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Corinne Bailey Rae Interview

Aired February 8, 2010 - 16:44:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Corinne Bailey Rae's self-titled debut album stormed the international charts in 2006. The album featured international hits such as "Put Your Records On" and "Like A Star."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Records On" By Corinne Bailey Rae.

ANDERSON: Rae is part of a movement that has come to be called the British soul revival. Born in Leeds to a black father and a white mother, she grew up singing in church and formed her own band. She hasn't looked back since.


ANDERSON: Her second most recent album, "The Sea," takes on a darker and more personal tone. Many of the lyrics address the sudden death of Rae's husband, who dived of an accidental overdose in 2008.


ANDERSON: The record comes after a two year hiatus as she grieved the man she described as utterly irreplaceable.

CORINNE BAILEY RAE, SINGER: Loss is one of the things on the record, but also I think love is a really important theme.

ANDERSON: With strengths that matches her talent, Corinne Bailey Rae is our Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: A little earlier, I met up with Corinne at a summit here in London for young leaders. Corinne is performing tonight for 1,500 young delegates at a One Young World event. And I started by asking her why is she involved in that.

This is what she said.


RAE: I'm here today because I wanted to support the event. I thought it was a really good idea to get so many people from around the world, and especially young people who have dreams, who have ideas and to see how that can be actually made into a practical difference, you know, how to make a real positive difference in the world.

So I think it's really important that organizations hear the voices of young people and get people before they feel like it's -- it's naive to be idealistic, you know, which it isn't.

ANDERSON: Fab. All right. Let's get to some of the viewers' questions, because it's their part of the show, not mine.

Kevin asks: "What inspires you to write such powerful and multi- dimensional songs?"

RAE: Oh, that's great. Those are nice compliments.

Feelings by -- by just things happening in everyday life. You know, I feel like I never really sit down and try and write songs, but I find them coming in. I just feel the need to express myself, I guess, and through the need to put a voice to my feelings and emotions. So, yes, just everything that happened and all the things you see.

I feel like when I'm writing songs, I am aware that the meanings develop and change. I feel like the songs I first wrote for my album, looking back on them, I feel like their meanings have developed and changed and -- and they're sort of more relevant to me than ever.

So I like that about songs. And I like the way that other people interpret music, as well.

ANDERSON: Good. All right.

Christine -- she's from Hamburg. She says: "I've listened to your songs thousands of times. They are part of my life." She says her question is simply this: "Do you sing and play music every day or do you take days off and hang around? And what do you like to do aside from music?," she asks.

RAE: I think I probably do sing or play something everyday. You know, I find myself singing when I'm not thinking about it, when I'm walking places or -- a lot of times songs are playing in my head and I sort of sing them out, you know, other people's music a lot of the time, things I've been brought up with.

But when I'm not playing music, I like to -- I like to watch other people's music. You know, I like to go and see bands. I like hanging around with great people, you know, a lot of my friends are writers and poets and musicians and authors. So I like being around them and seeing what they're doing.

ANDERSON: YMA asks: "What influence, if any at all, has been from Leeds and studying at the university there, having you as a person and/or your musical style?"

RAE: I think being in Leeds has really helped me, I think. It's great that it's a place that's by the countryside. I think it's great to get out in nature and to experience a different scale from how the city makes you feel. You know, I like to be out in nature and feel sort of dwarfed by it and feel small in that situation.

But I also think Leeds is a great mixture of musical people. A lot of people came to City Jazz Bands Day there. So I think there's a really good mixture between the sort of India-Thai scene and the jazz and soul scene. And I think they're -- the experience of those two things is what's really shaped my musical development.

ANDERSON: Ryan writes in -- he's from North Carolina in the States. He says: "What is your favorite song of all time?"

RAE: Oh, that's really hard. I've got so many favorite songs. You know, I think Nina Simone was an amazing songwriter and Curtis Mayfield. And my very favorite song is probably "Georgia On My Mind," which is suing by Hoagy Carmichael, because I just think it's a very logical standard and it's sort of set the tone for lots of other songs I write.

ANDERSON: YMA asks: "Are there any artists that you would like to work with and why?"

RAE: I think I'm a really big fan of music so the people I admire the most, I think I would prefer to be sort of in the audience watching...


RAE: ...Prince or Bjork or Erykah Badu than actually, you know, trying to get in on what they're doing. But, yes, I'm a big fan of music, first and foremost.


A question from Kenya tonight from Murugi, who says: "If you were not a musician, what other profession would you pursue?"

RAE: I think if I wasn't a musician, I'd like to do something creative. You know, I really enjoy writing. I love words. I love word play and the fact that things mean different things to different people. So I guess I would like to write maybe short stories or poems or -- I don't know if I would be any good at that but.

ANDERSON: Anne says her question is: "You've been through some really hard times recently and you've come out a stronger, more -- more beautiful woman," she says, "and I admire you for that. I'm going through a difficult time right now. I'd like to know what keeps you going and what advice you have for young women?," like her?

RAE: I think the most important thing is to not sort of put pressure on yourself. I think, you know, certainly with my experience, it's such a long process and I think it's important not to feel like you have to have got to a certain stage by a certain time or compare yourself to other people. You know, I think you get to a stage where you can sort of live around something. And I felt that that's the stage that I am at.

So not to feel like it's going to get better everyday, but it doesn't. It's kind of cyclical and complicated.

So I just think you shouldn't put too much pressure on yourself or compare yourself to other people.

ANDERSON: Are you happy when you -- when you wake up these days?

RAE: Oh, that's complicated, actually. Yes, not always. Not always, actually. I think, you know, I feel really positive to be making -- I feel really happy that I'm recording this album and going out and performing

So I would be -- I wouldn't want to lie and say to someone, oh, yes, you know, here's me at this particular point and I'm -- I'm happy. I'm not happy all the time. I'm not sad all the time. That's the best way I can put it.


ANDERSON: Corinne Bailey Rae. Inspirational stuff for you tonight.