Five-time Grammy Award-winning Singer/Songwriter Carvin Winans who is best known as one-fourth of the Legendary family Gospel group The Winans (“The Question Is”, Tomorrow”, “Let My People Go”, “Ain’t No Need to Worry” with Anita Baker, “It’s Time”), returns as a solo artist with his groovy Urban AC/R&B-inspired lead single “Once in a Lifetime” from his upcoming debut album In the Softest Way. I caught up with Carvin to discuss the new music and what we can expect, career highlights, future tour and much more.
HEAR “ONCE IN A LIFETIME” BELOW:
TERRANCE: First, congratulations on the release of your new single “Once in a Lifetime”. How are you feeling about it?
CARVIN WINANS: Thank you, Terrance. I feel good about it. I think it’s a good song. I think it’s a song that people will enjoy playing and moving to. It’s got a nice beat. The lyrics are nice. It was produced by The Jackie Boyz and so I think people are going to like it.
TERRANCE: It has an R&B/AC feel. Talk about it’s creation and how it came together.
CARVIN WINANS: Well, I’ve always wanted to do a solo project and I’ve worked with my brothers pretty much my whole career. I wanted to do an album and a song that dealt with love and dealt with perspective from the husband side or the wife side or even from God’s side on what love should be and how we should treat one another. I’ve always wanted to do an album like that and this is why I chose to go the Adult Contemporary and R&B area.
TERRANCE: Why do you think now is the time to release your debut solo album In the Softest Way?
CARVIN WINANS: I think that time with my brothers was a very crucial time, I think for all of us. We all needed to be together at that time. I’ve always felt God’s timing was perfect and I’ve had opportunities to do a solo record, but it was a time to branch off and do it. We wanted to stay together as long as we were needed and so when Ronald passed I felt like The Winans were pretty much over with because he was a very crucial part in the group and so after that happened I did something with BeBe and Marvin, but it was already heavy on me to go solo and let the world hear what God pretty had much given me as far as a songwriter and as a singer and let people kinda see that.
TERRANCE: Talk about what are we to expect on your album. Are there any special guest features?
CARVIN WINANS: In the Softest Way is an album project that like I said earlier had been kinda weighing on me to do and to come out and let people see the talent and the gift that God had given me and to tackle certain angles about love and about life itself. One of my favorite scriptures I would say in the Bible is ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath’ and a lot of times when it came to writing songs for The Winans, it was really tough (laughs), because Marvin was our principle writer. He was a great writer and it was really tough to get something on there, sometimes it would go into an argument, it’s not fair and this and that and all of that and after I wrote “Make It Like It Was” for Regina Belle and I done some other stuff with The Winans “When You Cry”, “Tomorrow”, but I think it was after I wrote “Make It Like It Was” for Regina Belle there was a respect level that my brothers started to give me and so from that point on I just said, you know what? I’m not going to argue about songs and do all of that, I’m just going to let the gift that God had given me do the work for me. I stopped the arguing and let my pen speak and be my voice and that was a softer way of doing it. I wanted to name this album In the Softest Way because you can get a lot of stuff done if you just know how to answer people and talk to people and to conduct yourself and so it doesn’t have to be outlandish and boisterous and all that. You can walk softly but carry a big stick, you know? As far as the album is concerned, we got together with some good writers and producers. Carlos Battey is a young producer out there, I think he’s produced for Charlie Wilson and some other artists. He’s an incredible young guy and he produced three cuts on this record. We also used Tommy Sims who I think is a genius. He produced three cuts as well. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis is on there. Greg Curtis. We also had some writers from Randy Jackson’s camp and so we sat down with all of these writers and told our story and what we wanted to talk about and they got it. My wife Cherie also helped with the writing and God really gave us some wonderful things to talk about and some great people to work with. I had such a blast with everyone on this record. We also got a chance to get Stevie Wonder on harmonica on one of the songs. We also got Kenny G on soprano sax on one of the songs. Marvin does a duet with me. My son Juan does background on one of the songs. We just had a good time and a fun time and I didn’t really have to look around and ask anybody, what should I do and all this kind of stuff or is this song good enough for the record. I didn’t have to do none of that so that was fun. We had a good time putting this together and God blessed us to work with some wonderful people.
TERRANCE: So Marvin had to sit back and let you do your thing this time around?
CARVIN WINANS: Yeah, he had no choice (laughs). He had no choice, Terrance, but to sit back and let me do my thing. I recorded a lot of it in Toronto and I just brought him in when I needed him to do his part (laughs), but he was great.
TERRANCE: How has the process been for you creating music that could evolve with time with the way the music industry steadily changing?
CARVIN WINANS: I think what we tried to do with this record was to record songs that would really stand the test of time. It kinda goes back to the ol’ skool stuff with strings, the horns, production, good lyrics, good vocal performances and we tried to create an album where you would not want to skip one song and that’s kind of rare these days from what I hear and I really believe we were able and blessed to achieve that.
TERRANCE: What was your reaction to Drake sampling The Winans’ “The Question Is” on his Views album?
CARVIN WINANS: Well, I think it’s nice when people recognize your work and when they want to include it in what they’re doing because they really feel and want that attention, so I thought it was nice. You can’t look at that and hold your head down on that, but I think they do it with a lot of older artists now because music was so good back then and it really had messages back then. I had the pleasure of meeting Drake before and he’s a nice guy and so it was flattering when we heard he had sampled us. It’s so funny, Terrance, my youngest daughter didn’t think I was famous until Drake did that with The Winans record. I got a call from my 21 year old who was I think 19 at the time and she called screaming, Oh my God you’re famous! Drake sampled The Winans, and I’m like, are you kidding me? (laughs). So it’s funny how people think, you know? When he did that I became famous to them.
TERRANCE: How have you embraced or utilized today’s tools like social media to promote yourself as an artist and your music?
CARVIN WINANS: Man, that’s a whole different world there, but you gotta do it, you know? You want to use every avenue you can. It was so much easier back in the day than now (laughs), and so I guess if it’s used right, your music will get out there faster and more people will get a chance to hear it, but it’s just staying on top of everything.
TERRANCE: Are there any talents outside of music you possess that people might be unaware of?
CARVIN WINANS: I love art. I love to draw and I love to paint. When it comes to songwriting, to me that’s very relaxing. I love to write songs. I love to do poetry. Drawing and painting gives me that same satisfaction of relaxation. One day when it will be all over and I don’t know when it will be all over as far as retiring or anything like that, but I would love to spend maybe the rest of my years once I’m done singing is drawing and painting and maybe putting stuff on Exhibit and sell it for millions of dollars (laughs). That would be nice.
TERRANCE: That’s very therapeutic.
CARVIN WINANS: Yeah, it is very therapeutic. Very.
TERRANCE: What’s a career highlight or highlights that stand out to you?
TERRANCE: What’s a career highlight or highlights that stand out to you?
CARVIN WINANS: Oh man, I have several. When The Winans were on The Johnny Carson Tonight Show. When we did all the singing vocals for a Charlie Brown Special called, This is America, Charlie Brown. We also did background with Michael Jackson on “Man In the Mirror”. Those three really stand out. I mean, I’ve met so many wonderful people. I’ve been knowing Stevie Wonder for years and he’s just an amazing person. Kenny G, Michael McDonald, Gladys Knight, Whitney Houston and I wrote a song for her. We were signed to Quincy Jones for years at Warner Brothers and he has been like a mentor to us and so I’ve been blessed to have a great career being in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, we’ve won five Grammys, NAACP, Soul Train, Dove and Stellar Awards. It’s kinda like starting all over again and this is going to be a lot of fun for me and I think we’ll be able to accomplish some more things by God’s grace in this music field.
TERRANCE: You mentioned Whitney Houston. Talk about how you were introduced to her and what that friendship was like.
CARVIN WINANS: We had the same booking agent at the time and I got a call that Whitney was coming to Detroit to perform and she wanted to meet me because she was doing a song that I had written for The Winans called “Tomorrow”. She was doing it in her set and I said, okay I will go see her. I just could not believe the voice that came out of a woman so small and so she had gotten me a pass to go back and meet her and she jumped right in my arms and just started crying because she was so happy to meet me. She was such a big fan of The Winans and I introduced her to BeBe & CeCe and the rest of my brothers. She kind of really clicked with BeBe & CeCe and did some stuff with them. She also worked with my younger sisters Angie & Debbie on “Light of Love”.
TERRANCE: Getting back to your album In the Softest Way, what are you hoping listeners take away from that overall experience?
CARVIN WINANS: I want them to just experience this album and experience the songs and kinda go into it, you know? To really see what they can get out of it because I wrote a lot of it from experiences. There’s one song on there I wrote when I married my second wife Cherie called “You Blow My Mind (A Song for Cherie)” and so when I sing that song and I hope that I can always sing that song without breaking down because it’s a very touching song for me. She meant everything to me when we met and as we developed our relationship and got married and it was just a great experience. I want people to put that record on and hear that and they might be able to apply it to their own situation or own life and fall in love like I did because I fell really deep and I hope that they hear that when they listen to the song.
TERRANCE: Are there any tour plans in the works?
CARVIN WINANS: Oh yeah, Terrance, I’m going to do it all man. We got the single out and it’s doing pretty well right now at radio and the album comes out the 15th of February and so we plan to tour, we plan to do a radio tour, we plan to do everything. I really can’t wait to perform these songs live because I think people will love it even better.
TERRANCE: Is there anything not discussed you would like to share with the readers?
CARVIN WINANS: Well, I just want to say that people always ask about getting in this business because there are very talented people out there in the world and have a gift to do and a lot of times people want to know what the next steps are and I always tell people that you can never give up on your dream. If you feel that you are gifted and God has given gifts to everybody but you have to take that gift and you have to work hard. First, you have to believe in yourself and you can’t let people tear you down because people will tear you down if they can and you have to trust what God has given you and you go for it and you don’t stop until you reach where you feel he’s taken you. So I just tell people to work hard man, trust God and believe and it will come to pass.
Follow Carvin Winans:
Instagram & Facebook @carvinwinansmusic