CeCe Winans on devotion, music and life
Sanctified songstress and Detroit’s own CeCe Winans resumes her role of judge for Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound at Joe Louis Arena, coming to Detroit Saturday, Sept. 15.
Now in its fifth year, the celebration of gospel music, the choir competition allows local groups to showcase their talent in an effort to earn for the title of “The Best Gospel Choir in America.”
While she won't be a part of the Detroit show, Winans is part of a panel featuring Erica Campbell of Mary Mary, Fred Hammond and Hezekiah Walker. Grammy winners Donald Lawrence and Yolanda Adams will serve as hosts.
Recently, Winans shared with BLAC her hopes for the tour, her work on BET’s Sunday Best and how she balances faith and fame.
What kind of things can people expect this year?
Yolanda’s hosting; I think this is the first time she’s been involved. We’ve got a few more artists that haven’t been involved before, so that’ll be different. You have some of us who’ve been a part of it for a while-myself, Fred Hammond, (Erica Campbell of) Mary Mary. But I think for the most part, it’s the same. It’s the same, but different because you have different choirs who entered and the excitement from the choirs, the incredible voices and discipline that’s on display is pretty amazing.
I look forward to it every year. First of all, to just hang out with a lot of my friends in the industry. We don’t get a chance to see each other, so we have a lot of fun among ourselves, but also to get a chance to see choirs in the spotlight is great because that’s really where all of us started at, in the church choir, and it’s really the foundation of gospel music.
You really forget their labor, sometimes, you just kind of think it automatically happens, but (the choirs and directors) come together and they give of their time and they rehearse and they rehearse and they rehearse-and you know they rehearse when you hear them on stage because a lot of them come in excellence and it’s amazing how you get all those voices to sound like one.
I just applaud How Sweet the Sound for creating a platform for the choirs.
You’re also a judge on BET’s Sunday Best. What’s the experience been like for you?
This is my first year being a part of that; it’s been a lot of fun! I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m always excited to hear new talent, see new talent-young talent, new talent, it’s all exciting to me. I love that I get a chance to speak into their lives.
We’ve been doing this for a long time now and so, I love to share any wisdom that I have about this industry, about being on the platform. I’m having a lot of fun hanging out with Kirk, Donny, Yolanda and Kim Burrell; they’re hilarious and we spend a lot of time laughing. But again, it’s a joy to see great talent on display.
As a judge, what matters most to you: the singer’s voice, how they look-or is it a combination of things?
It’s a combination of all of it. It’s very important because if your appearance is a distraction, then (the audience) can’t hear the message. If you’re singing from the heart, but you’re out of tune, (the audience) still can’t hear the message. All of it should work toward people hearing the message, receiving the message and being transformed by the message. So, that means you have to work on everything.
Of course, the main thing is that people receive it; you’re not a distraction. People can really be blessed, especially doing gospel music, but they can be blessed because of your gift, because you really understand the power and also the responsibility of being used by God. So, all of it plays a very important part in the total picture.
What should someone looking to start a career in gospel music go into it knowing?
Well, I think the most important thing is having the lifestyle, making sure you’re living what you’re singing about. Live what you’re preaching about. That would be the most important thing that you have a relationship with the Lord because a lot of people think it’s just another genre of music and you just go into it because you love it.
But you have to have a life that reflects what you sing about. That’s what God is interested in, us having a relationship with him; not how many albums we sell or how great our gift is, but do you really love (Him?) and can people follow you around and see (Him) all day long? So, that would be my first priority for anybody, I would tell them that: respect for God.
How do you manage your faith and fame, the music industry being what it is?
It’s true, it can be disheartening sometimes; this is a rough industry, sometimes. But I’ve never had a problem with managing my faith because again, it’s really important that I understand who I am, with or without music. That’s an addition to who I am, but my faith is in a place all by itself.
So, living a life that’s pleasing to the Father, whether I’m on stage singing or in the grocery store or I’m in a business meeting about a CD or whether I’m at home cooking dinner for my husband. That’s just who I am. I’m a woman of faith and I apply that faith to whatever situation I’m in; so I don’t allow the industry to make it hard on me to walk in faith.
If anything, I use my faith to be able to deal with the industry!
Speaking of music, can fans expect any new releases from you soon?
They’re supposed to! (Laughs) I am way behind right now, but yeah-I’m not in the studio yet, but I’m gathering the songs and I’m getting everything squared away with the producers, so it should be coming soon. My company, I think, was expecting something last year but my life has been extremely busy. I’m embarking on some new things. But yeah, they should keep praying and look for new music soon, but I don’t have anything ready right now; probably by the end of the year.
Is there anything else you’d like your fans to know?
God is good. I want everybody to be encouraged and know that there’s a lot going on in the news, but prayer still works, so look up and be encouraged. Keep loving God and loving one another.