Exclusive Interview with CeCe Winans: Bringing Christmas to Detroit and the World!
By: Mary Crosby
Detroit’s own CeCe Winans is returning to Detroit and bringing Christmas with her! CeCe will headline the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, Friday, November 16, at Campus Martius; and with the recent release of SOMETHING’S HAPPENING! A CHRISTMAS ALBUM (Puresprings Gospel/ Thirty Tigers), she is spreading good news and cheer to not only Detroit, but the entire world.
The 11 track album featuring Christmas classics and new songs is available at iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Barnes & Noble and other music retail outlets.
After winning Grammy Awards for Best Gospel Album (Let Them Fall In Love) and Best Gospel Performance/Song Gospel (“Never Have To Be Alone”), there is no doubt that gospel icon CeCe Winans and her songwriter/producer son, Alvin Love III, make beautiful music together.
This time around, the dynamic mother-son duo collaborated on CeCe Winans’ fourth holiday recording, Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album (Puresprings Gospel/ Thirty Tigers). CeCe told us that she has learned to trust her talented son’s producing instincts. She shared that prior to recording the project Alvin told her, ‘I know your voice better than anybody.’ “He proved to know my strengths and my weaknesses, so he would stretch me in places… I think he’s brought me into a place of remaining who I am but reinventing myself at the same time.”
The 11-song project includes 5 new compositions penned by Alvin Love III, and 5 classics with distinctive updated twists. There is also a reprise of the title song. Taking on 5 new Christmas songs might sound like a risky proposition, but as CeCe pointed out, “you have to think, all the ones we’ve listened to for years were original at one time.” CeCe also said this about her talented son, “his vision was to do a whole record of originals. He’s a brave one. I said “What?!” [laughter] And after hearing the stuff that he was writing and discussing and going over it, I thought, ‘That could be pretty cool.'”
The five original songs on the project are fresh and fun; Christmas songs for today. Together CeCe and Alvin breathe new life into the 5 traditional songs, with genre-bending twists and turns, powerful vocals and magnificent orchestral arrangements. Overall the project is beautifully done and evokes both spiritual reflection and the true joy of what Christmas embodies. CeCe put it this way, “When I hear it, I get the warm and fuzzies, I feel the fun in Christmas but also definitely feel the real meaning of Christmas.”
As if five new Christmas songs weren’t enough, Love seems to really take to heart the old adage, “go big or go home,” and switching from his songwriter’s hat to producer’s hat, invited the 75-piece Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Tim Akers, to create a lush wall of symphonic sound to accompany his mother’s soaring and angelic vocals. Recording took place at Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb, Croatia with both Love and Akers, who also did the arrangement, on hand to bring their vision to life. While Winans would have also loved to be there, a busy schedule prevented her from making the trip.
In the official press release for the project, Love says, “We were inspired by the Christmas albums from the golden era of symphonic popular music. This album is grand in scale and spectrum. Each song is accompanied by a 75 piece orchestra and brings out a different color in CeCe’s voice, some colors will be familiar some will be new. It’s a big sound and we’re really proud of it.”
Winans admits that one of the challenges that played into creating an orchestrated Christmas album was timing. CeCe explains, “We were thinking about London, especially with the timing, we had to try to find an orchestra that could get it done with the timing that we needed. So, we thought about trying to do it here in Nashville. We have an awesome symphony here. But, we ended up… somebody told us about Croatia and we were able to get that done in the right timing to put the record out. When you’re working on a Christmas record, and it’s July, it’s so weird. First of all, it’s burning up [laughter], but the time comes around so quickly.”
As one can imagine Winans is extremely proud of her son and his accomplishments. When asked whether there were any challenges with having him as her producer, she laughingly replied, “Well, I’m sure it’s more challenging on his end.” Winans went on to say, “He has ears like an old producer and has written incredible songs for a long time. So, you know, I have to respect him as an artist in his own right; and a man because he is good and grown now.”
Winans began her gospel music recording career working with her brother as the multi-award winning duo BeBe and CeCe Winans, so working with family is, well, familiar. Now working with her son, she says, “So, it was a joy for me because first of all as an artist you want to go into the studio with someone you really trust. So, to have family; I’m used to working with family, and the blessing always out way the challenges.”
In closing, I asked CeCe to share any advice to aspiring artists starting out in the industry. With the wisdom that comes from years of triumphs and valleys, CeCe answered, “You know, first of all it’s a journey. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Be patient, and be yourself. You have pressures when you come into this industry of what this person is doing and what that person is doing; how high this person can sing and how low this person can sing. And you know what; we’re all uniquely different for a reason.”
For more of CeCe’s response to this and other questions, listen to the exclusive full interview by clicking the audio button below (or read the transcript further below).
To find out more about CeCe Winans and her upcoming appearances and concerts, visit her website www.cecewinans.com, or connect via social media (links provided below).
Transcript of Audio
DetroitGospel.com: This is Mary Crosby from DetroitGospel.com.
CeCe Winans: Awesome! Detroit, Detroit!
DetroitGospel.com:That’s right, Detroit is in the house. It’s good to hear your voice and we’re excited about you coming to light the Christmas tree.
CeCe Winans: That’s right, I am coming.
DetroitGospel.com: Yes. Congratulations on your new project. I did get a chance to listen to it and of course it is phenomenal. The iconic voice paired with this beautiful orchestration, it’s just beautiful. It is a beautiful Christmas album.
CeCe Winans: Thank you. I love the orchestration. Oh my goodness.
DetroitGospel.com:It’s amazing. Yes, I’m excited. Are you going to be preforming certain selections from the album at the tree lighting?
CeCe Winans: I’m sure I will, I’m sure I will, yeah. That was just one of the things I wanted to do; to do a Christmas album with the full orchestra and I just could sit and listen to orchestra music all day long.
DetroitGospel.com: I know, it is just so beautiful and it is so rare to hear that now; the full orchestra and the symphonic sound, it is so beautiful. And, of course, paired with your voice it is just over the top.
CeCe Winans:Oh, well thank you so much! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it.
DetroitGospel.com: I did. So, on the credits I saw that the orchestra was from Croatia and that was interesting; that whole global piece that the project incorporates. Was that difficult to pull that in?
CeCe Winans: No, it wasn’t. We were thinking about London, especially with the timing, we had to try to find an orchestra that could get it done with the timing that we needed. So, we thought about trying to do it here in Nashville. We have an awesome symphony here. But, we ended up… somebody told us about Croatia and we were able to get that done in the right timing to put the record out. When you’re working on a Christmas record, and it’s July, it’s so weird. First of all, it’s burning up [laughter], but the time comes around so quickly. Tim Akers did the arrangement and I think he did a phenomenal job.
Detoitgospel.com: Oh, Yeah. Now, did you have to travel to Croatia or did you do just the recording of the orchestra there?
CeCe Winans: I didn’t, but my son did. He produced the record and Tim went and they we’re like “Are you coming? We would love you to come so we can get the B footage and different things.” But my schedule was a little bit too hectic, so I didn’t make the trip to Croatia.
DetroitGospel.com: But, Alvin was there so I’m sure he was holding it down.
CeCe Winans: Oh, Yeah. He’s the director [laugher]. He was there and it was amazing.
DetroitGospel.com: Yes, he’s got five original songs which is kind of unique for a Christmas album because everyone kind of tends to go with the classics. So, you’ve got half and half. What made you decide to go with some of the original songs?
CeCe Winans:Well you know, his vision was to do a whole record of originals. He’s a brave one. I said “What?!” [laughter] And after hearing the stuff that he was writing and discussing and going over it, I thought, ‘That could be pretty cool.’ Because you have to think, all the ones we’ve listened to for years were original at one time.
DetroitGospel.com: Right, that is very true.
CeCe Winans: — We wanted people to have some familiar things as well but I love the original ones that we have. I love “Something’s Happening” and I think all of the original ones are pretty awesome. We definitely wanted to push that into the frame of what Christmas is all about.
DetroitGospel.com: That is so true. I was really impressed by the original ones, because you’re so used to hearing certain things for Christmas and then to hear the new ones, with a new take and a new spin and the way it incorporates what we’re going through today into Christmas… it’s really powerful.
CeCe Winans: Awesome, awesome! You know, you have to be great to do that; a good Christmas song. But when I heard it I know what it did for my heart and where it put my mind and I was like, ‘you know what, I think it’s going to be a fresh feel, but yet very Christmassy.’ When I hear it, I get the warm and fuzzies, I feel the fun in Christmas, but also definitely feel the real meaning of Christmas.
DetroitGospel.com: Right. That’s how I felt as well. It’s only November but I was already starting to go, “oh yeah, I’m getting into the Christmas spirit” as I was listening to it. So that’s great. “Something’s Happening;” that really is a great title for it, because it incorporates all of the new songs and the old songs and the feeling that Christmas really is every day. I really appreciated that. So what is it like working with your son? What are some of the best things about it and what are some of the challenging things about it?
CeCe Winans: [laughter] Well, I’m sure it’s more challenging on his end. “I’m the mother here.” [Laughter] A very humbling experience for me, but joyful at the same time. I know that Alvin has been extremely talented. He has ears like an old producer and has written incredible songs for a long time. So, you know, I have to respect him as an artist in his own right; and a man because he is good and grown now.
DetroitGospel.com: [Laughter] Right, it is hard…
CeCe Winans: It is! it is. Once they’re your kids, they’re your kids. I had to check myself. [Laughter] But overall it’s been a great joy because for me, first of all, seeing another generation walking in the gifts and the talents that God has given them is just overwhelming. To see God’s faithfulness, you know when I hear the lyrics of the songs. As a mom, my prayers have always been that they would fall in love with Jesus, and have strong faith, because life is going to happen to everybody. But, if you have that faith you can make it through. You will make it through. So, it was a joy for me because first of all as an artist you want to go into the studio with someone you really trust. So, to have family; I’m used to working with family, and the blessings always outweigh the challenges. You have them both, because it is family. But when you’re going in for one purpose and you’re working as one, there is nothing more powerful. So working with him, he knows my voice. When he did my last record Let Them Fall In Love, he won two Grammy’s for that and I’m so proud of him. After that, I think I was a lot easier of a client.
DetroitGospel.com: [laughter] Yeah, he proved himself.
CeCe Winans: He proved himself a little bit. [Laughter] But he told me then, “Mom, Mom.” In his deep voice, “I know your voice better than anybody.” And I was singing a long time before I conceived you but you’ve been around me a long time. He proved to know that. He proved to know my strengths and my weaknesses, so he would stretch me in places. He had me doing sounds that I had never done before. And it’s been fresh. I think he’s brought me into a place of remaining who I am but reinventing myself at the same time. That’s a good thing.
DetroitGospel.com: Yeah, that’s a wonderful thing. So, I know our time is drawing to a close and I just have one last question. Any advice that you have for aspiring artists; people who look to you as the iconic Gospel artist that you are; what advice can you give to anyone starting out in the industry?
CeCe Winans: You know, first of all it’s a journey. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Be patient, and be yourself. You have pressures when you come into this industry of what this person is doing and what that person is doing; how high this person can sing and how low this person can sing. And you know what? We’re all uniquely different for a reason. You have something to give being who you are. So, walk in that and just continue to improve on your path. But, God has a plan for your life, for your gift, for your talent. Walk in it, have fun. Have fun, because it goes by fast. Have Fun!
DetroitGospel.com: That’s great. Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us at Detroitgospel.com. We look forward to seeing you at the Christmas Tree Lighting.
CeCe Winans: Me Too! I look forward to seeing you too. Thank you, so much.
CECE WINANS IS SPREADING GOOD NEWS AND CHEER WITH THE RELEASE OF SOMETHING’S HAPPENING! A CHRISTMAS ALBUM AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE ONLINE AND IN-STORES TODAY!
“A desire to do something “better and fresher” than what she’s done before led CeCe Winans to record Something’s Happening, a new holiday album”
…. Billboard Magazine
Los Angeles, CA – The calendar shows Autumn is in full swing, but Christmas is in the air and award-winning singer CeCe Winans gears up for her fourth holiday recording, Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album (Puresprings Gospel/ Thirty Tigers). The 11 track musical delight features Christmas classics and new songs perfect for holiday gatherings and trimming the tree. The contemporary collection of compositions is available at iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Barnes & Noble and other music retail outlets. All retail link: https://ffm.to/somethingshappening
Once again, Winans teams up with her son Alvin Love III, a Grammy winning producer, to deliver a smorgasbord of festive songs that will have listeners coming back for more each year. Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album will no doubt be added to consumer’s holiday stash of favorites. Alvin penned five new songs for this spirit-filled Christmas album, incorporating five classic tunes with a distinctive musical twist. He went the extra mile and invited the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Tim Akers and recorded at Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb, Croatia.
“We were inspired by the Christmas albums from the golden era of symphonic popular music. This album is grand in scale and spectrum. Each song is accompanied by a 75 piece orchestra and brings out a different color in CeCe’s voice, some colors will be familiar some will be new. It’s a big sound and we’re really proud of it”, says Alvin.
The melodious sound of “This World Will Never Be the Same” reminds listeners how much the world has changed, but gives us hope for a better tomorrow. The whimsical, “Giving Season” paints a vivid picture of Christmastime and the spirit of giving while the classic, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” delivers familiarity in the beginning, but midway through the song the tempo changes to flavorful and rhythmic percussions. In a festive contemporary seasonal carol, “It’s Christmas,” Alvin Love’s crafted tune will have you swaying and singing along.
Earlier this week Billboard Magazine premiered the single, “It’s Christmas” noting its’ upbeat, Motown-flavor that apparently had some musical influence on the Detroit born singer. This is Winans’ first solo Christmas album since the release of His Gift in 1998.
Winans is open to branching out musically and has this to say about the new album, “It’s been a long time. I just felt like I could do something that was better, something that was fresher. It was time to do a new one, and I’m pretty pleased with it. I think it’s fresh, and fun. I’m glad I did it.”
The vocals are masterful on this album and Winans doesn’t fail to seal her signature sound into each song. From start to finish this album brightens the smile and lightens the heart, reminding us of the true meaning of season. Something’s Happening! A Christmas Album will make the perfect Christmas gift and stocking stuffer.
This World Will Never Be The Same
The Grace of the Father
Come, O Come Emmanuel
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Something’s Happening- Reprise
For those wanting to catch Winans in personal appearances or concerts this holiday season visit website www.cecewinans.combut on November 16 Winans will be a special music guest at the official Christmas Tree lighting ceremony for the city of Detroit and Baltimore fans can plan to see her performing with the Baltimore Symphony on December 21.
Connect with CeCe Winans via Face Book, Instagram, Twitter @cecewinans and www.cecewinans.com
and let her know what you think of the new Christmas album.