Rebel Lifestyle Talks with the Incomparable Johnny Gill

We here at Rebel Lifestyle were lucky enough to have a quick chat with member of the legendary r&b group New Edition and exemplary solo artist Johnny Gill. Jumping right into the conversation, we asked about his most recent album, Game Changer, which debuted at #6 on the Billboard R&B chart.

“I just felt like it’s just my duty as well as the other r&b artists to continue to push forward to put r&b artists where they belong – in the forefront, which is where everything about music derives from,” Gill said, referring to his album title. “So, you know, when I said ‘game changer,’ it was because I knew I had a very special album that had at the beginning all the way to the end just great, solid music. I wanted to try to make an impact for people to understand and see that this music exists. It’s not going anywhere, and there’s still a corner of people, lots of people, in the world that appreciate it. It just needs to get the respect it deserves, and part of that was hoping to change the game. So, it was honestly a thought that went into naming this album Game Changer.”

The album, which took about a year to finish, has a little something for everyone, according to Gill. “I mean, it’s nice from beginning to the end of the CD. You can’t go wrong with it. It’s just a solid album.”

With the landscape of music ever evolving, some artists have a difficult time adjusting to the changes. Johnny Gill is not such an artist. He claims he feels no pressure to keep up with the music that is out today because he refuses to compromise who he is as a person. Drawing inspiration from various songs, music, and instruments, Gill makes sure to walk the line between outside inspiration and being Johnny.

“I’ll meet them half-way being who I am, but I love the feeling of it (being inspired). That’s what I did throughout my whole album, doing different things and trying different things, but never compromising who I am.”

Speaking of refusing to compromise, Gill also understands that what works for one artist may not work for everyone. When asked about Beyoncé’s groundbreaking visual album Lemonade, Gill stated, I think you have to be at a certain status, at a certain level of power, not only to be able to do that but to be able to do it on that kind of scale. We have to know what’s within ourselves. I got to do what works for me, where I’m at, where my audience is, continue to pull and bring them along.”

However, Gill is very open to try new things, as long as he remains conscious on how he goes about doing it.

Gill isn’t the only voice on Game Changer, either. Fellow members of New Edition can be heard on his number 1 single “This One’s for Me.” The collaboration was a bit of surprise to Gill. He said, “I played them while we were just sitting there (in rehearsal), and they heard that song and said, ‘Man, c’mon, man!’” Gill said. “They said, ‘We need to be on this track. This is a New Edition jam. You need to get up on it.’ I’m still sitting there, shocked. I’m like wow, okay. So, we put everybody together, everybody on it, and said this is going to be freaking awesome.”

The group has been touring all year round, and a full run of the tour featuring Babyface is next on the schedule. Gill was excited as he talked about bringing fellow r&b artist, Babyface on board with the New Edition tour.

“I just thought it would be incredible. I’ve been a huge fan of Face, so I was like ‘this is a family, a real, true family affair.’ I’m really excited about it, and we got a couple of surprises for you guys, so it’s going to be fun.”

And, yes, a full solo tour for Johnny is in the works.

About being in a group and simultaneously working on a solo career, Gill was very straightforward. He loves both of his career paths. He attributed to his success both in New Edition and his solo endeavors to a healthy balance.

“I really enjoy both. Why? Because I understand in life you have to have balance,” he said. “You have to learn how to work with other people as well as be able to do things on your own. It gives you great balance. When I come into playing with the group, I’m a team player. That means I have a role to play, and it allows me to do what I do there. Then when I come out, I have the freedom to have the artistic control over what I want to choose. It brings balance, and I enjoy it.”

Besides the tour, Johnny Gill and the rest of New Edition are currently working on a biopic that bluntly examines the upward journey of the young r&b group. Gill made it a point to explain that the biopic would focus solely on the good; some of the bad will be addressed as well.

“People see the end result, but a lot of times no one understands what the journey is about. But we had to go through the process, that’s what you’re going to get. We’re going to let you on the inside to see part of the journey, the part of the process beginning from where we were to where we are, and it hasn’t been an easy road. It’s not easy, and it hasn’t been a cake walk. It’s been challenging, and that’s both part of life. We felt we wanted to tell a story, we want to be honest. We want to be as accurate as we can with this  so people can get to know and see who we are and where we come from after 32 years. We’re excited about it. It’s starting really great.”

When asked about being a rebel in his personal and professional life, Gill said, without hesitation, that he’s a rebel because he lives his live with no regrets: “I do what I want to do, not what somebody tells me to do. I do what feels right for me, not what somebody says is right for me.” He also admitted that sometimes things don’t pan out the way they should. Elaborating, he said, “If I make a choice or a decision to do something that feels right for me, I can live with it, and I don’t do it just because I’m doing it. I do it because I operate and march to the beat on what feels right for me. So, I guess I’m a rebel in a way.”

Johnny Gill is expecting to begin work on a new album in the near future, as well as the solo tour after his run with New Edition and Babyface. Also, he is planning to work on fellow group mate Ralph Tresvant’s upcoming solo album.


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