Sunday, November 9, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Songstress Ce Ce Peniston

By Belinda Trotter James

Back in the 90’s the dance/club music was an explosion of fantastic artists who fans just could not get enough of listening to at every club in town and on your local radio stations.  One of the artist who will live on in history as being the most successful dance club artist is Cecilia Veronica Peniston, born September 6th known to her fans as Ce Ce Peniston.  Every time I hear her name I can also hear her top singles which include, “Finally”, “Keep On Walkin’”, “We Got A Love Thang” and “Inside That I Cried”.  It’s been a long time since we’ve heard any music from Ce Ce.  Now she is back on the scene in full force with new music for her life long fans and her new generation of listeners.

It’s been over 20 years of not seeing Ce Ce on the main stage.  I wanted to know who kidnapped our dance queen, however, it was not that serious.  She was just enjoying life on her own terms, creating music and felt now is the time to come out and play again… 

“Actually, I was working on a lot of things”, explained Ce Ce. I was traveling the world and doing things in Europe, Dubai, Amsterdam and London.  I was in the studio doing songs, but still not having the exact songs that I wanted to have as far as putting something out”.  

Her current single, “Nothing Can Stop Me (Now)” was a labor of love…

"Well basically I felt this song was just right”, explained Ce Ce.  “When you come back, you want to get the people’s attention.  The main thing you want to do is have a song that is going to get their attention, so along with my management team I felt the time was right. I felt like this song was something people would like and we were getting really good feedback on it. So we said, ‘Hey, why not.’  All this time I was still doing music and I'm still doing what I love."

It’s funny that when you’re not in the spotlight as much, people will assume that you have crawled under a rock or lost the creative momentum to stay in the limelight.  However, we find that life happens and some take time to explore.  Ce Ce revealed some of the cards life dealt…  “I was working on my marriage. I had been married and then divorced after year… Then I was married again for 14 years and then divorced… Then I was working on having babies and I was having some challenges having children, “ reveals Ce Ce.  “Dealing with that will cause you to be out of the limelight somewhat or if you are in the limelight, you are not yourself because of the pain that is involved with that. I would go in, do the show and come home.  So it wasn't really that I stopped; it was that life was happening while I was still doing music, but not on the level that I'm doing it now.  I am doing a lot more radio, TV and live band shows.  Now it’s different because I'm doing a lot more press.”  Ce Ce also revealed that it is a blessing to have people come out to the shows and say she still looks the same and sounds the same.  It’s a blessing to hear that from her fans because it has been a long time. 

When one chapter of your life comes to an end, it only means another one is beginning.  The inspiration behind her songs is all about the journey she has been on over the past few years.  Now fans get to hear all about her challenges and victories through her music.  “The songs are about my life and someone else's life.  The music is someone else’s writings, but I was able to relate to the words”, says Ce Ce. “We have a lot of tracks to choose from and some of them are about love, heartbreak, relationships and a whole lot of different things, but essentially it's all about life. I feel like that's what people can relate to the best.”

Getting back on stage after so many years must feel different.  It’s a new world of spectacular gimmicks… “I don't know if it's a totally different performance, but I feel like it's a lot more fireworks”, says Ce Ce.  “I feel you don't see a lot of groups performing like you used to back in the 90’s. The difference between performing now is that the shows are bigger. Back in the day the guys had their suits and choreography, but today there are a lot of bells and whistles going on.  People want to see a lot more because they have been given a lot more so the ante is up on you performing. You can't just get up there and sing anymore; I mean you can, but you got to have a lot of energy because the way the world is today we just want more.  We have been conditioned to get more. The way people dress is different. Back in the day groups would wear suits, but nowadays you go for what you know and have your signature thing going on.  Another difference is Auto-Tune.  You’re not required to sing as much as you were required in the 90s. Back in the 90s there was no Auto-Tune. If you had a bad day, you just had a bad day and that was it. You better get it together. Now you can get a little help from Auto-Tune. It’s just different things that can help make your voice sound the way you want it to sound. I'm sure back in the day you could've done that, but it wasn't as available as it is today. You don’t have to really be able to sing; you can just get up there, perform and sing on top of your tracks and as long as the people like it, that's all that matters. Back in the day you had to work two times as hard to make it as a real vocalist.”

In the 90’s it was all about dance tunes and Ce Ce was the one to deliver songs that kept you dancing all night long. This time she has a lot of songs about love and relationships, but I hope she also adds something in her shows reminiscent to the Ce Ce we have come to love over the years.  Ce Ce adds, “Yes, we are working on all of that because I think people still want to hear the elements of Ce Ce Peniston from the ’90's along with an updated Ce Ce.   The Neo-soul project that I'm doing now will probably have some mid-temple, slow stuff, but my Ce Ce project will have different things and have those up-temples that people want to hear,” reveals Ce Ce.

If you have been following my interviews with artist from the 90’s, I always tell them that fans do want to hear the new stuff, but they must take us back in time just for a moment so we can relive the fabulous days if only for a moment.  We both laughed out loud and Ce Ce added, "When I do concerts, I always make sure I do the hits because there's nothing worse even for me as a consumer when you go see someone and think, ‘Why are they doing all of this new stuff? That's not what I came here for,’ and you’re  kind of mad because you feel you didn't do my song. So I get it as an artist and as a consumer. People want to hear what they know, but they still want you to be able to grow. You have to add in the old with the new strategically.”

When Ce Ce looks back on her life she is happy and still a work in progress.  "Oh I'm definitely happy, but I'm always a work in progress because when the journey is over, that means I am not learning any lessons, and I feel like there's a lesson in life with everything that you go through,” says Ce Ce.  “Good or bad there's always something to learn from it. I'm definitely happy, I'm definitely excited about all the blessings that are coming my way…  Are there challenges?  Some days absolutely because life just happens in between you being an artist.”

As a child Ce Ce said she was a little firecracker.  “I was the little entertainer singing at all the family reunions. I also loved to run up and down the street. I would say, ‘Mommy look at me! I'm running’”, remembers Ce Ce.  “I used to always be in my grandmother's shoes. I think I continued that trait til this day because I really love shoes.  

In elementary school she participated in a music class and the teachers took notice that she had a good singing voice and they would encourage her to try out for the school plays.  Ce Ce was definitely surprised that they felt her voice was that good. She didn't know she had a good singing voice.  She just did what naturally came out of her mouth… sing.   “Eventually, I did try out for the play and when I stepped out on that stage, I said to my mother, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to be a star or singer.’ I told my mother that I was going to be famous one day,’ remembers Ce Ce.  My mother would take me to all these contests, talent shows, karaoke contest and all kinds of stuff. That would be my way of making my money for school.  I just kept doing it and started to really take it seriously. I started to do shows in Arizona and people started to know me.  Anything type of events that was going on, they would call me. I would get called to do background vocals for artists and that's all she wrote…  I’ve been doing what Ce Ce does from that point forward.”

Arizona is where it all started and she is still there….  “My dad was in the military so I moved to Arizona when I was nine years old,” recalls Ce Ce.  “I ended up living in LA for a year and then New York, but it was really after I got my success. I got my success while I was in Arizona which is strange because I had never traveled the world. All my friends and family are here in Arizona. When I come off the road, I want people around me that are real to me. You meet so many people all the time, but you want your real friends and family around you.”

Now that Ce Ce is back from exploring the world, she will soon have a music video coming out and she is getting ready to do a cameo in a movie. Lucky fans who were on the Jazz Cruise enjoyed seeing Ce Ce perform with other featured artists such as Patti Labelle, Big Daddy Kane, Whodini, Lalah Hathaway and Eric Roberson.  With all the reality shows coming up, Ce Ce said she was contacted to do one and is waiting for the green light.  In the meantime don’t be surprised if you see Ce Ce in a fitness competition…. Yes sir re… She has been transforming her body and working with a trainer for the past five months to do a bikini fitness competition on November 14.  She is going into the competition with no favoritism. She's going in as a regular person competing for the title.  "I'm not asking you to do me no favors”, says Ce Ce.  “I'm asking you to judge me strictly on the work I have done with my body."   Looks like Ce Ce has got plenty to do and we will speak with her again about her bikini bathing suit line and other healthy living topics.  Check out her episode on TV One’s UNSUNG at  keep in touch on her website at CeCePeniston and talk to her on Twitter

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