Corinne Bailey Rae on shifting themes, new influences and her first time down-unde

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Corinne Bailey Rae on shifting themes, new influences and her first time down-unde

After over a decade making music as a solo artist on the world stage, it’s a wonder Corinne Bailey Rae hasn’t yet made the trip down-under. But come this April, she will be performing her first set of shows in Melbourne and Sydney, as well as a slot at this year’s Byron Bay Bluesfest.

Chatting from her hometown of Leeds, she expresses her excitement at performing in front of a new crowd: “I’m really looking forward to coming to Australia,” she says. “We’ve never met each other but I’ve felt a lot of support. I really want to connect with the Australian audience.”

She’ll be performing alongside a stellar line-up of both international and Australian acts, including some from her native England. She speaks fondly of the likes of Laura Mvula and Michael Kiwanuka, but it’s Patti Smith with whom she feels a special bond. “I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time,” she explains. “She’s one of the people whose advice I remember. She has a statement where she says ‘Build a name, and keep it clean’. She has such a strong concept of the purity of your own name. That’s something I really pay attention to.”

Her latest album The Heart Speaks in Whispers dropped last year to critical acclaim across the board and exposed a whole new side to Bailey Rae’s musicality, introducing to her repertoire elements of everything from groove-laden future-soul to indie influences, jazz and beyond. It’s an opportunity she relishes with every new project. “I never want to do the same thing twice, and often I want to do the opposite.”

The new record also forced her to shift themes lyrically as well, focussing on a more individual perspective than a universal one. “I wanted to do something introspective. Reflecting on our heart and how our heart speaks to us.”

As well as uncovering new inspirations for writing, Bailey Rae also experienced a newfound passion in the more technical aspects of recording. Since her previous album, 2010’s The Sea, she took to teaching herself engineering and production and embraced the idea of the studio as an instrument, helping her to create an album that’s warm, intimate and deeply individualistic. “That’s really the first reason I got into production,” she says. “Part of learning engineering or production is so I can really open up and do something I consider to be really private because it’s just me in the room recording.”

The concluding sessions for the album were done at Capitol in L.A., where an intended seven week work-trip became a seven month enlightenment, meeting the likes of Kamasi Washington and Thundercat. “I met so many inspiring musicians. It was really exciting to be around that scene which I think is very focussed on independence and the individual. It’s not about radio or trying to follow what’s happening, but really, it’s about doing your own thing. For me, that was important. To hear people making that music and to believe that I could do what I wanted to do.”

When & Where: Byron Bay Bluesfest, Byron Bay – April 13 – 17

Written by Ed Acheson