Corinne Bailey Rae: Nice and Breezy

When you hear Corinne Bailey Rae’s music, there is something about her sound that pins you and soothes your soul. Her self-titled debut album peaked at number one on the British charts, and the Leeds, England native is now scoring many American fans.

A product of mixed culture, with a West Indian father and a Yorkshire mother, her background has helped craft her into a captivating musical treasure. Corinne began singing in church as a child, which led her to picking up instruments such as the guitar and violin. Originally influenced by rock music, Corinne eventually moved towards developing a soulful sound.

While pursuing her degree in English Literature at Leeds University she worked as a hat girl in a local jazz club, where they often let her grace the stage. She developed her niche, and the rest is history. We recently made the best out of five strong minutes with Corinne during her hectic American tour.

AHHA: How have things been going for you?

Corinne Bailey Rae: Really well. I just been working and touring and had a week off.

AHHA: Are you enjoying touring in the U.S.?

Corinne: Yes, I love it. I like touring anywhere. Specifically here. I find the crowds to be very genuine.

AHHA: Do you have a favorite American city yet?

Corinne: I love New York, but also I really liked L.A. and San Francisco. I had a good time in Seattle, and we just did a great gig in Houston.

AHHA: Your name is very unique, were you named after anyone in particular?

Corinne: Well no. Rae is my husband’s last name, and Bailey is my maiden, so I have both those names.

AHHA: What was it like growing up with a mixed heritage in England?

Corinne: It was good. There are a Black people in England, which a lot of people don’t realize. It was a normal thing and we lived around a lot of families with the same kind of make up. It was good to have two different families who were quite similar in a lot of ways, and whose cultures were quite different.

AHHA: Your first single “Put Your Records On” speaks about not being afraid to be yourself and not worrying about always being accepted. Was something that you encountered growing up?

Corinne: Yes, that was something that I had to learn. I got singled out a lot in school for a lot of things, and that made me feel different. I would have appreciated that message when I was younger, so I figured I’d put it in a song for other young people.

AHHA: What do you like about your album in particular?

Corinne: I like the fact that I was able to be involved in all the aspects of it: writing the songs, choosing the people to work with, and being involved in production. My favorite part of this job so far is the creative parts. Writing music, deciding on the arrangements, what instruments to play myself, and being involved with the mixing and mastering. It’s great how much freedom you get. You get to decide how you want it to look, how you want it to sound, and who you want work with in videos. There’s a lot of creative control in the particular deal I got and I really appreciate that.

AHHA: Your music speaks a lot about life and relationships that seem to be very personal. What’s it like to share that and get such a big response from people?

Corinne: It’s amazing, because it means so much. I think the thing I’ve gotten the most is different people coming up to me and saying, “I wish I could say this to my ex-boyfriend” or “I wish I could trade the things that you say in songs.” And people shouting out during a gig, “I know how you feel” or “been there.” Things like that make it feel really real, because I probably wouldn’t have been as effective if I wrote thinking, “What will people like” or “What will people relate to.” I feel like I’ve just written about my own experiences, and because of that I think the album seems quite real to people. I’m really liking people’s response to it.

AHHA: Some of your songs seem to end with no resolution. Is that a style of writing that you chose to use in your music?

Corinne: Yeah, I think that life is like that. I wanted to reflect that I think life and certainly love, relationships and family relationships are a lot more complicated and unresolved and continuous than songs or films tend to make out. I’m kind of happy to make them like that, because they feel a lot more real.

AHHA: Tell us something that most people don’t know about you.

Corinne: Well most people don’t know that I was part of this indie band called Helen that was mostly guitar music, and I played an electric guitar. A lot of people don’t know that’s how I started out.

AHHA: You were at the BET awards this year. What was the experience like for you?

Corinne: It was amazing. It was the wildest thing I had ever been to. To see how people were dressed on the Red Carpet, and how aggressive the photographers were, and having to stand at all the different points while different people interview you. I had never been to a Red Carpet before. It was unreal. And when I went inside it was even more unreal. One of the best things of the night was Beyonce’s performance to “Déjà Vu.” I like the American thing to be really over the top and I like being around that sometimes. It was good to recognize faces like Puff Daddy and Kelis.

AHHA: When you found out that your video for “Put Your Records On” was nominated for a BET award, were you surprised?

Corinne: Definitely! Because I was still at the point where I really didn’t know if anyone had heard of me. I was really surprised and excited. I knew I really wouldn’t win, but it was nice to get an invitation.

AHHA: Are there any American artists that you would like to work with in the future?

Corinne: There’s a lot of artists that I really admire, but there’s no one that really jumps out that I want to work with at the moment. I think I’m the still in the process in wanting to develop my sound and my own style.