BiBi McGill: Beyoncé’s lead guitarist and Honda enthusiast

    American Honda
    Jun 07, 2013

Beyoncé’s lead guitarist and her band’s musical director, BiBi McGill, has created quite a name for herself in the music industry. After catching her first big break with Pink, she then worked with Mexican superstar Paulina Rubio and the Chilean rock band La Ley. McGill is not only passionate about her career in music, but likes to keep her life and body centered with yoga and a healthy lifestyle. Despite having a chaotic schedule, she is also able to relax on the open road aboard her 1998 Honda 750 Shadow.

Q: How long have you been a musician?
I have a few different occupations that keep me busy. First, I am a musician. I grew up in a musical family and my brother and sister played classical piano, but I have been playing the guitar since I was 12 years old. I went to school and graduated from the University of Colorado, and then moved to Los Angeles to try and make things happen. In 2001, I landed my first big break with Pink, and after that my career really exploded. After Pink I went into Latin music and worked with a couple different artists. Since the music industry is so cutthroat and hectic, I was torn for about five years and kind of conflicted about having peace and enjoying life.

I have been doing yoga since 1998 and got certified to teach. I realized that music wasn’t bringing a lot of peace into my life so I decided to teach yoga and I really had no intentions of getting back into playing the guitar, let alone going on tour. I taught yoga for about a year. However, you don’t make as much doing that as you do touring the world playing the guitar. Around that same time I got a call about Beyoncé putting together an all-female band, and initially my response was, “No.” I liked Beyoncé and her music, but was not interested in playing the guitar or touring again. I decided to go to the audition for my dad, and when I got there I realized I really loved it and got the gig. Now I have been with Beyoncé for the past seven years.

In addition to that, I am a total health nut and a few years ago I started my own food processing business for health food snacks called BiBi Kale Chips, which is a delicious vegan, raw, gluten-free and organic snack. I really created it by accident. I had a bunch of extra kale in my garden that I didn’t want to go to waste, so I researched how to make my own chips with the ingredients I liked and the first batch came out amazing. Soon all my friends wanted them, and the word began to spread. Within five weeks I had a name, logo, my food-processing license, a commercial kitchen and they were on the shelf in Portland stores. It is hard to grow right now, since it is just my sister and me running the business and I am constantly on the road, so currently I am just trying to keep the buzz going until I have time to really spend on it.

I want to stick with the things I love in life: music, yoga, health food and motorcycles.

Q: How did you get started riding?
I started riding dirt bikes with my family when I was 7 years old, and by the time I was 10 my parents got me my own motorcycle. We used to go up to the mountains and ride at this motocross track together, so I have a lot of great memories riding with my family. I had only ridden off-road until recently, when I got my street bike.

Q: What got you interested in riding on the street?
Since I grew up riding off-road, I have always wanted to make the transition and start riding on the street as well, but continuously put it on the back burner because of my busy life. One day I just decided to go for it, and went out and bought a bike.

Q: What bike do you currently ride?
I have a 1998 Honda 750 Shadow, American Classic series. It is the perfect bike and I am so happy with my decision. It is huge and I love it.

Q: How did you decide on that bike?
I wanted a bike that looked really cool, and originally I had been looking at Triumphs because that had been my dream bike for a long time. After I started researching I realized that the Triumph wasn’t the bike that I wanted. I liked the older ones and I didn’t want to have to transition my brain while riding because on those bikes the gear shifter is on the opposite side, and since they are older bikes I don’t have time to constantly be fixing it. Ultimately, I wanted a classic look and something that I could take on the road, so a lot of people were telling me about the Hondas. I started researching those and it really seemed like a great fit. I found this particular bike—the American Classic Edition—and it had the perfect look I wanted. I went to go check it out, it started right up and I was instantly sold.

It is a big, sturdy bike, and initially I was a little scared of the 750, but my friend said that [given my experience riding] if I got anything smaller I would grow out of it quickly and need to buy another bike. So I got this big bike and it was definitely the best decision. I am so in love with it.

Q: Did you have any initial fears or concerns when it came to riding?
Yes, of course, going from off-road to the street where there are traffic and cars was really scary for me. I never considered getting a street bike, because I just felt like it was too dangerous. Denver is big city and I was afraid to have a street bike, then I moved to Los Angeles which is even bigger with even more traffic, and there was no way I was going to ride on the street there.

Q: Have you conquered those fears?
Being in Portland is awesome! It is such a laid-back place and is the number-one city in the country for bicycles, so people are a lot more mindful of others sharing the street. Portland is the only place I have lived that I felt comfortable enough to get on a bike and be on the street. Also, I finally decided I just needed to do it, fear or not. You just need to overcome your fears no matter what they are. If something is going to happen to me, then it is going to happen to me, but I am not going to be afraid and have that keep me from living.

It was probably one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I really enjoy the feeling of being on the bike and feeling the wind and not having to go into the country to ride my bike. I can just get on it and go.

Q: Did you attend any learn-to-ride courses before hitting the road? If not, how did you learn to ride?
Yes, I did, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is getting a street bike or riding a motorcycle on the street. Here in Portland it is almost mandatory that you take a safety course for insurance purposes. I bought my bike and then a week later I signed up for the motorcycle training class. I went and passed it, but it was so helpful, they gave me so many amazing skills that I never would have known if I hadn’t gone to the class. That is something that really helped me overcome my fears a lot. I felt ready and confident about riding on the street after taking the course, whereas before I probably would have been terrified.

Q: Whom do you normally ride with?
One of my friends, another woman here in Portland, has a Honda 750 ACE and she was the one who encouraged me to get the bike I have now. She was telling me that she has a group of girls that all have motorcycles and ride together. It is really nice to have a good support group while riding, but, honestly, I like riding by myself. I don’t want to feel like I have to keep up with anyone. I like to enjoy where I am going and the scenery, since I am constantly in a rush for my job. It is so nice to be on the bike and just enjoy the ride.

Q: Where do you ride?
The weekend after I took my safety class was Fourth of July, so me and seven other girls rode from Portland to Mount St. Helens. That was my first real experience on my bike and on the road, so I was a little nervous, but had such a blast. Unfortunately, because of rehearsing and touring, I don’t have a ton of time to ride, but when I am home I try my hardest to get out and ride around the city or cruise outside of town.

Q: What do you think riding has done for you personally?
I am an outdoors girl, so when I am on my bike on the street I feel like I am able to enjoy the elements, as compared to being in an enclosed vehicle. The wind and sun just give me a complete sense of freedom that I can’t get elsewhere.

Q: What advice would you give other women interested in learning to ride?
I would definitely say do your research and take the time to look at different bikes so you can be educated and make the right choice. You want something that is comfortable for you and fits what you are going to be using it for. I love my Honda and am so glad I got it. It is really reliable, and if something does go wrong it is not as expensive as other manufacturers’ bikes to fix, and parts are easy to get. It is an amazing bike and it feels great. After that I would highly recommend the motorcycle safety course. I don’t think anyone should be allowed to ride on the road, woman or not, without taking that class.

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