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CeCe Winans: Judge of “How Sweet the Sound” (Interview)

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Interviewed and written by Elder Lee M Harris, Sr.

Elder Harris: CeCe, how are you doing today?
CeCe Winans: I’m good, I’m good!

EH: I understand the project you’re doing, “How Sweet the Sound” is something that’s been going on for a while. I would first of all like to talk with you for a moment about your role in this event.
CeCe: I’ve been involved with “How Sweet the Sound” for several years now. The first time they asked me, I was a judge for a few of the shows and I performed and really enjoyed it, as I felt they did it in a first class way.

It was a great chance to give choirs a platform of knowing that it was really the foundation of gospel music and gospel choirs. For the last three years I’ve been hosting / co-hosting with Donald Lawrence and had a great time doing that. This year I’m going back to judging and Yolanda is going to host the event.

EH: It’s my understanding that some of the smaller churches are being invited to this event now as well as the community choirs.
CeCe: That’s been the great thing about being a part of “How Sweet the Sound”, is that every year they’re striving to do it better, striving to encourage more people and add on every year. This really can be a blessing to the community, the churches, and the choir directors, as well as the corporate businesses that are sponsoring this.

EH: So as I understand it, the prize money is for them to do something healthy and good in that particular community for the people where that particular choir lives.
CeCe: Oh yes! Verizon has a hope line where when people turn in their phone. That’s going to help domestic violence in that way. We’ve had some church choirs who have won [that] were putting some of their money into some sort of project. I think this year may be connected to some sort of recording situation, but I’m not sure about that.

EH: Now in the local towns or cities, do they just go to www.howsweetthesound.com to apply for the contest? Is there a fee or what has to happen?
CeCe: Yes, if you log onto www.howsweetthesound.com you can get all the answers for that and whatever questions you have I’m sure they will answer them there for you.

Even if you’re not a choir just come and be a part of this celebration because it is going to strengthen gospel music in our community and really going to bring forth that message. With all the things that are happening around the world, we need to withstand the privilege it is to come together and worship His name together. Even though we go under an umbrella of competition it is so not a competition, it’s really an excuse for us to come together and praise God. When we come together with that one thing in mind and that’s to give God praise, the power of God shows up and miracles happen.

EH: Now CeCe, I’d like to take you just a little bit away from “How Sweet the Sound” just to find out just  a little about CeCe Winans, how’s that?
CeCe: That’s good, that’s nice!

EH: You’ve sold millions of albums in the past 26 years; tell me about the ten Grammys, do you remember the ten Grammy’s?
Ce Ce: We started out years and years ago and God has been faithful every step of the way. All I can say is that all the awards and everything that I’ve been able to receive over the years has been amazing to me. It has been encouraging, but it is not the reason we do what we do. To me whenever I go into the studio it’s like starting over like, “Lord what do you want to say today? You know what you want people to hear; you know what you’ve appointed me to do.”

EH: So CeCe, it’s not just a job, it’s a way of life for you?
CeCe: Yeah it’s a way of life for me, [it’s] a life style; it’s whether if I was working in the grocery store or no matter where you are, you just want to be doing what God has called you to do. I don’t want to do music just because I can; I want to do music because that’s what he wants me to do and I want everything we do to make a difference in somebody’s life.

EH: So the reputation of being one of the friendliest people in the industry really spells CeCe Winans huh?
CeCe: Well I hope so. You know, the bible tells us that they should know us by our love, so when I’m complimented on being nice, I feel it’s just my reasonable service. I love to treat people the way I want to be treated. I want to treat people the way God treats me. The most important is that people see the Jesus in me and in my voice they hear Jesus in my songs. Really, I think who you are is more important than what you do and what you do should reflect who you are! So it’s real important that when people leave they say, “Oh wow, she was really like the Lord” more so than saying, “Ooh she really hit that note” you know. I don’t think that really makes a difference, because when I stand before the Lord…and I tell people this all the time, “when I’m asked how many Grammys do you have?” well that’s not going to count. When He looks at me He’s going to ask me, “Did you love people the way I love people, “did you obey my word.” Those are the things that are going to count, so that’s what I strive for.

EH: It’s when you hit that note and it touches someone, that’s when it really counts as it hits somebody right in the heart like a dagger.
CeCe: Yeah, not the entertainment, but that it meant something to somebody.

EH: So your number eight out of ten children?
Ce Ce: Yes!

EH: How’d that happen?
CeCe: (Laughing) You gotta ask mom and pop that! We lived in Detroit, Michigan, and my mom and dad had seven boys straight; I was the first girl, and two younger sisters. They tell me I messed up the ball team, and I had nothing to do with that…but God did. I thank God for my mom and I thank Him for my dad who has gone on to be with the Lord. We had some rough times through life. Our parents saw something in us that we didn’t see in ourselves. [They began] putting us in concert. They spent their last money to support what they felt God was doing in our lives. It was Mom and Pops prayers and my grandparent’s prayers that we all remained faithful to God and music. We made our huge mistakes along the way, but thank God for His mercy and His grace that continues to restore.

EH: So CeCe, how did you come about you and BeBe tying up together?
CeCe: It was something we never planned. During that time we were singing at home as a family and we had different groups in the family because in the family, there was so many of us. My older brothers (The Winans) started recording so BeBe, I, my sister-in-law Vicki, and my brother Daniel used to call ourselves Winans Part Two. During that time we had a friend who had heard our whole family, BeBe and myself sing. This friend was the music director at PTL with Jim and Tammy Baker in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was gathering singers for the TV show. He asked for me and BeBe to come audition and we came and auditioned to be a part of that group. We never planned on becoming BeBe & CeCe or a duet or anything, but they gave us one song to sing called, “Lord Lift Us Up” which was a remake of, “Love Lift Us Up.” So, that’s how BeBe and CeCe got started. After that song people started asking us to come to their churches and sing.

EH: Now there’s something that had me in question for many years and I didn’t know which way to take this song because to me it meant one thing. When I saw that this song was supposed to be an R&B song, I didn’t know what to think. The song, “Lost Without You” is the song that brought me to Christ.
CeCe: That’s like my favorite song! You say it was supposed to be an R&B song?

EH: It’s listed as an R&B song, but when I listened to this song the first time and then over-and-over again. I had just left like a seminar. It was my understanding that if I didn’t put God in my life and I mean like right now, then nothing I ever tried to do was going to prosper. After that is when I came back and started adapting to that particular song. The vocals and the way you guys did the song just grabbed me right in the chest. It went to my mind and I went straight to the church.
CeCe: Praise the Lord, well you know what? That’s what we were singing about. (Laughing) It’s funny you said that because when BeBe and I are in the studio, that’s who we are, lost without you, because it has a flavor as far as the sound and all of our music from that to Celebrate. They began to play it on secular radio. Because they played it on secular radio, they automatically named it R&B. We’ve been named Pop this, but it was just the doors that the Lord opened. “Lost Without You” is all about Jesus. Without Him in my life I would be totally lost!

EH: When you singed at Whitney’s funeral, it was very special to you and your family. At the time I did not know that you and Whitney did the song, “Count on Me.” You guys were really close weren’t you?
CeCe: Yeah, she was my sister and we were extremely close! We became friends over twenty years ago. She had heard me and BeBe’s song and I guess it was, “Heaven” which was a CD she had gotten and just really fell in love with. That was during the time that she had just came out and was winning everything. We were at the Image Awards when I met her and she actually stopped me in the lobby and was like, “CeCe?” and I was like, “oh yeah, but how do you know me” and she started singing me and BeBe’s stuff and I couldn’t believe it. We were in concert that night and she showed up and ended up on stage and singed all of our stuff way better than we could ever sing it.

EH: Well I’m gonna leave that alone!
CeCe: (Laughing) that’s where our friendship began. All I can say is losing her was rough. I had talked to her that week before she went out to California to check on her as I would do periodically. Whitney sounded really good; I didn’t know that would be the last time I would talk to her. Our prayer was that the Lord would just use her for His glory. Through all Whitney’s trials-and-tribulations, she was always very bold and vocal about believing in Jesus Christ. I just have to believe that in her last moments she had a chance to get things straight.

EH: Your music has truly been a blessing for others including myself.
CeCe: I would just ask the readers to just keep praying for me and that God’s perfect will be done. I do believe that He’s doing something new. If they keep praying for me then I know that we’ll hit the bull’s eye and target of what He wants to do on this next project. I just want the readers to know that I really love them and appreciate them, so let’s continue to do what God has called us to do because He is soon to come.

EH: What a statement right there CeCe.
CeCe: Praise God, be blessed my brother!

EH: On behalf of myself and Consciousness Magazine, I thank you for giving us the opportunity to share this precious time with you. May the upcoming event and everything God calls you to do for Him continue to be a total success sincerely. God bless you CeCe Winans so very much!!!


Consciousness Magazine had the opportunity to interview Verizon’s How Sweet The Sound hosts and judges. Here is what they had to say about this remarkable event as they travel to various cities around the country. These gospel artists also share valuable information regarding their life and career, in hopes to empower and enlighten our readers and their fans.

Donald Lawrence (Read Interview)
Yolanda Adams (Read Interview)
Fred Hammond (Read Interview)
Erica Campbell (Read Interview)
Hezekiah Walker (Read Interview)
VaShawn Mitchell (Read Interview)

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Last modified: April 17, 2023