Johnny Gill Is Back On Top Of the Charts
Ever since we first heard him sing, Johnny Gill has been a special voice in Black music. Whether using his growling baritone or his searing falsetto, the four time Grammy-nominated vocalist has a slew of classics as a solo artist–“My, My, My,” “Rub You The Right Way,” and “In the Mood” to name a few–and with his legendary group mates, New Edition.
Despite selling out venues all around the country for three decades, it almost seemed Gill’s hit-making days were behind him…until now.
His latest ballad, “This One’s For Me and You” featuring New Edition, hit the top of the Billboard Adult R&B Chart, making it Gill’s–and New Edition’s–first number one single in 20 years. With a hit single and a new miniseries about the group in production, all the stars are aligning for Gill and the guys.
Recently, JETmag.com caught up with the singer to chat about the success of his new single, a possible New Edition record, and how a conversation with Prince helped him cement his future as an independent artist.
JET: Where were you when you found out “This One’s For Me and You” hit number one?
Johnny Gill: We [New Edition] were on the Tom Joyner Cruise and had just finished up the last performance, and I had gotten a phone call saying, “You can break out the champagne.” We were on our very last show, and it took everything I could to withhold it from the guys until the very last show, ’cause I’d gotten the call that morning. I announced it to them and the audience at the same time and everybody was just like, “Oh, my God! You held it?” It just killed me, but I had to, and I knew they would enjoy the moment. It was awesome. It’s really a blessing.
JET: We have a lot of streaming platforms these days, with Spotify and Pandora, etc. Does it feel the same to hear your song on the radio?
Gill: I’m from the old school, so you have to understand, I hit the radio consistently, that means you got something special. Every time I hear it on the radio, I’m like a little kid; Turn it up! Turn it up! Everybody be quiet! [laughs] So funny. I never get tired of it. It’s such a blessing.
JET: Have you guys performed it on stage yet, and if so, what’s the reception been?
Gill: Oh, yeah. We did it on the Tom Joyner Cruise. Its unbelievable when you have a record that connects with an audience. They hear the intro of it and you watch the reaction and think, Wow! After 32 years, this is unbelievable.
JET: Is it hard to believe it’s been 32 years?
Gill: It seems like it has flown by, and it’s crazy because it’s been 20 years since we had a number one record on Billboard. So, it’s a milestone for us on top of everything. We couldn’t have planned it any better. The day that I heard it officially went number one was also the day that they started to do the filming for the New Edition biopic. So, everything happens all at once. You never plan this; it’s all God’s plan.
JET: How’s the film coming along?
Gill: We’ve all been hands-on and involved with the characters. The story is as accurate as can be. From day one of the shooting, now into the second week, you can feel the energy and the magic. You know that there’s anointing on it. It’s gonna be on BET, a three night miniseries.
JET: I’m sure the miniseries will show many of New Edition’s trials and tribulations. How have you all maintained your brotherhood with all the personal and industry issues?
Gill: You said the keyword. It’s a real, true brotherhood. I talked about this on Steve Harvey the other day. Back in the day, we fought like cats and dogs, just like any other siblings. Yet, at the end of the day, if someone got into a car accident or something happened, guess what? We all come running; nothing else matters. These days when you’re around us, you’ll hear nothing but laughter. That’s the confirmation when you talk about a true brotherhood.
JET: Has the solo projects from you, and the rest of the group, been beneficial to New Edition’s longevity?
Gill: Absolutely. I think everything we do reflects on us. When one’s successful, we’re all successful. Everyone likes to compete with each other; we’re always competing with each other about who’s doing what and how we’re going to get this fan out. It’s still with the understanding that it reflects on every single one of us. I think having individuality absolutely means that if there’s New Edition fans that love Ronnie, Johnny, Ricky, Mike, Ralph and Bobby, then there’s some who just like BBD, or just like Johnny, and so on. When you bring all of those fans together, it’s a nucleus.
JET: New Edition’s last album, One Love (2004), was on Bad Boy Records and had a contemporary sound. However, you said that it was time to accept you were all grown men, and embrace a more mature sound. Is this because you feel it’s more important to hold onto longtime fans rather than get new ones?
Gill: It was funny because Puffy always looked at me and laughed at me because I was the older guy in the group. The song on that album that was the grown folks song, “Come Home with Me Tonight,” he thought that was too old. And one day he called me while he was somewhere vacationing on the beach and said, “My girl got that song on repeat. This joint is hot.”
It was the one song he allowed me to do what I do. I think he was trying to reinvent something that was already invented. If it worked and did something different for our lives, we would’ve said, Brilliant. We tried that direction, but realized this is who we are, so let’s embrace that.
JET: So has this put a spark on another New Edition album?
Gill: Absolutely. This album is on my label, J Skillz Records, and it’s the first number one on my label. But something happened to me that I wanted to talk about that I think is important. I had a four hour conversation with Prince. I remember when he was going through the fight for his masters, he told me, “Own your masters. Own your stuff.”‘ I recognized that and it never left me, and that conversation had inspired me to do so. When I learned that he had passed away, the only thing I could ask myself is, “I wonder did he know?” Because I had two top 10 records off my last two albums, and this last one went number, and I realized, I own everything. This is what he was talking about. That information was so valuable, it put me in the position that I’m in today.