We don’t know about you, but when we think of gospel greats, we think of The Clark Sisters, Shirley Caesar and CeCe Winans. Mrs. Winans spoke to ESSENCE.com about being honored at the 2011 ESSENCE Music Festival (got tickets?) during the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience, her new album, and her fifth annual Always Sisters, Forever Brothers youth conference.

Held in Nashville, the summit brings together youth from 13-26 years old, and aims to remind the boys and girls not only who they are, but whose they are.

ESSENCE.com: What was your inspiration for the Always Sisters, Forever Brothers youth conference? 
CECE WINANS: When I started recording at 15 years old with my brother BeBe, we started to get letters. As they kept coming, I wanted to create a platform to answer questions, from what kind of makeup I wore to real questions like, ‘Can you help me, I’m contemplating suicide?’ It was my time to pour everything I’d learned in my upbringing into somebody else. People say, kids’ attention spans are short, and that’s true. But when you put people in front of them that are interesting, they really do stay focused.

ESSENCE.com: Who have been your favorite speakers? 
CECE WINANS: The second year I held the conference, Maya Angelou asked me ‘Can I come?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ She came of her own expense on a bus, gave wisdom to the girls, who screamed for her, got back on her bus and left. It was an amazing, elegant moment. I want to do this conference full-time!

ESSENCE.com: Speaking of full-time jobs, are you working on new music? 
CECE Winans: I’m supposed to be! BeBe and I are talking about going back on the road with Mary Mary and I’m working on some songs for a live album. Hopefully, this year I’ll get another solo album done, which will probably be released next year. I got a chance to work with producer Warryn Campbell, who wrote a song for me and BeBe so I might work with him but I’m not sure.

ESSENCE.com: Will fans be able to attend the taping for your live album? 
CECE WINANS: Yes, but I haven’t decided if it’s going to be one night or if I’m going to do a tour, then gather the best of all of the different nights.

ESSENCE.com: You’re being honored at ESSENCE Music Festival this year, are you excited?
CECE WINANS: It’s weird and humbling for me because you do what you do because you’re called. I’ve never reached a place where I expect to be honored, I’ve got ten Grammy awards and I walk by them like ‘Wow.’ Sometimes it’s awkward but I am honored that they’ve seen what God’s allowed us to accomplish through my body of work.