Johnny Gill-Commanding The StageColumnists, Kim's Kronicles — By Kim Webster on June 7, 2014 at 8:11 pm
By Kim Webster
Johnny Gill has a distinctive voice that commands the stage and our attention. “I started singing professionally when I was about five,” he said with a smile. We all remember that passionate duet “Perfect Combination” with Stacy Lattisaw displaying Johnny’s powerful vocals which was only the beginning of a string of hits to come. “It’s crazy, when I think about it and look back over all these years, and all these songs start piling up, it’s amazing.”
When Johnny joined New Edition he was to replace member Ralph Tresvant, but everyone assumed that he was to replace Bobby Brown. At the time he didn’t know about the internal problems with the group. “I didn’t realize ‘til years later down the line the whole thing that took place. Still it was all through God’s plan at the end of the day.” New Edition’s and Johnny Gill’s stage presence is reminiscent of the Temptations with choreography and that James Brown super neat appearance. Some of today’s artists look a bit disheveled on stage, so I asked Johnny his opinion regarding stage appearance. “Music is a form of art and even artists have their own way of how they paint a picture. The great thing about music is it’s a form of art and somebody might not like one type of thing and you might like another. So you learn more than anything to respect that fact. I prefer dressing up. There’s no right or wrong way it’s just what works best for me.” He believes it’s important for his audience to “get their money’s worth” and see an “artist who looks like he put thought into what he is doing” when people decide to spend their money to support him.
Johnny is always adventurous and creative when it comes to music check out the background vocals done by Dave Young on “In the Mood” from the CD “STILL WINNING.” “When we were writing this song we wanted to do something that had a little bit of swagger; a youthful kind of sound but at the same time not me trying to step out of my lane,” he explains. “ I like the two merging together. We’re not creating a new sound, just sounding more current.” The title cut “Still Winning” is an upbeat biography that inspires success, the smooth “Let’s Stay Together” professes love saying “I want the kid, house, car, and the dog, a joint bank account, girl I want it all” (one of this reporter’s favorites),”Just The Way You Are” speaks for itself, “Black Box” explores the perils in relationships. “It Would be You,” “Who Is He,” “2nd Place” and the classic remake of “My Love” are pure Johnny Gill. The alternating leads between Johnny, Keith Sweat and Eddie Levert and their harmonies are outstanding on “Long Long Time.” Johnny worked with Eddie Levert (Gerald’s father) on “Long Long Time” and spoke about his experience with LSG (Gerald Levert, Keith Sweat and himself) saying “I will always cherish working with Gerald, who was my dear friend, dear brother who I miss so much. That was quite an experience; I don’t think I will ever be able to put it into words. We sort of grew up in the business together and being able to work with him as well as Keith Sweat, who is my other brother, is all part of adding to the body of a legacy, just truly a blessing.” More recently Johnny has toured with “Heads of State” which he describes as “fun” and “they’re my road dogs.”
Johnny not only is a vocal artist but an actor as well. A few years ago he performed in the stage play “A Mother’s Prayer.” “I like stage acting because you only have one time to get it right,” said Gill. “It makes you stay focused and it sharpens your (acting) tools. I love doing plays, my career has been building and this is just adding to my body of work.” When asked his advice to young, up-and-coming performers he responded, “It’s just staying true to who you are, doing what feels right to you, not compromising your art. Be open to be creative and to listen and accept or deal with different genres of music. Try to figure out what makes people connect to it and you connect to that; still maintaining your integrity. When you listen to “In The Mood” I did Johnny and still found a spot where one of the writers, who’s singing background, could give it what I was looking for… a little more of today’s feel but it doesn’t compromise me being who I am and what I do.” Fans will be happy to know that Johnny will be performing at the Huntington Beach Library Theatre today, Saturday, June 7, 2014.