Interview with Carvin Winans
All About The Family
It’s interesting how some dreams become reality.
— interview by Stan North —
For example, for years, there was talk amongst Commissioned fans about reunion. The concept was generally dismissed as fantasy by industry insiders, but 2002 has actually seen it come to pass.
Likewise, recent years have seen plenty of talk of a reunion of The Winans. And again, 2002 sees an extensive nation-wide tour that not only features four brothers on stage.
Not only that, the tour also includes the full complement of the three generations of Winans Family artists that have graced the industry since Introducing the Winans broke ground back in 1981. (See tour dates and information).
We caught up with Carvin Winans in between whistle stops, and spoke with him about The Winans Family Tour, how it came about and lots more.
“Well, we had a tour back in 1992, and it was just a great time. The people’s response was tremendous back then, so we’ve all had wonderful memories from that.”
“Mom and Dad [Winans] really wanted to do it all again, they were the ones who were really pushing for this tour [in 2002] to happen. But everyone’s schedules were so jammed, so it was just a challenge of trying to clear it all to make it happen.”
No wonder. Consider that BeBe has just released a new album on Motown, CeCe is busy with her own Grammy-winning Wellspring Records label, Pastor Marvin Winans has his church to take care of, Marvin Winans Jr. has his hands full with his new M2 Entertainment venture, Ron Winans is working on a solo effort....and you can see only some of the obstacles that were to be overcome.
But determination to make it happen took precedence. The Winans Family Tour kicked off in late April 2002, and is slated to run into at least early July. Three generations of
the Detroit family are travelling with the Chrysler-sponsored tour: Winans Phase 2, Daniel Winans, Mom and Pop Winans, the original Winans, BeBe Winans and CeCe Winans and Angie and Debbie Winans.
More Winans Interviews
Click on the individual images above to link to other interviews with members of the Winans Family over the years.
“It’s been really great so far”, says Carvin. “And we’re having a lot of fun. The band we have working with us is incredible. Music director Ricky Lawson is heading it up, and he’s had some major experience, playing with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Steely Dan and others. And he’s brought with him some of the best players around.”
“It’s a two hour and fifteen minute concert. We really intermingle all of the acts, mixing it up really good. It keeps things fresh from city to city.”
The Winans have seen fit to put the focus on family on the tour, to emphasis the importance of the institution. With the close ties that they all have to each other, they perhaps the perfect ambassadors for that message.
“Yeah, well we try to bring that ‘personal living room atmosphere’ onto the stage. And really, I think we’ve done that.”
Carvin elaborated on one of their favorite moments during the concert.
“We have a segment where we all come out, with Mom introducing the whole family. And then we field requests from the crowd. We banter back and forth between us, it’s almost as if we forget that the audience is in front of us. And we just have a lot of fun with each other on stage. It gives that personal touch. There’s not really much of a difference between what you see there and what goes on, say, in our own private family get togethers.”
The biggest challenge for the Winans on the tour is a familiar one, and is probably a similar one to what nearly every family goes through.
“We’re a very loving family, but we can get on each other’s nerves too. We’ve really had to learn to respect each other as artists, as people, and also as sons, fathers, sisters, nephews and dads. A lot of times that can be quite challenging.”
“Consider that among us, there’s a total of 31 Grammys, and we all have our share. That goes down to even the third generation, since the Winans Phase 2 album received a lot of great response. So, there’s a respect that has to be given. To know that we are family and yet we also have our own things going on, that’s hard to reconcile sometimes.”
And again, like in other families, Carvin acknowledges that there’s a degree of rivalry between the various groups that bear the famous name. He readily laughs as he describes it:
“Oh yeah, there’s a healthy competition. In fact, you’ll see that during the request segment on the tour. We’re all each others’ biggest critics, and we’ve always been like that. There’s so many songs, so many different groups.”
He went to explain that they’ve always been real with each other in assessing each others music. “If it’s not a good album, then we’re gonna say it stinks and we’re gonna laugh at it. In fact, at one point in my career, I was scared to even present a song, in case the others would maybe tear it down. But I had to realize that God had given me the talent to be a songwriter.”
“In fact, it was hard for us to put together that concert set list, because we each had our opinions. Which songs to use, which ones to start with, to finish with, things like that.”
Since the tour began in late April, there have been some eye-openers for the family, with most notable one being the realization that they still have a strong connection with the masses.
“It’s very gratifying. There’s people out there who’ve been following us for years and years, and they’re out there, hollering for our songs. I mean, some of our music is about 27 years old [from The Winans], but we’re realizing that it’s still very current, very contemporary.”
“And Phase 2, their stuff is a little more on edge on than ours perhaps. But you know, we’ve been gone for so long, and we’re seeing that the audience hasn’t really changed.”
Carvin attributes the continuing relevance of the music to several things.
“Over the years, we tried to stay current with our music. For example, our work with Teddy Riley (on the Return album), that was a big chance for us. You look at “The Question Is”, that was a very contemporay song for it’s time. And the church was kind of down on us for that. But we didn’t worry about it. We just tried to stay current and as fresh as we could, because music always changes.”
“Also, you have to know when to hold back, and know the timing. You can’t oversaturate the market. We spaced out our albums pretty good, and we really had our fans hungering for the next project. Some groups today will overdo it, and put out so many albums in such a short space of time that they end up making folks tired of them.”
That discussion lead into an assessment of the state of Gospel today. Carvin, being a contemporary pioneer himself, speaks with authority on the matter. With respect to the response from the church on today’s innovative Gospel artists, he sees a certain growth.
“They’re more accepting, for sure. But as artists, we have to be more responsible and make sure we don’t go overboard. I don’t think everything should be accepted actually. Sometimes artists go too far with the aim of being accepted, with tatoos, earings and that sort of thing. I don’t agree with that. As artists, we have to be more responsible. Not everything and anything should go.”
“Really, as long as your material is Word oriented and Word based, then musically, you can’t hurt yourself too much. Music is always changing, we need to realize that. But the message is the important thing.”
There’s more in the works from the Winans aside from the tour, of course. The original group has definite plans for another album at some point, and Carvin himself is actively working on his first solo project.
“I’m getting some songs together now. Michael McDonald is working with us, and some of the guys from Phase 2 will be producing some of the songs too.”
In parting, Carvin suddenly offered up a spontaneous comment.
“There is one thing that I would like to say, and this is not being boastful. It’s that The Winans Family is blessed. I mean, God has given us this awesome gift, everybody can really sing. It’s quite amazing when I step out and look in. Three generations of family.”
That’s certainly true, and just one of several reasons that thousands are flocking to see The Winans Family in concert.
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