Originally published at The Well Versed
You know you have a smash hit on your hands when your song is performed by karaoke enthusiasts across the map and country music cover bands. Most artists wait their entire careers for a smash hit that never comes—Ginuwine checked that off his list at the beginning. As infectious as it was suggestive, “Pony” launched the former bachelor into the R&B stratosphere 15 years ago and he hasn’t looked back. With a TV One Life After special documenting his ride through fame, Ginuwine sat down with The Well Versed to discuss overcoming depression, cleaning up his music because of the kids and what’s missing from today’s R&B.
Ginuwine: Absolutely not. It’s a blessing. For me to be here after 15 years and have “Pony” and all the other hits. ”Pony” is the one that people remember and it’s the one that gets the biggest response. I’m not mad at that at all; I still get checks from it.
TWV: Are there other songs that still get good responses?
G: Yeah, I’ve been blessed to have at least two hits on each CD. When you have a show with a few artists, you usually get an hour and I get to do all hits. That’s a great place to be when you’re an entertainer and thrive off the crowd.
TWV: Were you worried about how people would receive you after “Pony?” The 90s was the one hit wonder era and you hit a grand slam out the gate.
G: When I first started, I didn’t worry about anything. I’m an artist and loved what I did and didn’t care. I didn’t know what it took to be successful. I was just doing what I loved. The benefits were the notoriety and the money. After the third CD and having acquired many things, yeah. I looked at people that had lost it. If this is your life, how do you go back to working at 7-11 or Popeye’s or wherever? I started looking at it as a business and making sure I didn’t have to work once it was all done. I was a little scared after I realized that. In the beginning, I wasn’t doing it for [money].
TWV: Going into The Life, is that when it hit?
G: Yeah. Well, after the first CD, you want people to know that you aren’t a one hit wonder. The second album I had Timbaland so it was cool. The Life really defined me as an artist. I had separated from who I started with and wrote most of the album. It ended up having the biggest song of my career, which was “Differences.”
TWV: The Life was my favorite Ginuwine album because of the depth of the songs. I understand you had a lot going on during the recording, can you talk about that?
G: My parents died like one year after the other. My father committed suicide and my mom died of cancer. It’s not like my parents weren’t in my life. They were there and I was close to them. That threw me for a loop. I believe that although I was able to get through, that’s where I started to stumble in my career.
TWV: How so?
G: Drugs, liquor, women. Not knowing who I am. It was so many unimaginable things that I went through because of the façade I had to keep up and be strong for my kids. A lot of that will take its toll when you have no shoulder to cry on and you are the shoulder everyone else cries on. I found my comfort in drinking and partying. As time went on, I realized I wanted to be there for my kids and didn’t want to show them an example of a loser or quitter. I wanted to show them the example of a winner and a hard worker. It took a few years, but I was older so the wisdom started kicking in. I have to thank God and my wife and myself. It still took me to do it for it to actually happen.
TWV: I know you’ve been a big advocate of mental health. During that period, was it you deciding that you had enough or did you seek out professional help?
G: The only professional help I sought out was through my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Just implementing things I learned in church. The older cats were telling me certain things and I said, “I gotta start listening to this guy because he’s here.” That’s what’s most important, when you have somebody there trying to help you, you have to take it and run with it. I have a family and I wanted to be there.
TWV: A lot of times as men—as black men—we have a stigma about reaching out and getting help. What advice would you give to men about how to reach out or the need to reach out?
G: I really just found strength within myself. Let’s be honest, you’re a grown man; you know right from wrong. When it comes to that, you don’t really need help. You just have to find the strength to make that happen. I don’t know how to say that to people, other than that I wanted to be around for my family and be around for the things my father wasn’t around for. Just know when enough is enough by being a man.
TWV: I know that you’ve mentioned that having daughters has changed the way you’ve approached music.
G: In the beginning, I really didn’t have a conscious. I was still a young cat. I really didn’t care. I was all about having fun and not caring and you don’t realize the effects [music] can have on kids until you have your own. I had mine but I wasn’t in their life as much because I was young. With age comes wisdom. When you have kids you want the best for your kids and then you sit down and see the effects. When you see it, it’s a difference and I made the necessary changes. You can still be sexy but you have to be cautious at the same time.
TWV: Are there some songs in your catalog that will never be performed again because of that?
G: Yeah man. There are a lot of songs that I’ve done that I love that won’t see the light of day.
TWV: You’ve said before that Michael Jackson and Prince were your biggest influences, were there any concerns covering those artists’ songs?
G: Because I was who I was and having the juice I had, people weren’t really going to question it. It’s not about who you cover as long as you do a great job, that’s what matters. You have to do a great job on an MJ song; if you don’t people will talk about you. I had always wanted to sing that so I wasn’t trippin.
TWV: Do you feel like there are some things missing from today’s R&B?
G: The substance of it. The lyrics have been lost. You can say, “Jack went to the damn club and he drunk something” and that’s a hit. I just don’t get it. The substance of what true R&B is and was, is missing. You can’t hate on it because it’s working. I guess our parents said the same thing about our music. It’s one of those things where you have to keep doing what you believe in and there’s still a home for that.
TWV: Is that one of the things that still keeps you going?
G: I think there’s always a market out there. I still think I have a few more years. For some reason, they still view me as a younger artist. They don’t view me as an older cat. I’m always wondering, “Where is my place?”
TWV: Any chance we’ll get an official TGT (Tank, Ginuwine and Tyrese) album?
G: I truly hope so. I hope that we’ll be able to do it but it’s three artists, it’s not just me.
TWV: This Life After special focuses on life after “Pony,” have you thought about life after performing?
G: I’m still loving the music and enjoying my family and my wife. I think about it, but I’m still young. I don’t really focus on it. Once you start focusing on it, you’re saying that you’re done. I’m not done. I’m looking forward to bigger and better things. Hopefully I’ll continue on this road and be successful while I’m doing it.