CeCe Winans hasn’t released a new album in nine years, but the gospel singer is in the midst of one of the most prolific periods of her life.
Her work during this time has been different. It’s not reflected in sales (though she’s sold more than 5 million albums over the past 30 years) or awards (10 Grammys, 20 Doves and three NAACP Image Awards to date).
Instead, it’s witnessed in the people who fill the pews for Sunday service at Nashville Life Christian Church. Winans co-founded the church five years ago with her husband, Alvin Love, and both serve as senior pastors.
“I’m so much richer because of it,” she says. “It has required my husband and I to lay down our lives even more for people. I think we’ve tapped into true happiness. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the best way you could ever spend your life.”
It’s with this perspective that Winans, at last, is returning with a new album. On Feb. 3, she’ll release “Let Them Fall in Love,” a retro-styled collection that draws on the R&B and Motown sounds of the ‘60s. Ironically, it’s produced by a child of the ’80s: Winans’ son, Alvin Love III.
Winans says she took some convincing to do a “throwback” album, and she laughs as she recalls working with her son in the producer’s chair. “It was weird for me to say, ‘OK, I really have to do everything he tells me to do,’ as the mom.”
But one element of the album was at her insistence: its title, “Let Them Fall in Love.”
“I want people to hear these songs, and I want them to connect with falling in love with (God). I am totally convinced that when we receive God’s love, and we learn to love him back, that’s when we will really learn how to love one another.”
Winans famously hails from Detroit — and a gospel music dynasty. There are her parents, Delores and David (“Mom and Pop”), and nine musical siblings, including her brother and longtime duo partner BeBe.
But Nashville has been home since 1989. She and BeBe first came to town to work with their producer, Keith Thomas, and “fell in love” with the area.
Music City kept her grounded as her star continued to rise: She went platinum with her 1995 solo debut, “Alone in his Presence.” The next year, she and her friend Whitney Houston had a top 10 hit with the duet “Count On Me.” Over the next decade, a fruitful solo career unfolded, as well as a celebrated reunion with her brother for the 2009 album “Still.”
About five years ago, however, Winans and her husband had a “for sale” sign in front of their Nashville home.
“We were moving to California. We just wanted to be in warm weather for the rest of our lives,” she recalls. “But God works in mysterious ways.”
The couple had been encouraged to become pastors many times over the years, but that path didn’t unfold until their son asked them to host a Bible study for his friends at their house. It eventually ballooned into an 80-person gathering. Today, Winans estimates there are about 250 members of their congregation, and they meet twice a week for worship at Christ Church in Nashville.
“God did it in a way that he made it really, really plain to us,” she says of their new calling. “But it’s been awesome, because we’ve seen lives change for the better. … We’ve all turned into different people since the beginning of the church. And I’d like to think we’re all better, because it’s not all about us.”
Their son also was the spark for her new album. Alvin Love III was the primary writer on “Let Them Fall in Love,” and had to convince his mother that she was the one who needed to sing these songs.
“When he first started playing them for me, I was just like, ‘Whoa! Uh, this is kinda different,’ ” she says, laughing. “So it took him a little time convincing me that it was a good idea, something that was relevant, but a throwback, and refreshing. It was something that my old audience would embrace as well as something that a whole new group of people would embrace. After I listened to his reasoning, and lived with (the songs) for a little while, I got it. And then I started to get really excited about it.”
Her passion cuts through on the fiery lead single, “Hey Devil!” Winans’ powerful belting commands the devil “to get behind me,” accompanied by the same rocking rhythms that propelled the likes of Ray Charles in the ‘60s. Elsewhere, she draws new soul and spirit out of Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me Lord,” and inspires on the original ballad “Never Have to Be Alone.”
Winans’ Puresprings Gospel label has signed a new distribution deal with Thirty Tigers, a Nashville music company best known for its work with Americana acts. She’s looking forward to reaching new audiences with this music, though balancing it with her new life as a pastor won’t be simple.
“It’s going to be busy, but it’s going to be great. I’m going to make sure it’s fun. Life is too short for it not to be fun.”
Source: The Tennessean | Dave Paulson