CeCe Rogers- Luck & Life (interview)
Growing up as a child prodigy singer who specialised in gospel, CeCe Rogers was singing on network TV shows by the age of nine, fulfilling his young potential by graduating from America’s elite Berklee College of Music in his early 20s.
Moving to New York in 1984 to crack the city’s Jazz and R&B scene he found himself uncharacteristically floundering career-wise, however until a relatively unknown though determined DJ from Chicago called Marshall Jefferson selected him to add vocals to an achingly beautiful piano-based club tune.
The track- Someday- released in 1987 – would become the first house music record to be signed by a major label as well as one of the first to become a worldwide crossover hit but as CeCe is the first to admit, he was initially less than happy when Marshall insisted on using his first (relatively) raw studio take.
“I never expected the record to become so big. I actually complained about the quality of my vocals when it was released,” he laughs.
“The song was part of a new genre being created so I had no clue what this record was going to do,” he continues.
“I had been running around New York for two years trying to get a record deal with my R&B music which I though was much better then this new thing called ‘house’.
“When the song blew up It took place overseas not in the USA. So again, I knew nothing about the success of ‘Someday’ until I got on the plane and arrived in the UK . . . WOW . . . .!”
27 years on the song remains rightly recognised as one of THE key anthems of house and CeCe similarly continues to tour the world performing to audiences new and old as well as releasing new music, including latest single I Need. So given his 27 years’ of experience, what’s the minimum he nowadays needs to judge a track a success?
“The problem with being a singer/musician then a recording artist/ entertainer is that sometimes the two roles don’t go together,” he considers.
“That being said, as a singer/musician I judge success by my expression and emotions. Did I express my feelings with what I wanted to convey? As a recording artist, DID THEY GET IT?”
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): I’m a big fan of lifestyle guru/ visionary Seth Godin who was talking recently about people who experience immediate success. He labelled them ‘good at the beginning’ before going on to claim ‘’being good at the beginning is another word for lucky. “
“Someone needs to get lucky, and it might even be you, but luck is not a strategy: Becoming good in the long run, that’s the result of effort and tenacity and smart practice.” You had immediate success with Someday in the late 80s how much did you attribute its success to luck at the time
CeCe Rogers: “Was it luck? For me, Luck doesn’t exist anymore in the music industry. Being beautiful, marketable, naive, and willing to give just about anything is your luck. I can say that I was amazed with the massive love Someday received and to this day remain humble that I achieved some success for my work.”
Skrufff: Seth Godin also talked about the importance of failing for future success: when was the first serious failure you experienced after Someday?
CeCe Rogers: “Failure happened immediately. The record was never supported by my label. I would later do two albums and they also wasn’t pushed. So I went back to my roots. I pulled out my degree I got from Berklee College of music and started teaching. As I learned more, I gave more. I didn’t concentrate on being an artist but on the art and joy of making music. And that is what has sustained me until today. Somewhere along the way, I was able to redefine myself; to separate the business of music and the love of music.”
Skrufff: Many of your DJ peers from the 80s became global superstars: what stopped you from following that DJ path too?
CeCe Rogers: “Funny that you should ask this question. I am constantly being asked to DJ as if it is something anyone can do. Well that is the problem. I don’t believe anyone can be a DJ in exactly the same way I don’t believe everyone can be a artist. But you have many doing it. I believe it is a business.
Do you really believe Paris Hilton is a DJ? Or Kim Kardashian is a recording artist? They are in terms of the business of the music industry. Well my friend, I started my career singing and playing my instrument for the love of music. It is in my blood. I have and I’m still making money doing what I love to do.
Djing is a art-form. Not a fad. And if you can appreciate the art form, Paris Hilton would have to step up to the plate and be accountable. I’m not a DJ; I don’t have the skills. There are many so called DJs out there that also don’t have the skills, but they are making loads of money and we know why. That will not be my legacy.”
Skrufff: Nowadays most of the pop/ EDM hits are made with auto-tune: how much did that invention change the game for you? Why do you think these tracks are so popular?
CeCe Rogers: “I think the days of autotune have come and gone or are fading fast. There are a few remixes out there with my voice in autotune and I actually like it. But I’m happy my career is not based on autotune. Like a lot of today’s pop music. Autotune is a fad . . .”
Skrufff: Being CeCe Rogers today; how much do you see yourself as a brand?
CeCe Rogers: “I’m old, Jonty. My brand is classic vintage and REAL. I like that. I will always be open to explore and work with new artists. I am currently in the studio working with Bob Sinclar. I love this guy because he is not trying to make me something I’m not. As he redefines my classic sound with autotune, time shift, etc, he respects and appreciates the sound I am known for. I don’t know how successful this joint venture will be, but I am enjoying the collaboration. We are not trying to follow EDM or the latest fad, we are exploring and making music we feel will be good music. Can’t define a better “brand ” then that.”
Skrufff: What impact has streaming had on your career? (And income stream?): how do you view its future impact?
CeCe Rogers: “Streaming music . . . No impact, Terrible! It’s not good for the recording artist or people who make the music. My income has decreased due to this process. I still have faith in my society rights company that they will win in this battle we’re fighting.”
Skrufff: What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
CeCe Rogers: “Jonty, I haven’t found the key to success. But I learned the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
CeCe Rogers- I Need is out now; click here to buy on iTunes.