The Two Piece: Special Edition Q & AMay 14, 2007 at 3:16 am | Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment
Corinne Bailey Rae epitomizes what it means to be “a little girl with a big sound”. After being named the number one predicted breakthrough artist of 2006 in a poll given by BBC. Confirming their predictions, she soon became only the fourth female British act to have her album go number one. She continued to incline from there, receiving nominations for three Grammy awards. Prosperity was not always a word one would use when describing her life. Growing up in Leeds, West Yorkshire, she was subject to the woes of her heritage being half Kittsian and British. ““My sisters and I were different and people used to say, ‘Ah, aren’t they cute, the little chocolate children’, and ‘look at their hair’ I know they were only being cute but it was over the top. Then people from other schools would shout, ‘Paki’ to me because it was the most common racist insult of the time. At least if you’re going to do it, get it right”. “I used to shout back, ‘But my dad isn’t from Pakistan, he’s from St Kitts – so there!” [Excerpt from Top of the Pops (23 October 2006)]
Since releasing her self-entitled opus, she has spawned a steady stream of chart dominating singles such as “Put Your Records On” and “Like a Star” that have made her an international favorite. She has granted us an inside look into who she is, where she’s headed, and most importantly, what of those three little birds that just so happen to be at her window.
You have quite the unique voice, Mrs. Rae. What influenced your approach at singing?
When I was really young I always felt like I could never be a singer because I didn’t have either the big voice of a Whitney [Houston] or a Mariah [Carey] neither did I have the pop voice of a Madonna or other female pop stars. I loved Nirvana because Curt’s [Cobain] vocals were just so honest, and other bands like Hole and Belly inspired me to want to try to write and play my own songs but it wasn’t until I heard Billie Holiday that I realized you really didn’t need a huge or technically perfect voice to sing songs in a really honest and compelling way. I guess I was mostly influenced by her, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Led Zep[pelin].
Q: It’s been noted that you grew up listening to Led Zeppelin. Might one day we see you “rocking” it out or at the very least doing a cover?
It’s pretty well known that I do a full on cover of a Led Zepplin song, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” at my gigs it’s been recorded several times too. It’s included on the “Live in London and New York” DVD/CD set that’s just been released. On the recent European Tour we also covered a Jimi Hendrix song—I still do like to “rock out”!
Q: Your bio says that Helen broke up due to a pregnancy. Should the chance ever arise, would you bring the band back?
Everyone else from Helen are off doing other things now, none in music as such. We stay in touch but I doubt the chance would arise.
How do you feel about the plug given in one episode of Scrubs? A lot of people (including myself) already knew of your work beforehand. Was it pre-arranged or just a spur-of-the-moment thing?
You mean when they were talking about the album as part of the story? I heard about that, never got to see it though. It was written into the script without me knowing anything about it, so I guess THAT’S as spontaneous as you can get on TV these days. They have played my music on the show more than once I think.
Q: “Put Your Records On” is such an expressively fun song. What was the inspiration behind it? Describe your process for creating music.
The “three little birds” line is a nod towards Bob Marley, who I love and was one of the artists I heard a lot at home when I was growing up. Because “Pyro” is a song about encouraging young people—girls especially—to be themselves, don’t always try to fit in, to listen to the music they like, etc. It felt like a really appropriate way to start the song. Other than that, I knew I needed another up tempo song for the album, so the focus was to keep the feel “up”. I don’t have a songwriting process as such, I just put my ideas together and what happens next depends on if I am working on my own or with others, there are no rules.
Q: Are there any issues you address on the album that you would like your listeners to be particularly aware of?
Not really, I have simply tried to be honest in my writing-I think “til it happens to happens to you” for instance, is a really honest love song. “Breathless” is about my falling for someone who was a friend…”Butterfly” is about being raised by my mum, and how that made me feel both then and now. While “I’d Like To” is about growing up in Leeds with my sisters—it’s all there in the lyrics.
Q: Finally, Mrs. Rae, could you tell us of your future endeavors in and away from music? Any upcoming events you would like to speak on?
After the current US tour with John Legend, apart from some summer festivals in the UK, I will be focused on writing and recording my next album. I will also keep an eye on pump aid (www.pump-aid.org) who appointed me their goodwill ambassador in march. I will be going to Africa in the autumn to see how the fundraising through sales of Thirsty Bottled Water has manifested into pumps and wells in the ground, and fresh clean water for thousands of people.
You can catch Corinne Bailey Rae at selected dates across the US and abroad or check her out at http://www.myspace.com/corinnebaileyrae