Winter Garden residents Mike and Charity Gill have performed musically as Gilly & The Girl for more than three years.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, husband-and-wife musical duo Mike and Charity Gill were set to embark on a new cruise contract.
Life had other plans, though. The cruising industry and much of the entertainment industry suddenly were on pause due to COVID-19. Toss becoming first-time homeowners into the mix, and the Gills were thrown for a loop.
But the Winter Garden residents aren’t discouraged. In fact, Charity Gill said, they have had time to settle into their new home after having spent so much time traveling and performing over the years.
The duo, known musically as Gilly & The Girl, is considered a contemporary, acoustic act. Mike Gill is the guitarist and vocalist, while Charity Gill is the lead vocalist.
They met in 2011, when both were working for Universal Studios in Japan. Each had gone to school for theater, and they knew there was something special between them.
After moving back to Orlando, the Gills got engaged and then married a year later. Soon after, they were called back to Universal Studios in Japan for a while. But the Gills both knew they wanted to continue to travel together.
“Three years ago was when we actually started singing and playing together,” Charity Gill said. “My husband wasn’t a big fan of singing and playing in front of people, believe it or not. He only wanted to do that as a hobby.”
“I had severe anxiety so I didn’t ever perform musically in front of people,” said Mike Gill. “My job was performing as an actor in front of people, which is a completely different thing. I had a lot of hangups about performing as myself. I was just worried about people judging it harshly.”
The two began singing and playing together as a hobby on the side while they were in Japan. As they worked on building their library of songs and played for their friends, those friends encouraged them to look into the cruise industry for opportunities to play and travel together.
“We got a reel together … and we found an agency to represent us, and they got us a job in about three to four months,” Charity Gill said. “We started working for Celebrity (Cruises), and we haven’t looked back.”
“All of our cruises have been in Europe and Australia,” Mike Gill said. “We’ve seen about 50 countries together in the last three-and-a-half years or so. We’re eager to get back out there and to travel a bit more, for sure. … We were doing 12- to 17-day cruises, where we get to know the people that are on the ship, they get to know us, we develop a relationship, and we make friends. We’re still in contact with hundreds of people that we’ve met on cruise ships over these last three years.”
Gilly & The Girl covers hits from various decades and genres, with much of the duo’s musical repertoire hailing from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Some of their influences include James Taylor, The Beatles, Whitney Houston, Jim Croce, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Patsy Cline.
“We have about 470 songs that we do, and we’re always trying to increase the number of songs that we’ve got in there,” Mike Gill said. “More often than not, people will request that we learn older songs most of the time.”
For the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown, the duo performed through livestreams. They credit their friends and family with helping them keep their heads above water — both with financial and emotional support — throughout.
Now, they play about five days a week, mainly in The Villages. As new Winter Garden residents, they hope to soon begin booking gigs locally, too.
“We would love to get into the scene down here, but it’s hard to get into the scene when no one really knows you,” Charity Gill said. “We really do love this area. We do stick to the older stuff. We would like to play what we like to listen to.”
Although the Gills aren’t able to return to their cruising gigs yet, they consider themselves fortunate to be booked and busy.
“I feel like this whole experience is going to make me so much more thankful for the opportunities in the future to travel and see the world,” Charity Gill said. “This has been a big wake-up call.”
“My dream since I was 17 and I worked at Red Lobster was to wake up in the morning and not dread going to work,” Mike Gill added. “That, to me, is incredibly fulfilling in itself — to be able to support ourselves relatively well and enjoy what we do for a living.”