The Grammy Award-winning soul singer- songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae shot to fame in 2006 with her self-titled debut. Her follow-up album The Sea was released in 2010, two years after she lost her husband to an accidental overdose. After several years out of the limelight she is back with a genre-defying third album recorded between Leeds and Los Angeles.
With the release of The Heart Speaks in Whispers was it good to get back to touring? It must have been quite a change of pace after having been out of the spotlight for a while.
It was really good to get back to touring and performing. Being in the studio is not the same as being in front of a live audience and hearing people cheer and clap. It's such a thrill, and instant feedback.
In the studio I do my performance, come out of the booth and assess it as a performance. The moment of joy is fleeting. I also enjoy working as a producer a lot but it is very rigorous and intellectual and technical. Performing is really about following instinct, and that's really in keeping with The Heart Speaks in Whispers.
What would you say were the main themes of the record?
It's all about listening to the inner voice, we have inherent wisdom inside of us but we live in a culture where we are educated really early to be rational, and ignore our intuition. There is a lot of chaos in life and the album is really about calming down and reconnecting to nature and responding to our bodies and paying attention to our subconscious and dreams. Most of the writing is about honing in, that way the story or the feeling comes through in a primal or elemental way. I learned a lot, making this record.
The album was 6 years in the making, was there a sense of relief when it was finished?
I'm loving being a performer, meeting people, travelling, flying around the world. There are definitely days when I love just being a writer and playing my guitar and starting seeds of ideas and phases of producing songs. I also love answering all the questions as a producer, mixing and thinking about reverb and delay. I was itching to get that stuff into the world. I kept saying I really wanted it to live. The great thing about being live is that it is different every time.
You worked with a number of musicians on this album including Esperanza Spalding, Marcus Miller and members of the band KING. How did these collaborations come about?
I met Esperanza Spalding and I instantly got on with her, she really likes experimenting with music. She introduced me to a band called KING and connected me to this community of musicians in Los Angeles including James Gadson (Marvin Gaye’s drummer) and bassist Marcus Miller. When I was invited to play and record there I jumped at the chance. We rented a place in the hills for 7 months. That really affected the record; it extended the sound. In some cases, it made for an authentic soul sound, because I was working with people who played with the likes of Curtis Mayfield. It also made the record more experimental. It made me feel like I was on the right track. I am signed to a major record label but the label has always allowed me to be free which I have appreciated.
Who were your main musical influences growing up?
I played classical violin as a child and I loved singing but never felt like I had a singing voice as a kid. I knew that my voice had a lot of texture to it. Everything changed when I was introduced to the music of Billie Holiday - the texture in her voice and her conversational style. I remember hearing Kurt Cobain a year later and hearing those songs that were very conversational and guitar playing that was very simple. Music is such a big part of my life and how I experience the world. I have always made up songs, and the mood of certain songs is in me. I don't listen to a lot of music all the time, but it's in my head a lot.
How well do you know Brighton, what are your impressions of the city?
I love Brighton, I think there's really a sense of freedom there. I think Brighton is cool because there are so many people who are involved in art and music. I see it as a really idyllic place.
Interview by Hannah Collisson
Corinne Bailey Rae is at Brighton Dome Concert Hall on 3 November 2016.
This interview appears in the third issue of Brighton Dome feat.
feat. is a free music & culture magazine featuring exclusive content, interviews, and photos of some of the contemporary artists that we’re so proud to have gracing the stages of Brighton Dome’s iconic venues.