Mike Winans: Creating his own genre
Mike Winans comes from an impressive lineage of gospel greats – 35 Grammy awards spread over three generations. But at age 28, he says he’s not about to let family tradition confine his musical talents.
A nephew of famed BeBe and CeCe Winans and a grandson of the late David “Pop” Winans and his wife, Delores “Mom” Winans, Mike Winans recently released his first single, “My Own Genre,” from his forthcoming album of the same title. With the release, he said, he wants the world to know that he is more than just gospel music.
His record label, Doc Roc Entertainment, is based right here in the Qcity.
“Our society is accustomed to categorizing,” he said. “I want to create songs that appeal to music lovers, not just (one audience). My target market is anyone who allows music to speak to their emotions. In my opinion, that is a genre within itself.”
Winans has written and produced for artists such as Chris Brown, Sean “Diddy” Combs, New Edition, Danity Kane, Michelle Williams and his aunt, Vickie Winans.
Qcitymetro.com caught up with him by phone to talk about his music, his future and what it’s like to work with “Diddy.” Below is an edited Q&A based on that interview.
Q. Why stray from the gospel roots that your family is so famous for?
I look at it this way: I like more foods than chicken, so I go to eat at more places than KFC. When it comes to music, I like to listen to all styles. I just wanted to be able to expand myself and not stick with just one sound or subject matter. To me, that limits your message and the amount of people who can hear it.
Q. Did you ever consider a career outside of music?
Oh yes, definitely. I wanted to do anything else, whether it be a politician or a real estate developer. I wanted to become the first Winans that did something outside of music. I went to college and got a degree in business administration, but then I ended up forming a music business. (Laughs). I ended up songwriting and producing. Music is a gift that God has blessed our family with. The more you are around it, the more it gets on you, and that’s what you find yourself doing.
Q. What do you hope people will take away from your music?
I want them to feel refreshed and like they had a good experience that will cause them to become a better person. I want to be an encouragement to people. I want to uncover some of the things that I’ve dealt with and let people know that you can make it through it. I want people to actually feel like they have received good news once they turn my album off. To me, I don’t know how much more “gospel” that can be.
Q. Break down the concept behind your first single.
I’m talking about my roots are planted in gospel because I’m from the Winans family, but I like R&B because I’m in this world and I’ve had my heart broken. I love the concepts that I hear in country. Everything is conjoined for me, so it’s difficult for me to separate my affinity for one style of music when all of it is engulfed in one. It’s just music that will be able to touch people in all walks of life.
Q. Was it hard to find a label that believed in your vision?
At first I had different companies approach me, but I don’t know if they all understood the vision that I saw for the project. Now I’m working with Mr. Ken Harris and his team at Doc Roc Entertainment, a company based out of Charlotte. They definitely took a liking to the material. They were very supportive of this project, so I decided to go with them.
Q. When will the album be released?
The release date is March 1, the day before my birthday. It’s going to be a happy birthday for me this year.
Q. What do you believe is missing in music today?
I think more than ever it’s time for music to break down the barriers. I’ve had the privilege to travel overseas and listen to mainstream radio stations. You’ll have a folk song followed by a jazz song, then a gospel song and a rock song. They don’t seem to be channeled by the factions that we have here in the United States of segmented radio, which causes people to only enjoy a certain type of music because that’s all you are going to hear on one station. They care about more variety.
Q. What are some of the topics you plan to address in your music?
A lot of my songs are about relationships. A lot of us have had our ups and our downs. I feel that it is unrealistic when gospel artists aren’t able to talk about relationships, because they have relationships as well. There are certain things that I don’t feel comfortable writing about. You won’t hear me use profanity in any records because I don’t use profanity in my everyday walk in life. We also deal with social issues like homosexuality. Nobody really talks about that in a song. There are going to be all types of things that you are going to hear in the music that are going to make you say, ‘Wow! Did he actually say that?’ I feel that’s my duty as a musician and an artist... it’s not just to sing pretty songs and dance across the stage but actually have an impact on the listeners and touch people’s emotions.
Q. You’ve worked extensively with Sean “Diddy” Combs. You’ve written songs, produced music and developed several artists on his label. You also worked as senior producer on the show “Making the Band.” What’s it like to work with Combs?
It’s interesting. I’ve really gotten a chance to work with him as a person, not just the TV image. I recognized that he had a great relationship with God. He’s one of the most spiritual people I’ve ever met in my life. Once you get to know him, a lot of the shenanigans that you see in the media, that’s not who you get. When it comes to Diddy, you actually get someone who is respectful of your craft. Whenever I work with him I know that I’m going to learn something new.
Q. What’s next in your career?
I want to actually be a voice for the industry and bridge the gap between the gospel arena and the secular arena. Most of the secular arena came from the church, and a lot of venom is spit from the two sides. I want to be that bridge. There will be those people who disagree and say, ‘Well, he is trying to be lukewarm and not take a stand.’ There are those people who are just very judgmental and don’t have a concept on unity. I’m not really concerned about those few people.
Q. How can your fans reach out to you?
They can check out my web page, www.mikewinans.com. I tweet everyday @MikeWinansJr. A lot of my inspiration comes from tweeting back and forth. I’m the guy that if you tweet me, I will tweet you back.
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