Two decades after her wildly successful Disney Channel series "The All-New Mickey Mouse Club" came to an end, Jennifer McGill is stepping back into the spotlight with her upcoming debut full-length solo album, "Unbreakable" - to be released in August.
FoxNews.com is hosting today's exclusive first interview and world premiere of the epic new music video for the album's title track. Watch here: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/06/23/how-mickey-mouse-club-star-jennifer-mcgill-found-god-after-hitting-rock-bottom.html
It's hard to believe that 20+ years have passed since the show affectionately referred to as "MMC" launched the careers of McGill and her talented castmates that included Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Ryan Gosling and Keri Russell, among others. Performing professionally since the age of 10, McGill was one of the only cast members to appear in all 300+ episodes over seven seasons. But unlike some of her famous friends, the transition to a career beyond Disney didn't happen quite the way she planned.
"Most of the kids who stayed in the limelight went to New York or L.A. to pursue their careers wholeheartedly and I wound up going to college," recalls McGill. "By the time I was 21 or 22 with a pending Capitol Records deal, I was told I sounded 'too old' or that I spoke 'too well' or didn't resonate with the bubblegum pop movement that was going on at the time. No one ever said I was bad at singing, just that I didn't look right or fit into categories that were completely out of my control."
Those feelings of insecurity and inadequacy multiplied all the more after her unconditionally supportive mother suddenly died of a heart attack while the two were having lunch.
"My mother passed away when I was 24, and when she was gone, I was super lost," says McGill. "I became even more lost, angry and isolated to the point where I didn't feel like anything mattered anymore without her being there. I lost my motivation, and by 30, I had dug myself into a really painful spiritual hole with bad relationships and lots of the typical 'rock star' trappings, only without the fame."
In an unexpected twist of fate, or more realistically, a dose of divine intervention, Disney came calling once again. McGill started performing in the Walt Disney World live show "American VYBE" at Epcot Center - under the direction of famed "Pitch Perfect" arranger Deke Sharon. She also was hired to perform at The Holy Land Experience theme park, only this time it was for a show centered around faith. Her time there served as the catalyst for helping her get back on course.
"We were there to present the message of God through music and dramatic ministry," explains McGill. "Sure, I had sung for offertories, weddings and funerals at church, but this was a whole different type of situation of acting out scenes from the Bible and I quickly got wise enough in the spirit to understand it was an honor and responsibility."
After her time there wrapped, McGill bounced between Nashville and New York, eventually settling in Music City and landing an equally unique role as a lead teacher and cast member in a faith-based live event called "Bravehearted Boys: The Superhero Experience" geared toward pre-teen boys and their families. It was there where she met future manager Ann-Riley Caldwell of Lifetime Impact Management who asked the entertainer to write a script for the companion program "Bravehearted Girls: The Warrior Princess Quest," which naturally led to the pair's collaboration on "Freedom Fighters: Live Fearless" geared towards the entire family.
"Originally I was writing songs for the show with themes of encouragement, inspiration and strength, but the songs started shaping up to be a cohesive solo album, even though that wasn't the intention," says McGill. "I never thought I'd have a chance to make a full-length album after it didn't work out the first time around, let alone have it drop right after I turn 40!"
McGill hopes that "Unbreakable" will be able to inspire and encourage others because there's an element in every song that reminds us we're not battling alone. "So many of us put borders on ourselves and I think for women especially there's this idea that you're past your expiration date when you hit a certain age, which in my case was only compounded with the celebrity comparisons I used to put on myself. This album paints a picture of old hurts and old mistakes, but also coming out on the other side and not just surviving but thriving."
The album includes production from GRAMMY Award winning producer Jeff Savage, Michael Whitaker and McGill's husband Jeff Bohannon, plus mixing by multiple GRAMMY Award winner Paul Salveson.
"Unbreakable" is McGill's story, and one she's ready to share with the world. "This is definitely the story of a girl who slipped through the cracks on so many levels, but after so much pain and rejection from a multitude of situations in my life, I'm finally at a place where I'm fearless."