Circuit Chat - An interview with Ce Ce Peniston

 
cece1 An Interview with Ce Ce Peniston

Ce Ce Peniston took us all by storm with her dance hit "Finally" nearly ten years ago.

Her new hit single "Lifetime to Love" once again has our arms up in the air, and I don't think it would be a stretch to say she has more surprises in the works just around the corner.

Webmaster John McHugh-Dennis interviewed her following her sound check for what turned out to be an incredible performance at The Factory. Keep your ears open for this girl!

John:

First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on Lifetime to Love, #5 on the Billboard dance chart.

Ce Ce:

Thank you.

John:

Watching you up there in rehearsal, its awe-inspiring. The feeling and emotion behind your voice is moving, and the power is incredible. You make it look so easy!

Ce Ce:

Thank you.

John:

Youve always had a big gay following, and one of your first, and probably most influential fans, Manny Lehman, who helped launch your career, is gay. He has great faith in your talents. Could you tell us a little bit about how the two of you met, and the chain of events that led to your first album? He was your start, right?

Ce Ce:

Thats true. Actually, what happened was that he had another vocalist on his label, Overweight Pooch she was a rapper. I had done a couple of songs for her as a background vocalist, he (Manny) heard them, and said wed like to hear more of what she can do. Then I did Finally, and they really loved it, and the next thing you know, they told me it was climbing the charts, especially in Europe. I had to do an album in about three months because Finally did so well.

John:

Is it true that you wrote that song in a Chemistry class?

Ce Ce:

It is! Honestly! Actually, what happened is that it started off as a poem. I was like, Dang, Im not dating anybody, you know, what would I say if I found that person? What would he look like? I said Finally! And I came up with brown cocoa skin and curly black hair. I just had this vision in my mind, and I finished the poem as a song. And its funny, because the part that people gravitate to, the du du neee, yeh, yeh, yeah du du neee, yeh, yeh, yeah The way that came about was I was doing the background vocals for Pooch, and I forgot the words, and so thats how that came about I just sang du du neee, yeh, yeh, yeah Manny said You gotta do that a couple of times, so I did, and thats how that caught on, and became part of the song.

John:

Its hard to believe that its been almost 10 years since Finally came out!

Ce Ce:

I know. It is. I think about that all the time.

John:

Its a high-energy dance song, but youve also done some other songs which have a very different style. Thought ya knew is more r&b, and the album Im Movin On, had some songs with more of a gospel feeling. Did you go through any formal training in music? You seem to be very comfortable across several genres.

Ce Ce:

I was doing a little bit of training with Seth Riggs before my second album, and I had maybe 3 months of training while I was in college. Thats really the only training Ive had. Ive tried to teach myself to be well-rounded in different types of music by listening to different types of artists, their tones, what they might do, and getting ideas from Seth about diction and pronunciation. All of those things make a difference, and I think that might be some of what you might hear in my voice.

John: 

Which of your songs did you write? 

Ce Ce:

I wrote Finally, and I did some collaboration on Movin On. I also did a slow song called Maybe its the Way that was in dedication to my father. Finally and Maybe its the Way are the songs I wrote by myself that was it. As of yet. (I did detect from her tone that we will be hearing some more songs written by her).

John:

You've performed at a lot of gay events. Are there any that stand out as really exceptional?

Ce Ce:

I did one in Seattle which had as performers myself, Jodi Whatley, Lita Holloway, Bonnie Pointer, and Jocelyn Enriquez. The bill was really incredible that was a real Pride! Kansas City was also a real good pride. It had myself, Wanda D., and Kathy Sledge ("We are Family").

John:

At least in the United States, would you say that the gay audience was your first real big following? I know in Europe, things are a bit different.

Ce Ce: 

Definitely. In Europe it is different, but I didnt go over there right away. The song was doing well there, but I did more dates here first, and then went over to Europe. The gay audience has definitely always been there from the start. Thats what I truly remember. 

John:

Would you say that its true that the dance genre is more of a mainstream thing in Europe, and here I dont want to call it a gay thing, but its much bigger in the gay clubs.

Ce Ce:

No, I know what you're saying. The respect factor is a lot different I would say here, than in the States, because I think that people think its only the driving beat that makes the song, and not the vocalist. They dont realize that there are a lot of strong vocalists in dance and good vocalists. But youre right. In London, and in Europe in general, dance is mainstream. I wish is was like that here; maybe one day it will be!

John:

You've performed for some impressive people. Have any of them drawn a lot of respect from you, or affected you in a great way?

Ce Ce:

The Pope and The President were both amazing experiences for me.

John:

Did you meet the Pope?

Ce Ce: 

I had an audience with the Pope. It was a couple of us. I had done an album called Sisters of Glory, on Warner Brothers. It was with Phoebe Snow, Thelma Houston, Lois Walden, Albertina Walken, and we had an audience with the Pope there. It was just amazing to be able to come into direct contact with him, and he gave me a rosary. That had a great impact on me.

Being able to sing for the President I had sung for Hillary, at one of her speeches, and his people called me and said We heard about the performance that you did there wed like you to come out and sing for the inauguration. That was a real honor for me to be able to do that. 

John:

Tell me a little bit about your Foundation, and how that came about.

Ce Ce:

I felt like I had been blessed, that God had blessed me, and I wanted to give back what I had been giving to the community. There was a young mother she had seven children. There was a drive-by shooting, and she was killed. I heard about it, and really wanted to do something for that family. I had a big benefit for them, we raised a couple of thousand dollars for them, and I got a bunch of Christmas gifts for the kids. It was really nice I did some performances. The next year we did a performance where Tony Terry came down and performed, we had money for the Burton Project, Children in Education, and Families in Need. Each year I pick a different theme. This year, because Ive been so busy, I havent done as much with it. But that was why: because God blessed me, I wanted to be able to bless someone else.

John:

I was scanning your song roster and picked out 3 titles (in order of release), and was wondering if they in any way reflected a journey in your life. The first one, which was done about 10 years ago, was Finally, and that one put you on the map. Then there was the album Movin On, and now your latest song is Lifetime to Love.

Ce Ce:

Life is good right now. I have someone wonderful in my life, and Im very happy. But youre right, it was funny, because the way those albums were coming out was really how my life was going. It was like, I was going through the Finally thing I was happy my dream was coming true, then there was Thought ya Knew, and they really didnt know, cause that album didnt do all that great it did okay.

John:

It seems like all of the songs were just a step ahead of you. You did the song Finally, and then shortly after that, you met somebody, right?

Ce Ce: 

Yeh. You know, it is funny, because Finally, We Got a Love Thang, and Keep on Walking (Ce Ce went through a divorce) do mirror things that were going on in my life. The album names followed a succession too. Movin On was saying I was moving on to another phase in my life, and Lifetime to Love was saying I have a lifetime to do this giving and getting back. I hope it continues.

John: 

Thanks for the music, and we look forward to that lifetime!

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