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CeCe Winans, Reluctant Star
Gospel great tapes for PBS on the Sabbath
BY ALEJANDRA RAMIREZ, 2:00PM, SAT. NOV. 19, 2016
Boasting 10 Grammys, 12 million albums sold, and three books, CeCe Winans stays grounded through her main constant: God. Releasing her first album in nine years on Feb. 3, Let Them Fall in Love, the Detroit gospel star tapes Austin City Limits on Sunday. We spoke this week.
Austin Chronicle: Your parents were heavily involved in the church in Detroit, and now you’ve started your own church with your husband, Alvin Love, in Nashville. Does that feel like taking on the role of your parents?
CeCe Winans: It’s amazing how you become your parents no matter how much you duck and dive. You eventually become them, or at least the good parts. I feel everything that’s happened in my life has prepared me for this moment with helping youth and other people in the church.
It’s funny because in moments, I feel like I should have already retired, but it’s a blessing. Just like my parents, I understand that kids need outlets and alternatives. Even though my parents were strict in our upbringing, they understood we needed to have fun in order to accept God into our lives as young kids.
My parents had a house full of 10 kids, but it was other kids too. My father knew the importance of outlets like sports, which is why he had a bowling team or a baseball team. He would organize community athletic groups, put us in choir, and hold concerts for us to showcase our talents. That’s what I feel like I’m doing through the church for other kids by teaching them what faith looks like in a relationship, finances, kids, emotions, and having a better life.
It’s awesome helping people through all walks of life, especially the youth since they’re our future. Originally, starting as a bible study in our house nearly five years ago, our own endeavor has turned into Nashville Life Church. It’s pulled me away from the music scene, but seeing positive changes in families and kids makes it all worthwhile.
AC: Let Them Fall in Love is your first album in nearly nine years. It’s so new for you. There’s blues in “Hey Devil,” country on “Why Me Lord,” and “Lowly” gets a choral uplifting. Why the change?
CW: That’s my son. He came up with the vision and had to convince me. He showed me these songs before we started the church because I was thinking about going back in the studio. My son told me, “I’m not trying to make you anything that you’re not, but I think I can make the album fresh and relevant, and it’ll be perfect.”
He should really be a creative director, because he was one of those kids who never did his homework, but he would always be writing songs or drawing. I would always be like, “Alvin I’m gonna hurt you. I know you’re going to be great someday, but that’s only if I don’t kill you before it happens [laughs].”
I believe he first played me “Lowly,” and I was very unsure because it sounded so different, but he would keep saying, “Ma, trust me.” It took me a while, but I grew fonder of it after a lot of listens. I was so unsure if I was going to feel it and if my audience was going to like it too. Then he played me “Peace from God,” and I felt it was a message I could sing since it felt universal. Then he played me “Hey Devil,” and I was sold. It was so new and the lyrics were so bold.
Then there’s “Why Me Lord,” which was another curve ball. That song came because I was invited to sing it with Kris Kristofferson. I had never heard the song, but when I did, the lyrics were right in the pocket. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sing with him because I got sick, but Alvin came and was like, “Mom, I think there’s a remake of this song you need to do.” And I thought, “Alvin, it’s a great song, but country? Come on.”
He just kept saying trust me on it, so I submitted and went with it. When we got into the studio, I realized how much I loved the songs.
AC: How was it like working with your son in a more professional environment?
CW: Well let’s say there was tension, but it was good. I definitely pushed him to his limits where I knew if I weren’t his mom, he probably wouldn’t take it. When he was working my nerves, I knew it was because he wanted the best and to push me. And it’s funny because I remember the other day he came up to me and was like, “Ma, I know your voice,” and I just responded to him flatly: “Alvin, you’re my child, I’m not your child.”
And I’m cracking up thinking that he thinks he knows more. But it’s real, and we respect and love one another. There were moments where I’d be [laughs], “Why did I raise you to say what ya’ll thought?”
I’ve seen growth in both of us, but I’m more excited for him than I am for myself, because this is his first time that he’s produced practically the whole record. Seeing him going in with musicians of A-caliber and telling them what to do was great. They’d give him odd faces at first, but after they would be like, “That sounded awesome.”
Alvin knows my voice, but man did he push it to new lengths. It’s all within my range, but he’s making me work. I’m trying to make it the best I can, but age definitely does kick in. I know who I am, so I’m trying to enjoy it more than carry the stress of it.
AC: “He’s Never Failed Me Yet” recalls you as a little girl being in church, and there’s a nice touch of church bells in the beginning. What did you love about church when you were young?
CW: I fell in love with God at such a young age, and my grandmother was the mother of the church I attended when I was growing up. I would always hang out with her and her friends when I was little. I think all my friends were 60 and older when I was 12. I loved them and praying with them. I remember I’d get up at the crack of dawn for prayer and I loved it. It was the presence of God. It’s something I can articulate now, but I was never able to fully grasp as a young child.
Church was a safe and peaceful place for me. I fell in love with the older women and seeing their confidence in who they were and how they loved God more than anything. Seeing them live their lives solely for the sake of others and in a way that was pleasing to God was great. For them, to have such a joy and be full of life given their age, I knew that was how I wanted to be. It gave me the confidence and strength to deal with peer pressure and to be different. “He’s Never Failed Me Yet,” is my testimony to life and my love song to God.
AC: Your parents are such an important part of Detroit and gospel music. Not only that, your four older brothers formed the Winans, and both you and your younger sister Bebe sing. What were the early years of the Winans like?
CW: Boy, it was a lot of noise. Now that I’m older and just with two kids, I think back a lot and ask myself, “Man, how did they do it with 10 kids?” None of us had formal lessons, so there was a lot of screaming and banging on the piano until it turned into harmony. My parents both sang and played the piano. We didn’t have a choice, we were in choir.
Whenever we came home from school, someone was always on the piano writing a song. My parents would take their money and put us in concerts somewhere in hopes that someone would come and see us. My parents saw the importance of honing in on our craft. We don’t see each other every day, but when we do, it’s like we never missed a beat. Although my father has passed, the family came together for my mom’s 80th birthday, and in those moments, it’s like seeing God work his magic.
Even though we had our fights like brothers and sisters, we were ingrained in love and taught to treat people the way you would like to be treated. My father would always tell me when I was little, “If you do the right thing, God is gonna bless you. But if you don’t, you’re going down like the Titanic.” There was definitely no in-between, but for that I am eternally grateful. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who you are onstage, but off stage.
AC: You’ve received Grammys, Stellar Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and have been in the industry for decades. How do you manage to keep so humble?
CW: It’s not hard because we were raised by such humble parents. What I try to stress to other artists is that you have to have a life that has nothing to do with your job. It keeps you grounded, and you don’t get it twisted. I was doing an award show comeback and right after the performance my baby threw up on me. Nothing like having a baby’s throw up on you after a great performance to bring you back down to the real world [laughs].
You can have all the awards, but that doesn’t help you when you’re dealing with situations that money and fame can’t solve. There have been many days where I’m bawling my eyes out and I look at my Grammy and think, “Wow, that doesn’t do anything for me.” Having a relationship with God, reading my Bible, and praying daily is what keeps me going and balanced. When I meet God, he isn’t going to ask me, “CeCe, so how many Grammys did you win?” He’s going to ask, “What good did you do with what I gave you?” I’m a believer that happens to sing, not a singer that happens to believe.
It’s funny because Whitney Houston would call me when we first met and she coined a name. She told me I’m a reluctant star. In retrospect, it’s really true because I’ve always desired to sing, but I was totally cool singing in the background. I never really wanted to be upfront. So even when I sang with Bebe and signed solo contracts, I would get into the studio and think, “Oh my god, what did I get myself into?” I felt that I never really wanted to be a star, but I did it because it was God’s will and he gave me the gift to connect with so many people through music.
TUNE IN: AMERICA SALUTES YOU FEATURING CECE WINANS BROADCAST LIVE ON ION TELEVISION THANKSGIVING WEEKEND
CHICAGO - A concert honoring those who serve in the military, veterans, and their families was filmed live in the Chicago area November 12- and is coming to screens around the world - including performances from Cyndi Lauper, Gavin DeGraw, Wanda Jackson, and many more.
"America Salutes You" brought a wide array of stars to the Rosemont Theater on November 12, all in the name of raising money for nonprofit organizations that help veterans and their families across the country. WGN's own Dean Richards and many more Chicagoans took part, including the National Anthem performed by Jim Cornelison.
The concert will be aired nationally on Tribune Broadcasting and other networks, simulcast on radio stations, and streamed across a wide range of platforms, so fans can watch or listen around the world. It will also encourage people to support veterans through donating by text or online, with 100 percent of the money going to nonprofits like Give an Hour, ThanksUSA, and Illinois Joining Forces.
Also scheduled to perform are Hoodie Allen, CeCe Winans, Ricky Skaggs, Anthony Kearns, Tegan Marie, Savannah Maddison, and many other special guests. Tickets are available on the America Salutes You website or through Ticketmaster.
America Salutes You,” will air nationally over Thanksgiving weekend on Tribune Broadcasting, ION Television, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and Graham Media Group. CHECK YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS HERE
Gospel Icon Cece Winans Reveals New Album 'Let Them Fall In Love' Coming in 2017: Exclusive
11/4/2016 by Gary Graff - Billboard
Courtesy of Shore Fire Media
Where has CeCe Winans been during the nine years between her last solo album and her new album Let Them Fall In Love?
Appropriately enough, in church -- at least for half of that time.
The Grammy Award-winning gospel/R&B star and her husband started their Nashville Light church during the early part of 2012. And that was enough to keep her occupied and away from the studio. "So for almost five years I've been totally focused on that," Winans (who released an album, Still, with her brother BeBe Winans in 2009) tells Billboard. "It was a really big undertaking, and I really couldn't focus on the music, and I'm one of those people who has to focus. Finally, once we got things going with the church and got a rhythm happening there, I was able to create some space and think about, 'What do I want to do next?'"
The answer came from her son, Alvin Love III, who co-produced Let Them Fall In Love (out. Feb. 3) with Tommy Sims and also wrote the bulk of the set's 10 tracks. And he provided a musical direction that led his mother in some new directions.
"It took me a while to grasp everything he was saying," Winans acknowledges, ranging from the lively approach of "Hey Devil," featuring the Clark Sisters, to "Lowly" and "Why Me Lord," tracks that are more traditional than Winans' usual crossover sound. "Some of the style of the songs when I first heard them, I was like, 'Whoa, I don't know if I can do this. But I listened and I was like, 'This is fresh,' and that was his point. He was like, 'Mom, I think you can do something that's really awesome, that's fresh, that's different but yet it's not you trying to be a teenybopper,' and when I got it, I got it and I was really excited."
Winans knows Let Them Fall In Love will also be something of a surprise for her fanbase. "The songs are different than what my audience is used to hearing from me," she acknowledges. "I've never been a traditional gospel artist, and some of the things are probably more traditional than I've done before. But I think we put something together that will not only embrace my old listeners but will bring in some new ones. I really think this record will be able to do what I've done in the past, and more."
The torchy first single, "Never Have To Be Alone," is certainly familiar, however. And its message is timely for the season, according to Winans. "One of the things we see a lot of is people dealing with loneliness," she explains. "They deal with depression. They deal with a heavy heart. So I knew it was a song that would touch people where they need to be touched. Now we're about to go into the holidays, when some people feel even more lonely. It's a song to remind you that when we pray, God is there. He is with us. We have everything we need to face everything we have to face. I like to make music like that, that makes a difference in people's day."
No tour is planned to support the album yet, and Winans doesn't sound like she's in any hurry to hit the road. "I love doing live shows and being with the audiences everywhere, but it's the traveling and the leaving home that I'm not looking forward to," she says. "That's the most challenging thing for me is touring. But William Morris is putting things together now, so we'll see exactly what it looks like." In the meantime, Winans will be busy at Nashville Light, ministering to a diverse and growing congregation that has a particularly strong millenmial base. "Most of our church is probably between 20 and 30," she says. With the election we're praying. There's a song on the record called 'Peace From God' that I think is the universal prayer that we would see peace -- peace in our government, peace in our community and peace in our nation. I'm trying to teach these young people that the way we respond to troubled times is to pray. We're praying for those who are in leadership, praying for the police, praying for the black community, coming together and learning about each other. That's an awesome opportunity during the sad things that are going on to fight the way I know how to fight -- with prayer."
CECE WINANS RETURNS AFTER NINE YEARS WITH SOUL-STIRRING 'LET THEM FALL IN LOVE' DUE FEBRUARY 3, 2017
Ten-time Grammy winner Cece Winans' long-awaited new album, 'Let Them Fall In Love,' is set for release on February 3, 2017 via Puresprings Gospel/Thirty Tigers. Recording her first solo album in nearly a decade, the multiplatinum-selling artist returned to the studio in both New York and Nashville to cut her most adventurous album yet. Produced by her son Alvin Love III, along with Winans' long-time collaborator Tommy Sims (Garth Brooks, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt), and mixed by Dae Bennett (Tony Bennett, Amy Winehouse, Olivia Newton-John) and Jimmy Douglass (Pharrell Williams, Michael Buble), 'Let Them Fall In Love' finds Winans at the peak of her artistry.
The ten tracks are polished with emotion and confidence and come alive with Winans' iconic voice. Musically, big band horns and strings from the Nashville String Machine come together in a glorious blend of past and present, with arrangements that simultaneously recall the heyday of Motown while still sounding undeniably modern.
Winans inhabits each song on the record so fully in part because she's lived their stories. On "Hey Devil!," she's joined by fellow vocal powerhouses The Clark Sisters for a playful rebuke of temptation, while "Lowly" is a lesson about pride and humility aimed at the young men and women who might need it most. Winans' eclectic ability shines through on the pedal steel country waltz of "Why Me," a song she discovered when she was invited to perform it live with its writer, Kris Kristofferson.On the album's other cover, "Dancing in The Spirit" (written by Lady Peachena), Winans is joined by Hezekiah Walker and his choir for a jubilant celebration.
It's the album's closer and title track, though, that seems to light Winans up more than any other."The first song I heard was "Let Them Fall In Love," and I told my son that it had to be the heartbeat of the record," says Winans. "There's a lot of different styles and a lot of strong messages on there, but all of them are to bring us to the point of falling in love with love, faith, joy, and peace. This is why I came back after nine years."
Winans will tour major markets in 2017, and those dates will be announced in the coming weeks.
'Let Them Fall In Love' track list:
1. He's Never Failed Me Yet
2. Run To Him
3. Hey Devil!
4. Peace From God
5. Why Me
7. Never Have To Be Alone
8. Dancing In The Spirit
10. Let Them Fall In Love
CECE WINANS AND HER PURESPRINGS GOSPEL LABEL SIGN DISTRIBUTION DEAL WITH THIRTY TIGERS
Ten-time Grammy winning American music icon and best-selling female gospel artist of all time CeCe Winans is thrilled to announce a new distribution agreement with Thirty Tigers, which will manage the physical and digital distribution of Winans' music, including her first solo release in nine years coming in 2017.
"CeCe Winans is a legend, but a legend who is not resting on her laurels," said Thirty Tigers President David Macias. "When the opportunity came up to work with her I was beyond ecstatic. It's an honor to go out and fight for an artist who means so much to so many, as CeCe does."
With a career in music that spans over 30 years, CeCe Winans has sold over five million albums in the U.S. alone; charted hit singles in multiple formats including R&B, Urban AC and Gospel; authored three books including her acclaimed memoir 'On A Positive Note'; and acted in several television series. In addition to her ten Grammys, she has won 20 Dove Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, and has a star on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Nashville Music City Walk of Fame. Earlier this year, CeCe accepted an invitation to be a member of the 2016 Artist Committee for the Kennedy Center Honors.
Last month, Winans performed at the sixth annual Thirty Tigers Gospel Brunch during Americanafest. She looks forward to other future collaborations.
About Thirty Tigers:
Thirty Tigers is a music marketing, management, distribution, and publishing company based in Nashville, Tennessee. Thirty Tigers Distribution has served as a label infrastructure for a vast client base including The Avett Brothers, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chase Rice, Lucinda Williams, Ryan Bingham, Patty Griffin, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, Trampled By Turtles, and many others in their 14 years of working with Sony/RED Distribution.