The Tranquil Rock Star: Bibi Mcgill
Out there somewhere there are a thousand little girls hoping to grow up to be the next big pop star. They’re singing into their hairbrushes, making up dance moves and forcing their family members to watch their countless performances in the living room. These little girls have existed in every generation and will continue to be born each year. But there will be girls, like BiBi McGill, who will dream of being lead guitarist. Who will love music on a deeper level and take pride in bringing the music of other artists to life. BiBi McGill, whose been the lead guitarist for superstars Pink and Beyonce, is a rock star in every sense of the word…except the self-destructive, killed by fame part of course. McGill has remained true to herself and stands as a model of authenticity and great success. Edge sat down with her in Marina Del Rey, California to discuss her journey as a female guitarist, childhood and newfound passion for yoga.
Edge: So tell us about the woman behind the Afro, tattoos and amazing guitar talent?
BiBi: Well right now I am the lead guitar player for Beyonce. I’m originally from Denver, CO, I grew up there, went to high school and college there as well. I graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in music scoring and arranging. Shortly after I moved to California. Lived here for years pounding the pavement as a musician in Hollywood. Eventually, 3 years ago to be exact, I moved to Portland, Oregon where it’s nice, quiet and peaceful.
Edge: Tell me about your musical journey.
Bibi: In 2001 I got my first break when Pink hired me to do her promo tour. From there everything just took off. One day I was struggling in Hollywood and the next day I was on a plane to New York. I had never met Pink before. I was given a song to learn on the plane, got off the plane and met her—that’s where it all began. Two days later I was on MTV, I did Jay Leno, SNL and Dick Clarke’s Rocking New Years Eve. Of course people were like “who’s that girl playing the guitar with that afro?” Everybody started calling and wanting me after that. It’s been a really good journey.
Edge: It must be difficult being a woman doing what you do.
Bibi: I honestly haven’t experienced a lot of prejudice when it comes to being a woman in music. I know it’s out there, I know it exists because I’ve seen it but I haven’t really experienced it. It’s always been something that was actually helpful to my career. There was a time when I was coming up when it became really popular for people to have a female in a band. Whenever someone was looking for a female guitar player, I was the one that they called. After Pink, I played with Paulino Rodio. And all of a sudden I was the girl that all the Latin artists wanted. So another band from Chile called. They’re all guys from Santiago, Chile. They wanted me and I was the only female and the only American in a Chilean band that’s very, very popular in Latin music. After that I was kind of tired of music. I had been touring consistently for about 5 or 6 years. So I took a break and started taking yoga and I really loved it. And then it came time that Beyonce was looking to form an all female band. I got the call about the auditions and I was reluctant to go because I really didn’t want to go back on the road again. But I went and got the gig and I’ve been playing with her since 2006. I’ve done 2 world tours, 3 live DVD recordings and 3 live recordings of instrumentals.
Edge: Do you feel like you’ve made it?
Bibi: I am happy with where I am. I’m really thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given but I don’t think anybody ever really “makes it”. You’re always achieving new things and new dreams. My dreams are not limited to just music. There are other things that I enjoy and want to pursue.
Edge: What are some of those things?
Bibi: Besides being a yoga instructors and wanting to eventually have my own healing center café. I’m very much into health food and I don’t fit into any category. I’m not a vegan. I’m not a vegetarian. I eat mostly vegan foods but I also eat whatever I want to eat whenever I want to eat it. Right now I’m a food processor. I have a product that’s a raw, organic, gluten free kale chip. Technically it’s raw because of the way I prepare it so it has all of its nutrients but it’s crunchy. I just started that at the beginning of the year and it’s huge in Portland and I’m just trying to find a way to keep up with it. Besides that I just like enjoying life and seeing the world and being peaceful
Edge: what’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far?
Bibi: you’ve gotta work really hard but don’t get caught up in any of the drama, any of the political stuff, any of the ego stuff. Just find ways to keep yourself happy physically, mentally and emotionally. That’s a challenge. A lot of people go into alcohol and drugs and excess. Excess of sex or excess of all types of things. But if you’re going to be excessive about something try to be excessive about something that’s good for you.
Edge: Who were your musical inspirations and what was your musical taste?
Bibi: Growing up my older brother and sister were really in to retro 70s funk so the first concert I went to was The Isley Brothers and I saw them 3 times and I saw Earth, Wind and Fire 3 times. Funk was probably one of my earliest influences but then I started to hear guitar in rock music. You didn’t hear it as much in rib but the lead guitar in rock music. So I started gravitating towards more rock music. I started listening to groups like Led Zeppelin. Then I got heavier into Rock. I listened to Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. Slowly, I moved into r&b and rap. Where I am now is if you introduce me to any style of music and I like it…I’m going to listen to it. Right now I listen to more healing music.
Edge: Was it ever weird for you growing up that you were the girl who played guitar and acted so different than most young women?
Bibi: My parents always supported it. It’s just who I am. So I didn’t know that there was anything different or “weird” about it. My parents said, “You want to play guitar? Ok, we’ll support you taking lessons”, so it wasn’t weird.
Edge: Any last thoughts you want to leave with our Edge-ers?
Bibi: Being not only a woman but a Black woman has helped my career because it’s different. Not everybody is doing it. Guitar is an instrument that mostly Caucasian men play…and then here I come with the tattoos and the fro.
Photographs by: Ashley N. Nguyen