After the Grammy-winning 'Purified' CECE WINANS enjoys another huge hit. Tony Cummings reports.
The immediate success of 'Thy Kingdom Come', the latest album by CeCe Winans, demonstrates she has lost none of her appeal to both gospel (black) and CCM (white) CD buyers. 'Thy Kingdom Come' debuted at number one on Billboard's Top Gospel chart and number two on Billboard's Top Christian chart. The album, on CeCe's own PureSprings Gospel imprint through EMI CMG, is a return to the praise and worship approach of 'Alabaster Box' after the more urban sounds of 2005's 'Purified'. CeCe spoke to Billboard about 'Thy Kingdom Come'. "This record was going to be a hymns record but we got into the studio and decided to add a few songs."
CeCe explained that when EMI CMG heard the album "they felt like it was almost two records, and they really wanted the hymns record to be all hymns. So we'll release the hymns record later on. I decided to do 'Thy Kingdom Come' first."
CeCe admitted that her new project was well and truly targeted at churchgoers. "Everybody can be blessed by it but it's a record that's really for the Church and encouraging the Church to stand up and be the Church, reminding them of the authority we have in Jesus Christ." The first single from the project, "Waging War", is already getting extensive US Christian radio exposure. Billboard asked whether she was worried that the warfare orientated title might scare people off in the light of the current political climate. "I never even thought about it that way," she said, explaining that the song is about Christians waging spiritual warfare through prayer. "It's definitely not there to encourage that war [in Iraq] at all, but something I pray for daily is our soldiers and our leaders. . . I didn't mean for this to be connected to that war except as a reminder to us to pray."
For 'Thy Kingdom Come' CeCe teamed up with producers Tommy Sims, Percy Bady, Luther 'Mano' Haines and Victor & Cedric Caldwell. She also worked for the first time with her son Alvin Love III as a producer. She said, "He wrote some [songs] on 'Purified' but this time he wrote a song and also co-produced. That was kind of funny having to do what my son told me to do. It was kind of weird, but we made it."
In recent times CeCe has hosted the annual Always Sisters conference in Nashville. Launched in 2005 the annual conference seeks to help young women aged 13 to 26 to grapple with issues such as AIDS, abuse and depression. CeCe explained to journalist Christopher Heron how the conference came about. "Well, when I started out as a recording artist I was quite young. I was probably about 17 years old. And over the years I've always received mail from young people in general, but especially young women and young girls. It never stopped. The older I got, the more I received. And so, when you hear their stories and understand what they've been through, what their goals and aspirations are, they begin to look up to you and they ask for advice.
"Within the last 10-15 years I've been thinking about doing something for their needs. I just didn't know what it would be and didn't know when the time would be right. About seven years ago I started travelling with a wonderful organisation called Women Of Faith. It's a women's conference that's just for two days. And it was just so refreshing to be a part of this event. Even though I was singing, I enjoyed the speakers; we laughed, we cried. You really left there with great tools to live victorious lives as women. I knew then that this was something I would do in the future, to start a conference, but it would be geared towards young girls, because I've always had a ministry that, for some reason, affected young women. Eventually I knew I didn't want to wait any longer. I felt a heavy burden that I hadn't started a conference the previous year. Even as we were planning, we decided to cancel it at first because of Hurricane Katrina. But after the hurricane I said, 'You know what, if I only get two or three girls to come, if I could change two or three lives, then it's worth it.'
"We had over 700 women attend. We had to refuse individuals because we only had a small conference room, but it was the most incredible two days. We had great speakers and the women were blessed. I know their lives are changed forever. We wanted each woman to realise who they were and how priceless that is. We want to give each person tools to live successful lives in matters that they are going through. The God we serve is able to give them the strength they need to accomplish what he has called them to accomplish. This year, we have room for 5,000 attendees. We took a huge leap of faith, but we've already surpassed the amount of registrants we had last year. We are so excited about what God is getting ready to do. We have some incredible speakers. We have great people who are just coming because they want to be a part of this event to help out. We're going to have a great time; it's going to be awesome."
CeCe's PureSprings Gospel label recently expanded its roster to include Marcus Cole, former lead singer of R&B gospel legends Commissioned. CeCe was asked why Marcus was signed. Responded the singer, "Marcus has a heart for God. Representatives from the company met with him. My husband and I have met with him. And you can tell he's sincere. His music really touches your heart. You know, I love female vocalists but there's nothing like a man worshipping God. It's a powerful testimony. He's an awesome young man that's going to extend the Kingdom with the gift that God has given him."
CeCe was asked whether she was surprised to receive Grammy Awards for her 'Purified' album? "Receiving the two Grammy awards for the album was awesome! The album is so different from my previous album, 'Throne Room'. The album really emphasises love relationships. So many of us say, 'We love God' but we don't love one another. Our homes are being torn apart, there are so many divorces. The CD was aiming toward emphasising love and to encourage people to treasure their relationships and how God feels about relationships. So, people are getting the message. I'm hearing the testimonies. And I'm excited about that."
Despite all the accolades CeCe continues to give God the credit for her extraordinary rise to Christian music fame. "When I look back, I am in awe. I never used to think about even talking in front of people. Now, I'm singing and talking in front of people. I'm an example of what God will do if you say 'yes' to his will. My talent isn't so great. I hear people sing better than me every day but he's anointed me to do what he's called me to do."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.