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An Interview with Corinne Bailey Rae

An Interview with Corinne Bailey Rae

15 June 2017 |

The BBC’s ‘Sound of 2006’ poll crowned her as the number-one breakthrough artist for that year, releasing her debut album that February and becoming only the fourth British female artist to reach number one with her first LP release. Eleven years and countless awards later, Corinne Bailey Rae is coming to Hampton Court Palace on 20 June.

Corinne Bailey Rae is, quite simply, one of the most impressive homegrown talents of her generation. The Leeds-born singer-songwriter and guitarist, best known for her soothing, soulful R&B and jazz, has achieved a lot in a very short space of time. Something of an awards magnet – including two Grammy Awards and counting – her success is hardly surprising for an artist whose self-titled debut album flew straight in at number one on release in 2006.


 
Looking back, the 38-year-old describes her influences at that time as ‘soul music, some that would be quite comfortable labelled under an indie banner and others which are unusual, kooky, jazzy’. She continues, ‘Like a Star [the album’s lead single] is still special to me, as it was the first song which I wrote solely by myself. I wrote it while sitting in my room and playing about with some jazz chords I’d learned… then most of the words just came to me after that.’


 
That album not only proved a landmark release then, but also opened the floodgates for a stream of plaudits: Bailey Rae was put up for Best UK and Ireland Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards; Best Song, Best UK Female and Best Newcomer for the MOBO Awards and Best New Act with both the MOJO Awards and Q Awards. The latter four scooped awards in each of the categories as the performer announced her arrival on the music scene in supreme style. 2007 turned out to be an equally magnetic year for the new star.


 
However, tragedy struck before she began recording her second album The Sea when her husband and fellow musician Jason Rae passed away in 2008 following a misadventure which she described as ‘one of those stupid, drunken things you do that you get to talk about afterwards... it’s unbelievable that this one didn’t turn out like that, that this was the drunken, curious thing that went wrong’. She gives an insight into how she tried to cope with such a devastating situation.
 
‘It was difficult,’ she says. ‘I found myself putting myself forward for volunteering a lot of things which were close to my heart and at that moment, it doesn’t cross your mind… but then you forget that it’s all going to be shown across the world in print, online and in quotes everywhere. Lots of people can interpret things in ways different to what you actually mean to say. I feel like people want to get in, they want to know more and more and sometimes you feel like that’s too much.'


 
Indeed, it’s hardly surprising that fans of the first record would want to share in the artist’s grief, as powerful as such connections can be. It helped Bailey Rae come to terms with the tragedy too. ‘The whole record is about grief and loss and it’s like I wanted to tell people about this thing… this thing I couldn’t make any sense of and could not find anything I could read, or listen to, that would help me make sense of,’ she says.


 
Now, with the release of her third album – The Heart Speaks in Whispers – and with more than a decade in the business under her belt, Bailey Rae is more determined than ever to put on a good show after her first live shows for five years in 2016. Venues that took in her home city of Leeds, Glastonbury and Birmingham among others, were naturally sold out. She’s looking forward to getting back into the swing of live performances, and being able to expose her talents to a new generation of fans who might not have been able to see her when she burst onto the scene.
 
‘There are a lot of youngsters who were kids when I brought out my first album so for some, it’s their first time being able to see me live,’ she smiles. ‘I’ve had people saying to me that they’ve been waiting for 10 years because they’ve grown up listening to my music on the way to school in the car.’

Corinne Bailey Rae will be playing at the Hampton Court Palace Festival on 20 June.
 

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