Johnny Gill on Music, Money and Men

The "skillz" of New Edition: Johnny Gill

My, my, my. Johnny Gill is finally putting it all out there.

Tonight, Gill’s story is the season six closer for TV One’s hit series, Unsung. Gill, who over the years has almost never talked about his personal life—even when gay rumors emerged—says now is the time to talk through the intimate details of his story.

On tonight’s show (which airs at 10 p.m. EST on TV One) he’ll talk about it all: the ups and the downs, the financial hardship and yes, those pesky gay rumors. For now, he chats with EBONY.com about why he decided take part in the documentary, if New Edition will finally get to work on a biopic, and why he was ever quiet about his personal life in the first place.

EBONY: So you get the call that they want to do an Unsung on Johnny Gill. First reaction?

Johnny Gill: I’ve been approached about it a few times, actually. My son just turned 7, and I was sitting here thinking: out of my 30 years doing this, I’ve always been a private person. It’s about time to allow someone to come in and document my side of my story. There’s always 150 million different stories out there, and I thought it was important, having a son, to have something that is documented that will always be here, that can’t be erased.

EBONY: Your Unsung segment promises to be very revealing. For years, people could say whatever they wanted about your life and you remained mum. Do you think any of that slowed you down?

JG: People are going to say what they want to say, and think what they want to think. Twitter and all that other stuff didn’t exist [back then]. It was just the magazines. People could say what they wanted to say, and you had to just take it, because there was really nothing you could do about it. Today you can go directly to your fans. But I didn’t come up in that era. I don’t think opening up myself and my private life would’ve made much of a difference one way or the other.

EBONY: Part of your story is that you helped usher New Edition from a group of teen boys into grown men.

JG: I wish I could take credit for that. What I was told was they wanted to go back to a five-member group, and they just thought that because my voice was a little more mature, we would catch up with where our audience was. But I had no idea the impact that I was going to make being a part of this group.

People could say what they wanted to say and you had to just take it, because there was really nothing you could do about it. I don’t think opening up my private life would’ve made much of a difference.

EBONY: Will New Editon make new music?

JG: At some point. Right now, we just got off the road for a year. Everybody needs to go home and get time with their families. We realized the thing that has kept us and will keep us together as a group is that we have: balance. Balance for us is, everybody takes time and space to do their thing and continue to deal with their own personal endeavors. And then we figure it out when we bring it back in there and put the mothership back in and get going. So that will take place at some point, for sure.

EBONY: Any news on the New Edition biopic film?

JG: We’ve been talking about it and definitely want that to happen; so hopefully at some point during our down time. We’re just trying to get everything in place.

EBONY: After New Edition’s Heart Break album, you and Ralph Tresvant ventured into solo projects and the rest of the guys did BBD. You found great success on your self-titled album, then something happened. What went down?

JG: This business is a roller-coaster ride. You have your ups and you’re gonna have your downs. I think a mixture of that. I started at 15 years old, personally. So I watched some of the kids—like the Lindsay Lohans, Justin Biebers and other people—and I see some of the things they’re going through. They’re going through the natural changes that kids go through, but you’re under a microscope, so it becomes a little different from the average kid that nobody knows anything about.

EBONY: And you had some financial hardships; you address that in the documentary. How are things now? Are you still working to get back what you lost?

JG: Not only did I wind up coming back, the things that I had to give up through the process of going through all of this stuff that we went through… I came back tenfold, stronger than ever. That was an upside and a blessing, and that was probably one of the most important things that I told them in doing the documentary. I went on Unsung because I’ve seen so many great stories all end with their head hanging