Corinne Bailey Rae is in the midst of staging a triumphant return. Six years after the multimillion-selling artist, Grammy Award-winner and Mercury Prize nominee last released an album, she is performing all over the world and is supporting Lionel Richie on his British tour. ‘It’s such an exciting time and it feels great to be performing new material,’ she says in her warm Yorkshire lilt.
In an age where artists are expected to churn out records, the Leeds-born singer songwriter is refreshingly patient. ‘That’s really at the heart of the record,’ she says.
The Heart Speaks in Whispers is her third album and marks a new period in 37-year-old Bailey Rae’s life. ‘It talks a lot about transformation, but the main theme of the record is about the importance of listening to your inner voice and your instincts, and reconnecting with your body and with nature,’ she says. It was recorded in her studio at her home in Leeds, but the
record was completed in LA. ‘I just felt that I needed to let the sunshine in,’ she says.
All three of Bailey Rae’s albums have been hugely representative of where she was in her life at the time. Her eponymous debut album, released in 2006 when she was 26, debuted at number one in the UK, entered the top 10 of the US Billboard 200 and was defined by the breezy summer hit Put Your Records On. ‘When I look back at the girl I was in the video for Put Your Records On, she seems like a different person,’ says Bailey Rae. ‘She didn’t know what was to come.’
Halfway through recording her second album, The Sea, in 2008, her husband, saxophonist Jason Rae, died of an accidental overdose. For two years, Bailey Rae retreated to‘quiet, monochromatic place’ as she tried to make sense of it. She released the album two years later, and although it was written before her husband died, the album seemed to be infused with loss. She says: ‘I’m
pleased when people perceive different subtexts to the songs than I had intended. I love that about language.’
To her amazement, Bailey Rae fell in love with Steve Brown, a musician and producer who she had worked with since her debut and who is also from Leeds. They married in 2013. ‘It’s an incredible thing to find love again. That was the big revelation,’ she says. Brown is touring with her this summer. How do they manage working together? ‘As a husband, Steve looks after me, and in rehearsal and on stage, he’s very aware of the fact that I am in charge,’ she says. ‘It’s wonderful having him with me – it makes touring so much fun.’
Earlier this month, she joined Pharrell Williams on stage to support Stevie Wonder in Hyde Park and she is supporting Lionel Richie on his UK arena tour. ‘I’ve always been a huge fan of Lionel and Stevie, and their music has been the soundtrack to many moments of my life, so it’s a real honour to be joining them,’ she says. In August and September, her tour takes her to the US. What then? ‘I don’t know,’ she says. ‘The important thing to me now is living in the moment.’
✻ The Heart Speaks in Whispers is out now. For tickets to see Corinne Bailey Rae supporting Lionel Richie at The O2 arena, visit theo2.co.uk