Fifteen years ago, siblings BeBe & CeCe Winans made up one of Christian music's favorite groups. But after scoring numerous number ones in both the Christian and mainstream markets with R&B hits like "Addictive Love" and "I'll Take You There" and winning every award imaginable, they decided to split up and fulfill contractual obligations to record solo albums. But this fall, after tremendous success apart, the multi-platinum gospel stars pair up once again for an all-new recording, Still (B&C). Taking a break from a recent radio tour, the reunited siblings explain why BeBe & CeCe will always sing gospel music—and what they've learned about grace.

When you both went solo fifteen years ago, did you have any idea your individual careers would take you away from BeBe & CeCe for so long?

CeCe: No, no, no. It wasn't until I was in the studio doing my first solo project that I realized, Oh my gosh, BeBe's not coming in on any of the parts. People might not like this at all. Coming out with a CD by myself, that was scary. Up until that point, people had only heard me with BeBe, and BeBe with myself. So it was definitely a pleasant surprise that they welcomed us both as individuals as well as a duet.

BeBe, did you have a similar experience?

CeCe: No.

BeBe: [Laughs]

CeCe: He wasn't scared without me. I'm the scaredy cat. [Laughs]

BeBe: I was just surprised as CeCe with the acceptance. But you set out to do your best, whether as a duo or solo, hoping to put the right songs forward, production and everything else. You really place it in God's hands and just go for the ride.

After experiencing such success as solo artists, what inspired the reunion?

BeBe: We've been working on it for awhile. With solo careers and families and everything, you live separate lives. 

CeCe: And you blink and fifteen years go by. It's not like we planned to say, "We're coming back in fifteen years," or "Let's do this for the fifteenth year reunion." By the time we finished getting the schedules, the different producers, zeroing in all the songs, it had been fifteen years. Wow!

Was it hard to get back in the groove after being apart for so long?

CeCe: That's like we never stopped.

BeBe: Because you never stop being brother and sister. The foundation of our relationship has to do with family. Family never stops. So that's the easy part.

How does BeBe & CeCe look different today from fifteen years ago?

CeCe: I hope it's looking better. With time, you become wiser. When you go through things and you're still standing, you're better off than you were before.

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In [the last fifteen years], we've lost one of my brothers as well as my father. God has proven to be faithful, to carry us through the rough times. Knowing that they're both smiling down on us, they're both in a much better place and we'll see them both again, we bring that to the table. We bring more wisdom to the table than ever before—all of our triumphs, all of our failures.

BeBe: Fifteen years ago I was thinking differently. I wasn't a father. Life has changed. The world has changed. We have an African-American president. With all those experiences, you put it into song and you sing from a different place of maturity.

CeCe: We know who we are a little better now. And definitely know Whose we are. 

CeCe, you mentioned your father, Pop Winans, died this year. How has his death and legacy affected the recording of Still?

CeCe: First of all, he got a chance to hear some of our stuff before he passed, and that brought a big smile to his face. When he heard one of the songs in the hospital, he sat up and his eyes became energized because he loved all of his children. Nothing makes him happier than us singing together. 

In one of the songs we repeat, "He's a wonder," one of the sayings my father was faithful for saying. Because of the way he trained us, what he put in us, [Pop's spirit] can't help but come out. I feel like the whole CD will have some of him in it. We are his legacy.

BeBe: When we talk about BeBe & CeCe Winans songs, love is all up in there, because my father taught us the definition of love. He was our biggest fan and our biggest critic. He taught us to be excellent, to do our best. In doing that, we honor him.

A reunion was in the stars

A reunion was in the stars

BeBe & CeCe was one of the first Christian music groups to cross over into the mainstream. Do you have similar hopes for the music on this record?

BeBe: The first single ("Close to You") has done that already. The more it crosses, the more we give honor to God, because there are people everywhere who need to be uplifted, especially people that are hurting. We want our music to bring healing, to bring an answer to their questions. Wherever people are, ministry is needed.

When you read and watch the news, it's a sad situation. I'm reminded the necessity for what we do, and what others do, and that is to bring the good news of Jesus. People need to hear there's an answer and there is hope in hopeless situations. [Crossing over] isn't something we planned, but it's where God took us.

You were one of the first groups to bridge black and white audiences.  Was racial unity an intentional part of your platform?

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CeCe: We just went in doing what we do. The message is the message and it shouldn't matter what color you are. You have different variety and styles of music. If that's the style you like, you embrace it, not caring what color or if it's labeled "gospel" or "Christian." We're happy that our music did tear down some barriers and hopefully it will continue to do the same thing.

You've both developed high profile relationships with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Whitney Houston.  Do these friendships offer you unique opportunities to exercise your faith in the spotlight?

CeCe: Our music has allowed us to meet people we probably never would have met before. But then you find out people are just people, no matter how famous they are or how much money they have. [And] we've fallen in love with wonderful people over the years. But wherever we are, we are who we are. It doesn't matter whether I'm with somebody famous or somebody not famous, I'm gonna' always be a believer.

Do you feel like culture puts unrealistic expectations on artists' personal lives simply because "gospel" or "Christian" is part of their professional titles?

BeBe: You don't allow pressures from people to be placed on you. We are human. We make mistakes. One of the things that surprises me the most is what people forget, and that is, "While we're yet in sin, God died for us" [Rom. 5:8]. Grace is not a gift you can earn, but a wonderful gift he gave to us all.

CeCe: You're always going to have people who are critical. That's their problem. As believers we have a responsibility to be pleasing unto the Father. So I'm never pressured by what people expect from me. God sees me in the dark, wherever I am, so I try to live a life that is pleasing to him. As the Bible says, "Let your light so shine so that men will see it and glorify God in heaven" [Matt. 5:16]. If I'm pleasing him and blessing him, I'll be a blessing to others. 

And when you're forgiven much, you are willing to forgive much. There have been numerous times that we disappointed the Father, and yet he's been there to love us and forgive us. It's a joy to love other people right where they are.

After all the fame and all the popularity, you have always stayed connected to gospel music. Why?

BeBe: It's who we are. It's what we know. But it's also what we love. When you're doing what you love, why stop doing it?

CeCe: This is what we're created to do. We've been blessed to do other things outside of gospel music, but we are gospel artists. That's where our heart is, that's where our calling is, and that's our foundation.

(Note: BeBe Winans' publicist told Christian Music Today that the topic of his arrest for alleged assault of his ex-wife earlier this year was off limits for our interview. Winans' publicist said the case is still pending, but offered this official statement from the artist on the situation.)