A dazzling flurry of sparks emerged as guitarist Bibi McGill stood toe-to-toe with Beyonce, shredding a blazing Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar in all her awesome glory. This year’s Superbowl half-time show had many memorable moments, but none quite like that. In a recent phone interview with EBONY.com, McGill confirmed that the performance was “extremely exciting,” but focused more on her mission to share good energy, love and light through her efforts. “I’m not thinking about how I look and how it feels to have sparks come out of my guitar,” said McGill. “I’m just kind of up there going, ‘I’ve been given the opportunity to be here. I want to let my light shine, so light shine through me.’”
Pool sticks and brooms would preoccupy a young McGill’s time, as she played air guitar throughout her family’s house in Denver, Colorado. At the age of 12, she begun taking private guitar lessons and playing music throughout junior high and high school. Majoring in Music Scoring and Arrangements at the University of Colorado later expanded the budding musician’s prowess, exposing her to orchestration, music history and theory, and instilling the importance of consistency, diligence, and responsibility.
Founded in love and expertise, the trajectory of McGill’s music career ultimately led her to performing with Pink in 2001—her first, big break— followed by Mexican superstar Paulina Rubio, and the Chilean rock band La Ley. Teaching yoga, another passion of McGill’s since 1998, served as an escape once she grew tired of the music industry.
Now the guitarist and musical director for Beyonce’s tour band, “The Suga Mamas,” acclaimed yoga instructor, and health food entrepreneur, this Renaissance woman shatters notions of race and gender attached to each of these occupations. Here, she speaks about struggling before her big break, almost passing on the “I AM” auditions, and juggling multiple passions at once.
EBONY: In an interview with Edge Magazine, you said, "One day I was struggling in Hollywood and the next day I was on a plane to New York." Could you please talk a little more about that struggle in particular, and what inspired you to continue your musical ambitions?
Bibi McGill: After graduating from college with a degree in Music Arrangement, I moved to L.A...At the time it was very expensive to live in L.A.; but for a woman who lives alone and doesn’t have a house full of roommates, it was a lot harder. To make a living as a musician was very difficult. I worked in the mortgage industry for three years, and then I worked in a record label for another number of years. Then I had it, and quit. That’s what forced me to start pursuing music full time. I quit my job without having anything lined up and I started getting calls that said “Hey can you come play at this bar for $40” but by playing that bar I had ten people that saw me and, this trickled into me playing any kind of music gig I could do. It was hard to make ends meet...
I was knocking on doors, pounding the pavement. I was playing at all the clubs in L.A. and its at this time that I got the Pink job. I had just finished three auditions for Courtney Love, to be her guitarist, and I was waiting for Mick Jagger to get back to the U.S., because he wanted a female guitarist. So all these things were happening, but nothing was happening. I wanted to give up, but I couldn’t because there was nothing else I could do. I was very frustrated. I was very hungry. I was very broke. I had very little hope, but I had enough hope to keep me alive long enough to get that call that said, ‘Hey, Pink picked you. You’re going to get on a plane and go to New York and play Saturday Night Live with her. I don’t know the details of how it happened. I never auditioned or interviewed with Pink, so I don’t know how she picked me. But she did somehow...From that gig, everything exploded because everybody saw me on TV. Everybody was like, “Whose that girl?” So, that’s 2001, and now its 2013.
EBONY: You mentioned that you were reluctant to head back on the road with the "I AM…" World Tour. What made you decide to go?
BM: Before people told me Beyonce was looking for a guitar player, I was like, “I don’t want to be on the road.” It had nothing to do with Beyonce. It was about the music industry and life on the road, which conflicted with how I like to live. I like peace and quite. I like people that are very supportive of each other, as opposed to people who are more influenced by ego and power and being intimidating