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.