We knew that Debbie Gibson could carry a tune. But who knew she could carry a movie?
Gibson, the ’80s pop music star and the embodiment of Electric Youth, aims for high notes in The Music in Me, a feel-good film about a church choir director who gets a second chance at an abandoned dream.
The movie, which premieres at 6 p.m. Sunday on the UP network, is a big departure for Gibson.
Until now, her acting has pretty much been limited to cheesy monster movies on Syfy (in which she runs from mutant reptiles and mud-wrestles Tiffany).
“Except for the scene where the Mega Shark eats the church,” she says, poking fun at her recent acting résumé, “this is one of the first times I’ve gotten to play an actual, normal, grounded, real-life girl.”
We talked with Gibson, now 44, about the movie and about her ongoing music career.
Is there a story behind how you got involved with The Music in Me?
It was created for me. I had met with Barbara Fisher, who is the senior VP at UP Television. Basically she got to know me and what makes me tick and got a good sense of what kind of story would suit my sensibilities.
Obviously we wanted to involve music. I come from a place where I had early career success, so it was interesting to play somebody who had a lot of promise but had to give up on her dream.
I think it’s very relatable, especially for women. Maybe there was something they wanted to achieve in their lives, but they put their dreams aside because they had families or other responsibilities.
When we meet your character, Jessica, she is toiling away in her parents’ hardware store, having given up on music. Could you, as Debbie Gibson, go cold turkey when it comes to music?
I think it would be impossible. Music runs through my veins. But I will say that I could and have revamped my life to have more balance in it. At one point, all there was was music. Now my life is more balanced and fulfilling. But no, I couldn’t imagine going a day without music.
Songs come to me in my sleep. I couldn’t imagine not getting up out of bed to write them down.
You wrote the title song, Promises, the one that Jessica writes in the movie. What inspired the song?
I wrote it specifically for the movie. I was reading the script and it says, “Jessica writes two words in a notebook: ‘Promises made.’” When I read those two words, I immediately heard the melody in my head and started writing the song in that moment. It will be on iTunes and Amazon and CD Baby and on my website, so it will be available for people to buy if they like it.
It’s interesting how the song is woven into the movie, from the fragment of a melody to near completion to a fully realized piece with a choir performing behind you. It illustrates the evolution of a song as the songwriter works on it. Is Promises extra-meaningful for you for this reason?
Every song I write is meaningful to me. To expect this to be more meaningful would be like asking a mother if any of her kids were more or less important than the others.
What else is cooking for you? Are you recording? Touring? Making more monster movies?
I constantly do live performances. I’ve got a few coming up in May, June and July. I’ve been doing a ton of writing. I just started going back to the studio a couple of weeks ago to start demo-ing the new material to find out what will end up on a feature album.
There are also a lot of songs that I want to send to other artists, because as a writer I write in many different styles. So I’ve been really focused on the writing and the live performance. Next up will be recording.
The Music in Me
▪ 6 p.m. Sunday