On this edition INTERVUE, our guest was part of the “The Mickey Mouse Club” on The Disney Channel from 1989 – 1994. Not only that she had the honor of being the most recent artist in our “Single of the Week”, for us, the children of the 80’s & 90’s, we watched her on MMC from the first episode to the final. She is an amazing talented performer. TODAY, she is dropping her first album “Unbreakable” onto the world. Joining us is the wonderful, talented, jovial Jennifer McGill.
We have seen you grow-up on the MMC for seven spectacular seasons. In fact, you were one of three people to go from the first to the final episode. I like to know how did you get to be part of that phenomenon and what are some of your fondest memories of being part of MMC?
I am still boggled on how on earth Matt Casella chose me as the young blonde haired blue-eyed girl out of the sea of young blonde haired blue-eyed girls he had to choose from. So I don’t know (laughs) how that happened but he believed in me and I am forever grateful that he chose me to be a mouseketeer. He found me through my agent at the time, Julie Erickson. She was based out of Dallas. I am from Texas, a small town called Dennison. I was in the pageant circuit and been in talent shows for about three years. My mother and I love to put together costumes and rehearse music. I wanted to go out and sing. I really did not know or care about the beauty pageant part, it was really just the talent portion. So, I was really zeroing in on those talent crowns. In my last pageant, I kind of cleaned up. I even won this “Miss Photogenic” thing which was totally not norm but there you go. So I made a great first impression on Julie. On a handshake with my mother, she decided to represent and one of the first auditions that she got me was “The Mickey Mouse Club”
Originally, I was cast to be a Mouseketeer in the movie about the original Mouseketeers that was going to be out of L.A. called “Why, Because We Like You”. When the Writer’s Strike happened, it didn’t get into production. So, I was passed onto the final auditions of MMC. It was sort of a Cinderella story because I was not a jet-setting career kid who had Broadway shows or commercials under my belt. I was super raw, new and happy to be here. So Matt chose me to be the original. So I was there for the pilot until the final credit roll.
My favorite memory was that I got to revisit the recording studio on property at now Disney Hollywood Studios. I remember walking in and the hallways smelled exactly the same. It’s like the rush of memory and I actually started to cry. It was one of my favorite places to be in to record our music. So, it was a really special place for me on property but I kind of loved all of my work. Work was awesome. I loved being in the script and getting handed all the color of edits so by the time we get to record that segment, your script looked like a rainbow full of pages because it changed so much. You needed to make adjustments and learn it all over again. You know, I love to drill lines. I loved our acting classes. I loved meeting with the vocal coaches and getting a new song like the new cassette with my part on it and the lyrics typed out. You know, you go home and learn it. Then you practice your part in it. I loved recording it. Then I loved dance rehearsal.
I lived for all the variety that the show had to offer so I was just a nut for it. I am sure that it shown through in the beginning when I was such a young kid. As you said that I grew up and socially it got harder for me because I started not smiling. I was trying to be and it kind of backfired and I just looked sad or angry. Before I got weird, the first three years I was having a blast and you can see it on my face how happy and smiling I was. And even as we get closer to the end of the show, I loved what I did, absolutely 100%.
I am so glad that you enjoyed what you did especially seeing you grow up through all seven seasons. I was there from the beginning to the end. I was sad that it was over and I was like that my childhood was ruined without the Mickey Mouse Club but it’s great to see that some of the alumni have gone unto better things like you. You have since got a recording contract, worked for Disney but you also experienced some tragedy like me when I was 16, you lost your mother when you were 24 years old. How did the death of your mother affected you as such a young age?
You know it was a very crazy moment. I had to get over that she passed away in front of me on Father’s Day in a restaurant. It was just the two of us. So, I was distracted by the crazy way my favorite person in the whole world was taken. Personally for me, right then and there that was a big jarring moment that was a catalyst for a lot of emotions. I remember in the beginning of my life, it was just her and I. She was a single mother for a little while. Then, my now dad came along an adopted me and we had my brother Justin. When I was growing up, I was part of a family of four and then when I was older, I realized that my family was bigger. I was very rocked for a while because I could not how to make decisions without her and I had always got to the phone to check in with her and I had realized that she wasn’t there to depend on. She was my biggest fan; she was my biggest cheerleader. She was the one who really want “Hanging on for Dear Life” to be part of an album someday.
She was the one to tell that I was beautiful when hearing slamming doors in the industry because I wasn’t fitting into the pop movement of the 90’s record label land. When she was gone, I really didn’t know how to keep myself afloat in positive thinking for a long time. And I realized at the point that I put the wrong being on a pedestal. So mothers, fathers, human beings passed from this world but the only truly way we are never alone is when we look to God. So that’s what I did. That’s my personal realization, my personal journey when it came to a head at about 30. It had come to a point where I had isolated myself so much in the spirit of failure and broken dreams and giving up that I had nowhere to go but up really. I was either going to check out or was going to look up.
Just to be clear I didn’t want to check out, that was not my thing but I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was very purposeless. I rededicated my life to God and I saw an immediate change in my environment. I had given up all of my dreams of being a recording artist. That was my very dream since I was itty-bitty before the Mickey Mouse Club. I wanted to be Whitney Houston. I wanted to be a recording artist. It seems to be the one thing that I could have grabbed onto but I decided to stop forcing it. I decided to not control any of that anymore and let that go and make God the center of my existence. So, when I let that go, he put me on a path of restoration. I was built back up again. Like me, the single “Unbreakable” says “Nothing can separate us”. I realized that life has been knocking me down and breaking me apart for so long but when I let God put me back together, I was a new level of unbreakable even when the same stuff tried to hit me.
It did not knock me down like it used to. I did not break apart. I had saw a huge change for the best in my life. He had put me on about a ten-year path. It’s been about ten years since my rededication and now I had made this album that I could have never made when I was younger and still full of a lot of questions and bitterness and anger. I just kind of wanted to have some revenge on an album. You know, I was a big fan of Alanis Morrisette and her Jagged Little Pill was a great album but I realized that had I taken a similar path and just had written a lot about anger and heartbrokenness without the light at the end of the tunnel, I would not have fulfilled my whole purpose as a personality and artist in this world. So it took this long and now that it’s here I get it. I understand why it took this long. It was part of me giving up control to begin with and really taking a different position on how I felt about fame, how I felt about the world and my faith and love and hope.
This album is kind of an accident when you’re looking at what I did to make it happen. I did almost nothing to get the ball rolling. God had placed an opportunity in front of me and said if you will work on this, I will grant you a dream that you had since I created you. So, here we are with this amazing album that I could have never thought of by myself or put into motion by myself where I could speak a message of hope and encouragement and inspiration and restoration to anyone wherever they are in their walk of faith and the question of faith and the purpose of that and why we even need it. There’s a song for everybody on this album no matter where you are. If you need inspiration, if you need hope or if you feel really confident in what you believe but maybe that you need a recharge or like a good buddy to just celebrate with, there’s a song for you on this album. That was something I was very purposeful about was inclusion making sure that I didn’t leave out any kind of perspective out because everybody needs hope and love and my music needs to be able to speak to everybody. This album was very important for the reason to me. So, I just find this to be a big victory.
It is a big victory!
This wonderful interview will be continued on the next edition of INTERVUE! Stay Tuned for the exciting conclusion!
“Unbreakable” is NOW available on iTunes and Jennifer McGill’s official store