Interviews

Cece Winans

Cece Winans

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Born into a family like the Winans, I believe CeCe Winans was destined to sing. I doubt she knew then she would help change the face of gospel music forever. She has been an icon in this industry since her 1985 debut with older brother BeBe with the song, Lord Lift Us Up.

The duo made history when they crossed into the mainstream with hits like For Always, Don't Cry For Me, Count It All Joy, I'll Take You There and Addictive Love.

In spite of ridicule and criticism, BeBe & CeCe helped paved the path that opened doors for the likes of Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary. Stepping into her own limelight in 1995, CeCe continued to excel in her God-given ministry with solo projects like Alone In His Presence, His Gift, Everlasting Love, Alabaster Box and now her latest self-titled project, CeCe Winans.

Not only a gifted singer and songwriter, she is now the owner of the Wellspring Gospel label, under the umbrella of her entertainment company, Wellspring Entertainment. Her autobiography, On A Positive Note added 'author' to her growing list of titles.

Although her mantle is full of Grammys, Dove and Image Awards, as well as gold and platinum records, CeCe Winans could easily be the girl next door. When she took time to talk to me, her simplicity and genuineness was overwhelmingly apparent.

If you're looking for CeCe Winans, the star, you won't find her. What you will find is a woman, wife and mother who truly loves the Lord.

Andrea Williams: Could you tell me a little bit about the new project you have on your label Wellspring Gospel?

Cece Winans: The name of the project is called CeCe Winans. I guess if I had to tell what the record or the CD is about, I would divide it into three categories. You're going to hear a lot about prayer on this record.

You're going to hear a lot of encouragement and also a lot about passion - just telling people about how much God loves them and also about how much I love Him. It's a CD that's full of substance. There are a lot of different styles and flavors on this project.

Cece Winans -- Click to Purcase the CD AW: Is this project different from other projects you've done like Alabaster Box, Everlasting Love and Alone In His Presence?

CW: I guess it would be closer to Everlasting Love. Alabaster Box was definitely a praise and worship CD probably more geared to believers. This particular CD is definitely more of an outreach type of CD. I think there's something on here for everybody. I think there are messages on here everybody can understand and can be reached by.

There's definitely a big difference between this CD and my last CD Alabaster Box. But for the most part, it's what I have always done within my musical career and that is contemporary music.

AW: I've noticed you have a new look, a new "do", a new radiance about you. Is this outward change representative of an inner change?

CW: An inner change, boy (laughs). It's amazing how much attention you get when you cut your hair off! Everybody's like "everything is sooo new" and I'm like, "Guys, I just cut my hair off!" (laughs) Last August, I was like "You know, it's time for a change". I've worn long hair for so long and one day I had my sister cut it off.

Actually it was really, really short. It's grown out when you see the picture on the CD. I liked it, but then it hit me later on after I cut it I thought, "Oh my, I am a public person. What is everyone else gonna think?"

At home, I'm just CeCe. But now I have to share this with the rest of the world but so far so good. Everybody's liked it. I've had a few e-mails of people that say, "Oh, what happened to your long hair!" I'm like "I'm sorry guys. It will grow back!" I also started working out. Lost a few pounds, but not much. I've been working out trying to be more fit and stay in shape.

With this type of schedule, you have to be. As far as confidence goes, I think I do have more confidence. The older you get you know a little bit more about where you're going, where you've come from. You're not as afraid or fearful as you used to be. That just comes from being older and hopefully a lot wiser - maybe that's what people are feeling and seeing.

AW: What made you decide to start Wellspring Entertainment?

Cece Winans CW: I had a vision to do this I guess about six or seven years ago. I just wanted to wait on the right timing to do it. I think it came out of a need to help nourish gospel music and to put more positive music out there. This is a time where our world needs to hear more of it.

Being in it as long as I've been, I just wanted to be a part of the growth of gospel music - to spread the good news. I want to make [Wellspring] an incredible entertainment company.

As an artist that went into new territory when I came out, being played on R&B radio as well as gospel radio, it was something new. Because it was something new to the world, they didn't know what to do with it. So I want to create a system that will help, not just myself, but a lot of other gospel artists coming up who are being accepted on different platforms as well. So it was created from my heart because of a need.

AW: You and your brother BeBe are credited as being the first gospel artists to take gospel into the mainstream. Was it hard taking the criticism from the church?

CW: Yes, it was really difficult. It was really difficult for me - for a minute. Because it wasn't like we planned to do what we did. I was raised in the church. My parents were very strict. All we listened to was gospel music. That was the only thing we were allowed to play in our house.

We were just two young people doing the music that we loved. We happened to be teenagers at the time that we started, so we were attracted to those same type of beats and so we did it. We heard it in our church so we thought it was something that the whole world knew. It can still be gospel even if it has a hip flavor to it.

But when we came out, boy were we surprised! We got the credit of creating contemporary [gospel] music, but the truth of the matter is we grew up on contemporary [gospel] music as well as traditional [gospel] music so we were criticized. We got our feelings hurt.

We were accused of doing it for the money or the fame, but that wasn't it at all. But we realized that with the criticism, we were gaining ground. I realized I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do.

I also realized people didn't really mean any harm (for the most part), but it was something that they thought was new and different. The world thought that gospel music was just the sound of Mahalia Jackson and that was it. But we grew up on Andrae Crouch and Rance Allen and when you go way back and get those CDs, you hear all the sounds - the hip beats which came out of the church, really.

So it hurt, but we got over it and people learned to trust us. We've been in it for a long time now. They know that we didn't do this to try to crossover into secular music, but we were in gospel music to stay.

AW: Do you think that you and BeBe will get back together as a group?

CW: Well, I think so. I think we'll always do solo projects. Actually we signed to do solo projects when we signed as a duo. But we waited until the right time. We wanted to establish ourselves as a duo first and then go and do our solo projects.

And now the years are just going by! It's like "My gosh, it has been a long time!" We definitely want to come back together and do it, but we will do it in God's timing.

AW: There have been a lot of changes in the gospel music industry recently. Are you encouraged or cautious about what's happening in the industry?

CW: I think I'm both. I've always been cautious. Like I stated before, when we got the criticism we got, I was cautious. I wanted to be sure my motives were pure and I wanted to make sure they stayed pure.

I think that's something every gospel artist should always do. You can't let people decide for you what you should do, but you should always consider people. I'm excited about what gospel music is doing. I'm excited about all the new groups and the ground they've covered because we need to be out there.

We need more gospel music out there. You can see all the negative music out there and the negative responses from the negative music. I get excited when I see more young people turning on gospel music and enjoying it, but we always have to be cautious.

AW: You have grown up in the spotlight for most of your life. What lessons do you think you've learned from always being the public eye?

CW: Well, don't cut your hair! (laughs) Or whatever you do, it's magnified. You can't gain weight; you can't lose. Everything you do, people notice. You are always on a stage, whether you want to be or not. That's definitely one thing. It's a lot of give; you have a lot of challenges too. But it's okay.

Cece Winans Probably the greatest lesson I've learned is to just be yourself. It's so important to live what you sing about. A lot of people ask me "Is it a lot of pressure to be a gospel singer?" I say, "No, it's not pressure". Because I believe in what I'm singing about. I believe I've got to live holy.

I believe in God's Word. I'm doing that on stage and off stage. But at the same time, I am a person and I'm gonna make mistakes. And that's okay too. So you be yourself. No matter how much pressure the public tries to put on you, you can't receive that. It's been fairly easy for me because I'm not trying to be someone else.

AW: Growing up in a Christian home, I'm sure God was part of your home life. At what point did you decide to turn your life over to Him?

CW: When I was about 11 or 12 years old. I think it's around that age when you're getting out there and you're amongst your friends, you've gotta make a decision for yourself. Are you gonna follow the crowd or are you gonna stand for what's right?

You definitely need the Lord to deal with the peer pressure. That was the age I really had to start making choices. Up until that point, I think, well at least then - now it's definitely an earlier age - you're still a little girl at 10. Nowadays is another whole story.

We were raised in the church and made to do this and made to do that. Around the age of 11 or 12, you get other opportunities to do the wrong thing so you have to ask the Lord to come into your heart and make a personal commitment.

AW: When did you know God wanted you to sing?

CW: Probably not until I was about sixteen. Up until that time I always sang, my whole family sang. That was just something we did and loved to do at church and home. It was a hobby for the most part. But when I was about sixteen, I realized when I sang, it was more than entertainment- it was a ministry.

I saw what the music did to other people as well as myself and what I felt. So around that time I accepted it as a calling more than a hobby – not just something I wanted to do and liked to do. It's hard to explain.

You feel the Spirit and realize "This is my purpose, this is my calling". But I would never have chosen it for myself. I am real comfortable, even to this day, with being in the background but God had other plans for me. Now I know I wouldn't be happy doing anything else.

AW: On your previous projects Alone In His Presence, Everlasting Love and Alabaster Box and even on your latest project CeCe Winans, I notice you like to use different musical styles - some R&B, some jazz, some pop, some praise & worship. I gather that you don't want to be boxed in musically....

CW: No, I don't want to be [boxed in]. I don't think I've recorded songs not to be, it's just I've always loved and appreciated all different styles of music. Like I said, even though we grew up in a home where all we listened to was gospel music, we had a variety of that.

I love the old hymns of the church. I love the traditional sound. I love the quartet sound. I love the contemporary [sound]. I love the choirs. I love all those styles of music.

When you look at pop, R&B, and even rock, you'll see a whole lot of major stars who will point you to gospel music where they got a lot of their flavor. Over the years, I have refused to let anybody put me in a box.

Cece Winans When I approach a new CD, I go with what I want to do and with what I'm feeling. Sometimes I'm like "Whoa, I've got a lot of different things on here!" (laughs). The biggest problem is to make sure that it all blends together - that it's cohesive and that the project is strong, but I definitely don't like being put in a box because all of it is close to my heart.

AW: Are you going to be touring soon?

CW: I probably will, possibly this fall, hopefully with Donnie McClurkin. We're still setting things up so I don't know when yet.

AW: What's next on the horizon for CeCe Winans?

CW: In the near future, if the Lord says the same, we're talking about a tour. We have our company and we're asking for the Lord's leading. We want to do some children's projects. I am really excited about doing that. Next year we may be putting out an artist.

For me, I just want to do what He wants me to do. I believe for right now, I'll continue to do music. Hopefully, I'll reach more and more people with the positive good news.

AW: Do you have any suggestions for up and coming gospel artists?

CW: Roll up your sleeves and get ready (laughs)! You must love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. That's the main thing because when you do, the Lord will direct you. He will open up the doors and our job is to just be ready to walk through them.

People ask me, "What are you going to do next year?" I say, "I really don't know" because the Lord may direct me to do something different. I just want to be in the center of His will because that's the best place, the safest place to be.

So again, you must love the Lord with all of your heart, soul and mind. Let Him lead you and guide you. Be encouraged because you're going to go through some rough times.

If you know you're in your purpose, then you'll have the strength to get up and you'll make it through.

AW: What is most dear to your heart?

CW: The Lord is always first. My husband is number two. Boy, my husband, my children. Okay, I guess I'll keep him at number two (laughs). But my babies, I've got two babies, just two. I should have kept going and had about five! I love being a mom. It's a challenge everyday, but they are so precious.

It's amazing how they think you don't know anything! They make me laugh. They are teenagers now. I love being a mom. I take it very seriously to impart in them the principles of God. I have a son and a daughter and I just love them. They are my biggest claim to fame. They are what I am most proud of.





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