Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mike Winans on Christmas, Bad Boy Records and Bridging Gaps

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.

Mike Winans is carrying on the family tradition.

A third generation Winans, Mike is a popular producer and songwriter for gospel, R&B, and pop artists. He just released his debut solo album, A Mike Winans Christmas: Timeless Noel, and shared with TBGB his plans for a full-length album scheduled for early 2011.

Mike Winans first entered the public consciousness as a member of Winans Phase II. The group’s founding, he explained, was entirely serendipitous.

“Our fathers, the Winans brothers, were asked to do a station identification for WDIV, the NBC affiliate in Detroit. They asked us, their sons, if we wanted to be part of it and we said yes. Well, the ID hit it big in the city and we became local celebrities!

“At the time, my uncle Carvin was entertaining a position with Myrrh Records. Once he got there, he discovered that the label had heard about the ID and wanted to find us. So we didn’t rehearse, or even decide to form a group, until Myrrh said, ‘Let’s do it.’

“God really blessed. Winans Phase II received a Grammy nomination and was number one on the Billboard gospel charts.”

Mike’s next move was to work for Bad Boy Records, a label founded in 1993 by Sean “Diddy” Combs.

“My cousin Mario was already signed to Puff as a songwriter and a producer," Mike related. "I had recorded a demo CD, and I hadn’t sent it to Bad Boy, but someone was playing it inside of the Bad Boy studios. Puff heard it and asked one of his representatives to give me a call. Puff said, ‘Look, Mike, I like your work, but I’m not going to sign you right now. I want you to go through a trial period where you’ll work with New Edition’ – they had just signed New Edition. ‘If that goes well, I’ll sign you to a publishing deal.’

“Apparently that went pretty well, because the sky’s been the limit since then. I have worked with basically every Bad Boy artist since 2003, and am most proud of the songs I’ve written for Chris Brown.”

Why a Christmas project as his first solo outing?

“Christmas is a season when people are in their most loving spirit,” Mike reflected. “I wanted to contribute to that spirit. I also want to be the type of songwriter and producer who makes timeless music, hence the title of the project, 'Timeless Noel.' With so many Christmas songs that we sing, I thought it would be cool if I could write songs that people will sing decades down the road."

The first single is “Home for Christmas.” Mike said the inspiration for the song came "from years of being on the road during the holidays and wanting to be home for Christmas. The song also reminds me of a time when I was recording in Miami during the holidays. I’m from Detroit, and in Detroit, Christmas is a white Christmas, and it’s cold outside! In Miami, it was burning hot. It didn’t feel like Christmas at all!”

In 2011, Mike plans to release a full-length CD. “It’s going to be a beautiful thing, an album of substance,” he said.

“Sometimes there’s a gap between the church and gospel music and the ‘secular world.’ I want to bridge that gap. Working in pop music as a songwriter, I’ve run across many people who are – I don’t want to say damaged – but they definitely have been affected by the style of music they do. Some of them feel ostracized from the church. If you really talk to these artists, you’d be surprised how many love God and have a great relationship with Him, but they feel that because they do secular music, they are not going to be received by the church. This project will touch both worlds and, hopefully, bridge a gap so nobody feels ostracized.”

Mike acknowledged that the Winans Family is recognized historically for musical innovation, bridging the gap between sacred and secular, but he added, “I feel like it’s my responsibility to bridge that gap even further.

“For example, there’s going to be a song on the upcoming release called 'Progress Report.' The song simply asks if I was given a progress report that graded my life up to this point, what would I receive? That’s something anybody can ask. All of us have ups and downs, and all of us have done things we are proud of and not proud of. At the end of the day, as long as we ask forgiveness of our sins, God will be faithful and forgive us."

Look for the new album to be released at the end of February or early March, possibly in time for Mike's birthday, March 2.

"The project will deal with practical situations," Mike concluded. "We’re going to hit the issues head on. You will know exactly what I’m talking about. There are certain things I want to say, to awaken some issues that need addressing.”

Here's how to keep in touch with Mike Winans:

Twitter: @mikewinansjr (Mike tweets every day)



Anonymous said...

Wow! I love Mike Winans christmas CD, my wife and I listen to it over and over again. However, after reading this interview on Mike, I now respect him as a artist. I'm not going to make a copy for the wife to play in her car, I'm going to purchase another copy.

Ryan Wilson

Bob Marovich said...

Ryan, thanks for sharing your story and for supporting gospel music!

Regge said...

Michael Jr. is an absolutely fantastic soul and I'm Blessed for having the opportunity to have met him, and his legendary Dad Michael Sr. and Mom Regina. His sister LaShay is a spectacular talent in her own right! GOSPEL ROYALTY Continues through the Winans lineage . . .