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Gospel's BeBe, Marvin, Carvin team up as 3 Winans Brothers

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The surname has been synonymous with gospel music for decades, but brothers BeBe, Marvin and Carvin Winans are only now recording and performing together for the first time as a threesome.

The trio, as 3 Winans Brothers, have recorded the debut album Foreign Land, for release in June through BMG. It includes first single “If God Be for Us,” which the brothers premiered at last year’s historic 50th Anniversary March on Washington ceremonies, as well as upcoming second single “Move in Me,” which takes on more of a horn-driven dance vibe in relating inspirational yet socially conscious lyrics.

Foreign Land further features fellow sibling gospel group the Clark Sisters on “Dance,” and was produced in collaboration with longtime friends and Grammy Award-nominated producers Rodney Jerkins (Mary Mary, Mary J. Blige) and Daniel Weatherspoon (Donald Lawrence, Vashawn Mitchell).

“The album is fascinating,” says BeBe, who worked for years with sister CeCe Winans, and is younger than Marvin and Carvin, who are twins and long part of The Winans grouping along with brothers Michael and the late Ronald Winans.

“Even though we’re brothers, we’re different in more ways than one,” BeBe says, citing songwriting as a major difference.

“Our views are different when it comes to writing and how we write,” he notes. “But it’s really been a joy, and I think it’s something special: Songs have been missing in gospel, R&B and even pop. So we took our time and wrote songs, and it was like a breath of fresh air."

And while Foreign Land is indeed an inspirational record, "it has the potential of going any and everywhere--which our songs have always done,” says BeBe.

He singles out “I Really Miss You,” which he wrote when Ronald died, and sang at Whitney Houston’s funeral.

“We recorded it as a trio,” BeBe says. “It touches your heart, because we’ve all lost loved ones. You can enjoy and be moved by songs like that, no matter what you believe.”

Marvin wrote the titletrack.

“We’re all on a journey, philosophically and musically,” he notes. “It’s a lifelong journey—and we’re just passing through. That’s the thing behind it.”

Besides the writing, each of the 3 Winans Brothers have different vocal styles, per BeBe.

“Carvin has a very soft voice and a great falsetto,” he says. “Marvin, we call 'The Vampire'! He can chew up any song and suck up the blood until there’s nothing left on the bone! And I’m a balladeer, so there’s a great combination where we can sing and blend--because we’re brothers and have that family blend--and also stand alone--and that’s healthy, and enjoyable: You have groups where only one can sing and do leads.”

BeBe, of course, has been occupied with his solo career, as have Marvin and Carvin with theirs.

“It’s funny, because Marvin and I were thinking about doing a ‘twins album,’ and BeBe called Marvin and talked about the three of us doing something,” recalls Carvin. “He thought it was a good idea and something different, and it just took off. It’s been a lot of fun for me. It really has.”

Says BeBe: “The thought hit my head and brain, to do this project. It’s not The Winans, which was a quartet, or BeBe and CeCe, which was a duet. It was interesting to work with my brother Marvin, who’s as busy as they come as founder and pastor of the Perfecting Church in Detroit and head of educational programs like the Marvin L. Winans Academy of Performing Arts. But I knew my challenge: getting him to take off 25 years of pastoring and come back to the stage as a performer.”

He notes that The Winans’s last regular studio album came in 1995 with Heart and Soul.

“I had to tell him constantly before we did interviews, ‘You’re not the pastor, here. You can’t come in like you’re talking to your members!”

“I’ve worked with Marvin my whole career,” continues Carvin, “and now with BeBe, the combination of the three of us brings a whole new thing to our music world. The different styles in our writing and singing make it something fresh, and it’s been fun and exciting for me getting back in the studio after being out of the game a while.”

“It’s a joy,” agrees Marvin. “A group within a group.”

Foreign Land was recorded in New York and Nashville—where BeBe splits his time, and in Los Angeles. Marvin remains in Detroit--the Winan Family’s hometown--while Carvin lives in Toronto.

“We don’t say the word ‘tour’!” says BeBe, just back from two sold-out shows in South Africa. “It wore me out! That’s why I don’t to a tour, because I can’t see myself doing nine months or 35-45 cities. People don’t understand the wear and tear. I love singing live, but flying for 22 hours? You have to have a desire—and that desire is gone.”

“So we’re trying to find a better word!” says BeBe. “I always use Marvin’s answer, when asked if we’ll tour: ‘If you hear 3 Winans Brothers is in your city, come—because we’re not coming back!’ We’re on a one-way swing, because touring is for the 20-year-olds.”

He notes that when you’re “50-something,” you have to perform “a little bit smarter.”

“You have fans of your vocals—that’s what they want to hear,” he explains. “Nobody who pays to see you wants to hear that you’re tired.”

"So we’re hitting the road walking!” concludes BeBe.

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