, that’s proof that you really did just that on this album.
I sure did. I tried to maintain the integrity of who Johnny Gill is and allow myself, as a musician, because I played, I’m a musician. From drums to keyboard, to you know percussions. It’s different things so I wanted to do it carefully, to be able to sit and express myself musically, but yet at the same time, not lose the essence of who Johnny is. So when you listen to the music you go, “What the heck is he doing?” It’s still Johnny being Johnny and it’s just allowed everything to come and be built around me.
So it was so awesome, such a blessing, that I thought that we accomplished that.
Then what about, your duet, Perfect with Ralph? You guys have a lot of history together, so that must have been fun singing with him?
It was absolutely pretty awesome. You know, I told him, everyone… everyone always says, “Man, we love you guys’ voices together. So I said, “Ralph, I got this song that I just feel like it’s beyond perfect for you. I would love you to do the hook on it.” I’m doing the background on a new song of his coming out soon, so now he’s doing background on mine.
It is pretty awesome. Everybody just loves it. Because, once again, it’s a song that is a message and a powerful message for woman, as well as Soul of a Woman. I just find that I’m not going to try to preach all day throughout the whole album, but I just wanted to start it out with the climate being the way that it is.
People just recognize and understand that my greatest appreciation is my mother, who is a woman who raised me and that respected and deserved amongst all women. We should be reminded of that and for them to be reminded of the power and the strength that they carry, and how important it is now for their voices to be heard. It was pretty awesome.
Yeah. It sounds like this was quite a labor of love for you, this album. Just the way you talk about it, it’s very refreshing to hear you talk about it. Do you have plans to tour with this album, support it?
We are talking about that now and trying to get those things in place, but yeah, absolutely.
Now I also, I’ve read that you’re doing some acting now for the upcoming film, Spinning Gold. Where did this opportunity come from?
I sat there in Montreal with my good friend, Sam Jackson. He’s so funny. He told me about this movie he thought I should take a look at and be in. That was all him. I often kid and joke with everybody about how he put me in the movie so he can get that money that he took from me on the course. Me and him golf every morning. We fight and go back and forth.
The time constraint, you know it’s a lot. You hurry up and wait, but when you get to the actual acting part of it, it’s fun. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed it, because I’ve done it over the years, with just, plays and all that stuff. It’s so much fun when you’re able to focus on that and then do something that’s just unique because I wasn’t playing myself so it was really really cool.
Do you think you’ll do some more in the future?
I hope so. It’s crazy, because I’m surrounded by all these people, that are family. My brother, that’s what he does for a living. He’s awesome at doing it and I was in one of his movies, in the Madea, but I played Johnny. You know, I’m surrounded by Samuel Jackson, the list goes on of people that I’m surrounded by. I never really had much of an interest in doing it.
My final question is, and you’ve kind of talked about this a little bit, but at the end of the day, what do you hope your fans continue to feel about your brand new music and your older material as well?
I have had peaks and my valleys, but I have always maintained taking great care of my instrument and understanding that it is the vehicle that allows me to get the message out of the things that I want to sing about and talk about things that I feel that are very important.
I am so grateful that when people can just embrace the music because every time that you create a song, a song is no different than birthing a child. It becomes a part of you. You know, every parent wants people to love their child. All my music is the same. It all comes from the soul, it comes from within. I want people to always love, and even if you don’t like to love it, but to respect that what I’ve done simply because it’s authentic, it’s real.
This all comes from a genuine and honest place. I hope that people just enjoy it because of the fact that I do have something to say, and it’s something of significance.
Well, thank you so much and congratulations on Game Changer II! It was a pleasure speaking with you.