Q+A: Boy Meets Girl
The Whitney Houston hitmakers enjoyed a worldwide smash in 1988 with Waiting For A Star To Fall. Now they’re back. By Steve O’Brien
Though most famous as songwriters, having penned two of Whitney Houston’s biggest hits, How Will I Know and I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam also record as the duo Boy Meets Girl. Formed in 1982, they enjoyed a global hit in 1988 with the classic single Waiting For A Star To Fall from the album Reel Life. A real-life couple at the time, they divorced in 2000. Still friends, however, they’ve now reunited as Boy Meets Girl for a brand new EP, titled 5.
What have you both been up to these past 20 years?
Shannon: Well, we got divorced! Then we wrote an album to get us through it…
George: It was called The Wonderground [from 2003]. We’re very proud of that album. But the least amount of people know about it.
Shannon: We did minimal promotion on that. Obviously, there was this turmoil in our lives, so we worked our way through it by writing and recording. Afterwards, we went about our separate lives for a while and then we started writing again. We’d been working with [Philly soul pioneer] Thom Bell and he received a request from [record label boss] Clive Davis, to see if he had any songs that would be suitable for Whitney Houston.
George: We’d all watched her decline. Everybody was hoping that maybe she could get back into the studio and pull off her glory days again but it was a tough time trying to find the right songs. We thought, having written for her before, maybe we could write about her life. Well, we wrote four songs with Thom that Shannon and I are very proud of. The demos got finished up and they sounded great. We sent them off, but they weren’t quite right.
Shannon: Things weren’t going well with her…
George: But I still could hear her singing those songs, you know?
Shannon: It did get us back to writing together, though. At the time, we didn’t really have a name because we didn’t have an active publishing company and certainly no record deal. We just wrote for the fun of it. These last couple of years, we’ve been writing the songs that are now on our EP. We felt like some of these tracks were reflective of that Waiting For A Star To Fall energy.
George: I think enough healing had gone on for both Shannon and me. We reformed ourselves and felt whole again.
How was the writing process this time round? Was the dynamic the same now that you’re not a couple?
Shannon: It was remarkably the same, except that I was living in Southern California and George was up in Northern California. He’s the one with the studio, so it meant a lot of driving back and forth for me, which was not as convenient.
Why have you decided to put out this EP now? Was the new project lockdown-inspired?
Shannon: We’d completed most of the tracks and vocals before the lockdown happened. In fact, we had just finished. Then we needed to find someone to mix it because we didn’t want to do it ourselves, we wanted some fresh energy. So George found this really wonderful young mixing guy who works online and you send in your tracks. He did such a good job and helped us into 2020 rather than where we left off mixing!
Was releasing an EP first a way of dipping your toe back into pop waters, instead of coming back with a full album?
Shannon: It’s a digital presentation world, so you can put out one track, you can put out five, you can put out 20, you can even do two albums back-to-back like Taylor Swift. You can kind of do what you want. So we thought, well, this is our own pace and timing, so we’ll go with it.
You both sing, so when it comes to recording, how do you decide who takes the lead vocal?
Shannon: George has really by far the stronger voice. I love his vocals. I don’t always love mine, so we tend to write more with him in mind. During the 80s, you know, I didn’t have a diva-type voice. Everything was big and blasty back then and I never had that kind of a power voice. It was hard for me to sing that way.
George: It put Shannon in a position oftentimes with producers, when she’d be at the mic, they weren’t really hearing her as much as trying to see if they could get her to sing diva-like. To me, it’s really been a lot of fun recently, because I do feel that people are going to start to appreciate her vocal prowess more now.
Are you currently writing with an eye to putting out more material?
George: Oh, yeah. That’s actually the nature of doing 5 where we have some stuff out there that we can let percolate while we jump back into the studio. Actually, we’ve found three fully-produced master quality recordings that we did in the 90s. They were recorded at Capitol Records with a number of our friends. We were doing masters, but we didn’t have a record deal, we just did it for the love of it. Now we have a structure where we can actually share it with people, we’re really excited about that.
5 is out now via Boy Meets Girl Music