Q&A with Johnny Gill

When we talked to Gill, we asked him about his album Game Changer, the problem with being perceived as "old school," and the man's favorite things! 

--Adam Downer

GGM: “Game Changer” is a pretty provocative title. What is your definition of “the game” and how are you changing it?

JG: Well, I think overall, the first thing about Game Changer is that it’s written with some great writers, like GQ, Babyface, Anthony Hamilton. The song “Game Changer” is about a relationship, where a woman comes in and makes an impact on a man’s life, changes his perspective, makes him an honest man. For me, I decided to call the album Game Changer because it’s nothing but a collection of solid, good music that people are hungry for. I thought that it was time for someone to grab the bull by the horns and get the respect of R&B back into a place, on a level where it deserves to be. I hope that what we did with this album will be a gamechanger.

GGM: I also understand you started your own label to release this record. What did that creative freedom allow you to do on Game Changer?

JG: Overall, it made making decisions about how we wanted to get the music out, which is really so important to the fans, a lot of work! I didn’t realize how much work it would be! Having the opportunity to make decisions on how we wanted to get this out has been quite rewarding, looking at how far we’ve come. It’s been a blessing, and not everyone’s in a position to do what I’ve been blessed to be able to do.

GGM: How great was it to get New Edition back in the studio for this record?

JG: That was fun. It was just something they wanted to do, to come and support the album. I was grateful that they wanted to do that. I think they nailed the song, first of all. I’m excited for people to hear the song and know that we’re still here and don’t plan on going anywhere!

GGM: I read an interview where you talked about every song on Game Changer having a purpose. Could you tell me a little bit about the purpose of some specific songs?

JG: When I started recording the record, I thought “well, this is a singles-driven industry, so let’s record a few singles and fill the rest out with nice songs,” but that hasn’t been how I’ve recorded over the years. I’ve always wanted to make solid music. This record, I was more focused on every single song having a purpose. That means it has a message that people can identify with. When I listen to a song like “5,000 Miles,” I thought that was the ultimate compliment to a woman, saying “your beauty is 5,000 miles above heaven!” When I listen to songs like “You Chose Me,” which is like a reggae feel, I feel how I never compromised who I am as an artist. I allowed myself to be, as a musician and artist, creative. I think overall, we nailed it. What’s most rewarding to me is releasing the record and seeing fans and critics feel with me that this is something special. When you put the work in and have it confirmed, it’s so rewarding. 

GGM: I saw an interview you did where you were saying some “old school artists” are still crushing the game but may not be heard because of their age. Can you tell me a couple albums in particular from older artists you really respect?

JG: Oh god, the list goes on! From Jeffrey Osbourne to—I think Freddie Jackson released a single, "Love and Satisfaction," last year, and that was a nice joint! So many artists out here are still out here doin’ it, and doin’ it strong! I’ve often said my theory is that it’s about the mindset. I think sometimes that were you to strip labels and names, you’d be surprised at what type of songs and music people connect with. When you hit a certain age bracket, it becomes less about your song, it’s about “oh, they’re old.” So you’re not thinking about the music, you’re thinkin’ “oh, that’s old school.” I think great music is great music, and when a song can identify with people, it’s not a coincidence. It just deserves a shot if it’s of great quality.

GGM: Are there any younger artists whose music you’re really digging?

JG: I’m a musician, so I love all types of music. That’s the thing I wanna make sure we’re always clear on. I don’t wanna sound like an old man, where you’re old and bitter like “yeah, music now is crap!” I like all kinds of music, and I want my music, and the generation of music I grew up on to be respected as well. I think when you listen to young guys like Ne-Yo, Kendrick Lamar, and Trey Songz, I like ‘em all! Great songs are great songs.

GGM: What’s an old favorite movie of yours? Something you might consider a favorite of all time?

JG: Oh I have a string of those! The Green Mile! Of course, my man Eddie’s movies, like The Klumps, Harlem Nights, the list goes on. One of my all-time favorites is Cooley High. That movie gets me every time.

GGM: You have a lot of time being taken up by music, but do you ever kick back with any TV shows?

JG: Yes, I do. I watch most of the current things like American Idol. I watch all of the Housewives and all the ratchet shows on TV cuz I’m in disbelief, I think. Just utter shock! I enjoy laughin, and I always find something during the day I’m lookin’ for something that’s gonna make me scream and cry in tears laughing.

GGM: How about any books that you’re either reading right now or have inspired you in the past?

JG: Without a doubt, a book called “Make Your Life Worthwhile” by Emmet Fox has to be one of my all-time favorites.

GGM: You obviously travel a lot. Is there a certain restaurant that you have to hit up anytime you’re in a certain city?

JG: It would probably have to be my home base in L.A. I just discovered a new restaurant a couple weeks ago that I think I’m gonna OD on. It’s called Ocean Prime, in Beverly Hills. I lost my mind. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, I find this place! They serve seafood, and everything you could name! Everything they bring in is completely fresh every day. You can smell the freshness as soon as you walk in. I had everything from the crabcakes to the soup they made. I did some sushi. Everything was impeccable! It was unreal to me. I knew I was gonna be in trouble. 

Check Out Game Changer Here!

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