Summer of R&B Interview Series: CeCe Peniston Speaks to UB

CeCe Peniston’s smooth rhythmic vocal sounds have impressed many legends and high profile celebrities. Among the list of those who have personally requested Peniston at private engagements are Aretha Franklin at her private birthday celebration, Pope John Paul II in Rome and President Bill Clinton at both of his inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C. Following the abolition of apartheid, Peniston was the first female entertainer to visit and perform in South Africa. Peniston describes her own music as fun and youthful while at the same time signifying deep meaning.

Peniston released her debut album, “Finally”, in 1992. The album, released on A&M Records, sold over three million copies worldwide. Her first single, “Finally”, achieved #1 chart status on three Billboard charts and also hit No. 2 in the UK. The album produced to more hit singles “We Got A Love Thang” & “We Got A Love Thang.”

CeCe’s long awaited follow-up “Thought ‘Ya Knew” arrived January 25, 1994. The set spawned three #1 dance/club play hits with “I’m In the Mood”, “I’m Not Over You”, and “Hit By Love”. She was named Billboard Magazine’s #1 Dance/Club Play artist of 1994. Her third album, “I’m Movin’ On“, pointedly aimed for the R&B audience. The title cut was the albums biggest hit.

Following the release of “I’m Movin’ On“, Peniston took to the stage as Glinda the Good Witch in an all-star cast of “The Wiz“. In addition to this success, Peniston also toured with the stage plays “Treat Her Like A Lady” and “When A Woman Is Fed Up“. Peniston released her next single in early 2001. “Lifetime To Love”, penned by dance diva Kristine W was a massive club hit reaching #2 on Billboard’s dance chart. The single was to be offered for free download via Napster, but timing prevented the deal’s follow through. Peniston’s career quieted somewhat until 2005 when she made several guest appearances on record, film, and television.

CeCe is gearing up for a new album release and recently released the new dance single “Celebrate” as well as a 20th anniversary re-release edition of her huge single “Finally.”

For our Summer of R&B Interview Series, Aries talked to CeCe about her new album, the huge success of “Finally,” lessons learned in the business, her thoughts on auto-tune, acting roles, some of her favorite current artists and alot more!

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UrbanBridgez.com: You’re finishing up a new album, which has your fans very excited, tell us what kind of sound we can expect from you on this new release?
CeCe Peniston: Definitely the dance electro-pop sound is what we’re going for right now. I know it’s like really hot on the radio and in the clubs right now. I’ve been doing some events lately and that’s the sound that I’m hearing all over the place that gets people dancing, so we’re going with more of that right now.

UrbanBridgez.com: Celebrate is such a hot song, do you plan on releasing a video for it?
CeCe Peniston: We’re actually working on some things with that now. We’re taking footage of like everything that I’m doing all over the place and I’m having a great time with that. Matter of fact I was in Vegas and they were recording everything. So yeah, it’s coming soon. But not for Celebrate for the next single that we’re doing.

UrbanBridgez.com: Can you tell us about the next single?
CeCe Peniston: Actually it’s a song called “Dance With Me” that I did with the EC Twins. I’m really excited about it, I feel like it’s a fun song. It kind of starts off one way and then takes you in a different direction and catches you off guard. That’s what I like about it. It’s something that talks to the people out there and something I think they will really love.

UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve worked with some of the best of the best dance producers in the business, who are you working with for this album?
CeCe Peniston: Thank you! I just worked with the EC Twins, Robert Vadney did a remix of “Celebrate.” Junior Sanchez and so much more to come! We did the video with Open Toes, we shot that one at the Playboy Mansion. He did the remix for “Finally” and that was what was really going on at the party. People were like “Whaaat” (laughs). It’s CeCe Peniston feat. Joyriders and it’s on YouTube.

UrbanBridgez.com: Finally not only introduced you to the world, but it really set your career off in a big way, take us back to when you first released it, what were your early expectations of that single when it debuted?
CeCe Peniston: For me I was excited, but when I was a small child; I told my grandmother a long time ago that I’m going to be famous one day. She was like okay baby, now go out and play. You know they never believe you when you speak your destiny when you’re young. So when “Finally” came out I was so excited. It was actually a poem that I had turned into a song, The response I was getting from people was they were really, really liking it. So like maybe a month later, they were like you hit #1, you’re on your way. My first show was out in London and from that moment on I’ve been traveling and doing what I love.

UrbanBridgez.com: You recently released it due to it being the 20th anniversary of the song, do you ever get tired of performing it?
CeCe Peniston: You know what, I change it up so much that I don’t get tired of performing it. It’s my baby so as long as they want me to perform it and I’m still getting the checks, I will never get tired of it (both laugh). That’s a little motivation for me, you feel me!

UrbanBridgez.com: No doubt, now that’s real talk! Your debut album, released hit after hit after hit, were you ever concerned that you would be expected to follow that success with the following release?
CeCe Peniston: I think every artists goes through that, you want to make sure that you have a product that people feel and the same kind of energy you had on the first album. But you know what happens with that is you can’t psych yourself out. You just have to do what you do naturally. Just keep it in a raw place and make sure it’s natural. When you start to try to duplicate stuff I think that’s when you go wrong. Go with what your gut tells you, write from the heart always.

UrbanBridgez.com: Keep on Walking was the ladies anthem of 1992, did you know so many ladies would connect to it when you recorded it?
CeCe Peniston: You know what, I had no idea. What’s funny is the first time we were listening to demos of songs. We got “We Got A Love Thang” and “Keep On Walking” was on the same demo tape. At first I missed it and my manager at the time was like wait a minute I think we missed a song. So he played it and I was like what, how did we miss that? So I had to make sure it was still available and it was. So for me for us to go back and grab that song and people tell me how much they love it and that they were going through some type of transition in their life, is exciting for me. It helped me through 2 or 3 things actually (laughs).

UrbanBridgez.com: How do you feel about all of the auto-tune and other technology enhancing tricks used in the studio these days to make artists sound better, do you think it helps or hurts an artist?
CeCe Peniston: You know what at this point it doesn’t even matter. Because what people are listening to is just that. So if you’re the type of artist that concentrates…let me put it like this for myself. I can sing live, so for me it’s a little different when you’re a real singer and that’s naturally what you do then. But this is just like a different form or stylizing that comes with the music that people are doing now. So either you get in and get on board and don’t trip on it. Or get left behind, because that’s just where things are right now. Meaning there is some form of it, it doesn’t mean that you have to turn the auto-tune up to 10 and sound like a robot. But there is just some form to it in almost every song that you hear.

UrbanBridgez.com: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in this business and what did it teach you moving forward?
CeCe Peniston: Follow your heart and don’t give up on your dreams. It’s not an easy business you just have to stay focused, it’s a lot of sacrifice. Another one is always try to reinvent yourself. People get bored and they don’t mean to it’s just human nature. So stay on top of your business, not only the artist but you know how some allow people to be their business person. You got to have some knowledge of the business yourself or your finances will get lost. You just can’t be the artist you have to be it all.

UrbanBridgez.com: I remember seeing you years ago in the Wiz along with my friend Tasha Scott and being blown away by not only your voice live but your acting skills, what do you best remember loving about touring with The Wiz?
CeCe Peniston: Tasha is my girl! First of all what I loved the most about that is all of my friends were in the play with me. So we had so much fun, we were playing games on the stage and people didn’t even know. We were playing like little practical jokes. For instance we would play this game called pass the penny. We would put a penny in our hand and someone would be saying a line and we would just put it in their hand and they would be looking like why is their money in my hand (laughs)? And one time I almost lost it, you know how I come down the steps right. Well one of the Winkies had put black stuff all over his teeth to blacken them out. So he looked a little snaggletooth. So I almost lost it, one of those real big loud laughs while I was singing. So the first thing is I had a good time, the second is I feel like it pushed me as an artist vocally, especially when I was hitting that real high note. I found alot of different beats acting and singing wise.

UrbanBridgez.com: I love so much of your music. What’s your top 3-4 songs you’ve recorded?

CeCe Peniston: Thank you! Definitely “Finally” because like I said it was a poem that turned into a song, so for me that was just like wow. I really love “Keep On Walking” because whenever I have an attitude for that day, I use that song, when I really do have an attitude myself (laughs).”Inside I Cried,” I love to perform that one, because it’s so expressive, it’s what alot of people feel but don’t say. That’s what I like, when it’s like I speak for them when I’m singing that song and for me whatever I may be going through at that moment. Then I would have to say “We Got A Love Thang” or “I’m In The Mood” because if I wasn’t feeling like I was ready to perform and I’m tired; I have no choice but to get in the mood or my energy up when I hear those two. And with “We Got A Love Thang” I got to hit all them notes, so it keeps me on my toes.

UrbanBridgez.com: Who are some of the current recording artists out now, that CeCe Peniston is a fan of?
CeCe Peniston: There’s so many that I like, I listen to so many different styles of music. I don’t know all of the artist but I know the songs, like there is one called “Sending All My Love” by Afro Jack (sings: Sending My Love), so I love that song. R&B I love Monica’s album, I’ve always loved her. Nadia Ali is another one and I love Keyshia Cole, I always listen to her stuff. I’m looking forward to Joshua’s album coming out from American Idol, his voice is amazing.

UrbanBridgez.com: When did you first fall in love with music?
CeCe Peniston: When I was young. I was like a little kid I use to play Piano. I took piano lessons and would play and I would sing. But at that point in time I didn’t really know that I could sing. My mom heard me one day and was like I didn’t know you could sing, you like to sing? I said I love to sing, so she started getting me into the karaoke contests and talent shows. I would save my school money so I could get me some clothes for the weekend, I would be like I’m getting me some clothes (laughs). So that would be like my little spending money that I would make myself when I was younger. It was about the 6th grade that I found out I could really sing and I’ve been singing ever since!

UrbanBridgez.com: Well we’re all happy you started and realized you could, because the game would not be the same without that voice!
CeCe Peniston: Awww, thank you!

UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve done your share of acting, what would be your dream role if given the chance to play?
CeCe Peniston: You know what, I would love to do a role where they wouldn’t expect of me to play. I know this sounds crazy, but I don’t want to do a pretty role. I want to do like a rough role like put cornrows in my head…

UrbanBridgez.com: Like Cleo from Set It Off!
CeCe Peniston: You know what I’m saying! Yeah I don’t want to do like the typical role, even like playing the villain or something. I want to do something where they’re like damn is that CeCe? I think people have a perception of who they think I am. Sometimes I don’t think they really know who I am, so I want to do something other than what they think I am.

UrbanBridgez.com: Anything else you want to leave with your fans?
CeCe Peniston: I would just tell them if they have a dream…follow your dream! Don’t let anybody take you off of your focus and stay true. Just know that it’s alot of sacrifice and I just want to thank everybody out there. For loving CeCe, those that have given me love over the years and those that are true fans of mine, I want to thank them. Also, hit me up on my Twitter and my Facebook, Official Site and I just started my Instagram. Download “Celebrate” it’s .99 on iTunes. And thank you for the interview and having me on the site.

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