“The Sea” Inside Corinne Bailey Rae

In an interview on the Today Show, notorious pigeon-holer Meredith Viera tried to tag the British singer/songwriter as “neo-soul”. Bailey Rae, calling her out replies, “I don’t really know what neo-soul is… I know what old soul music is, and that’s the kind of music I like to make.” She goes on to say that her new record, The Sea, which came out this past January “is really more of an indie guitar, soulful record.”

Singer/Songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae

Bailey Rae’s first album, Young and Foolish,  came out in 2005, and promptly by 2006 it had already become certified double-platinum by the BPI. But although she’s living in the limelight, things have not always been easy for her.

Bailey Rae’ was born in 1979 in Leeds, England, oldest of three daughters to a white mother and a black father from the Federation of Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies. Growing up she faced adversity in the form of racial slurs calling her “paki”, for Pakistani. She grew up listening to a lot of rock, including Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Lenny Kravitz. Check out her cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing”.

Those are some lovely harmonies. She would write songs with her friends for her Baptist church, often using the melodies of Primal Scream songs, but changing the words to not “offend the regular churchgoers”.

It was her youth group leader that recognized Bailey Rae’s talent, and lent her the money to purchase her first guitar – a smart move, for sure. At 15, she formed an all-girl rock band called “Helen”. And circa 1995, the band was (surprisingly) nearly signed to Roadrunner records, a metal label that carries the likes of Nickelback, Dream Theater and Meatloaf. But Helen disbanded after their bassist became pregnant.

Bailey Rae in 2009

Fortunately for us, Bailey Rae stuck with her musical talents and started writing solo, leading her to where she is today. Her new album, “The Sea” is about family tragedy and coping with life’s realities. According to Bailey Rae, the album is an exploration of her grandmother’s death in a boating accident. “It was a family story that I had grown up with and never asked much about, but I had never realised that my aunt had been there, on the beach, when it happened. She could see it unfolding but was powerless to do anything about it. It made me think about how that grief and sense of powerlessness can shape a person, watching something that’s going to change your life forever.”

But personal tragedy has struck more than once, most recently with the tragically sudden death of Bailey Rae’s husband, Jason Rae, in 2008. Still trying to work through her emotions, Bailey Rae says she has one main goal in making music: “Everything I do I just want to be real and honest”. And she’s speaking nothing but the Truth in “I’d Do it All Again”:

Corinne Bailey Rae is playing two sold out shows, one tonight at Webster Hall at 8 pm, and again tomorrow night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 7:30. Hope you can get tickets!

Happy Listening!

~Josh

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