My interview with the one and only...
In the video for her 2006 breakout hit “Put Your Records On” off her Grammy-nominated self-titled debut, Corinne Bailey Rae is bicycling through the woods on a sunny day. A red ribbon flails off one of the handles. Her tone is upbeat. Everything is irie. Fast-forward a few years to the video for “I’d Do It All Again,” the lead single to Rae’s follow-up album The Sea. All of a sudden, the British chanteuse is in all black. The bike is gone, replaced by a solemn gait, and her tone reduced to reserved optimism.
Corinne Bailey Rae is very familiar with triumph and tragedy. In 2008, She won two Grammys as a featured artist on Herbie Hancock’s River: Joni Letters and lost her husband to an accidental overdose weeks after. Although The Sea reflects that turmoil, her newest release The Love EP balances it with a batch of cheerful covers. Corinne sits with OKP and breaks down her inspiration for each track.
“I Wanna Be Your Lover” (1979) Prince.
“I never heard it the year it came out because that was the year I was born. I probably heard it sometime in the ’90s at a party. I remember thinking wow, this song is hype. It’s really thrilling. I like the playfulness of the lyrics, ‘I wanna be your father and your sister, too.’ Sexy Prince stuff. I remember hearing it out and getting into him when I went to see him play in London. I saw him play it at Abu Dhabi. It just reminds of the few times I’ve met him.”
About her own version, Corinne says “We wanted to make it a little bit trashy. We used a live drummer, where it’s not so tight. It’s a bit looser. I really wanted to bring in the live elements with that late 70’s, early 80’s production. I wanted it to be fun. I felt like my last album was really intense to record and really intense to sing night after night. This is kind of an escape from that. Sing the kind of thing I wouldn’t normally sing and be playful.”
“Low Red Moon” (1993) Belly
“It reminds me of being in an indie band. I was the lead singer and played electric guitar. My two best friends played bass and guitar, and my boyfriend at the time played drums. It just reminds me of being a teenager, doing your own thing. Your music is really simple, but people get into it. You play these songs in the club and people keep coming back. You’re building a little reputation. It just really felt homemade, winning acceptance and growing a fan base. It’s that quiet-girl, family, do- it-yourself era.”
“Is This Love” (1978) Bob Marley
“My earliest memory of this song is when my mother was cleaning the house, maybe a Sunday, and you can see all the dust particles in the air because of the light going through the windows. I remember exactly how my front room used to be set up in my parent’s house. I just remember my mother cleaning to this song off of Bob Marley’s Legend. She loved listening to Bob Marley. Now what I wanted to do with it was just appreciate the song. A lot of people think of the righteous vibe and sweet voice, but it has really gorgeous and poignant lyrics. That’s how I felt about this song. Someone has got nothing to offer you but their single bed. It’s like you’re charming, young, teenage, early twenties and you got no money. It reminded me of that phase in my life so that’s why I wanted to cover it.”
“My Love” (1973) Paul McCartney
“So the first time I heard ‘My Love’ was this year. I was invited to play at this event for Paul McCartney. He was honored at the White House. He was winning the Gershwin Award. Stevie Wonder was there. I was playing with Herbie Hancock. Dave Grohl was there and Elvis Costello, all these famed musicians. The night before, we watched some classical performers play some McCartney songs. I heard this piece played by a string quartet and I was real blown away by it. It had this soft ascending melody. I listened to it, watched it on YouTube, and saw Paul and Linda sing it together. When I was covering it, I really wanted to bring in some other influences. Stevie Wonder gave a speech where he wished him love. When I was recording this song I was really thinking about Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, how long their relationship has lasted. I wanted to bring some Stevie elements into the song, those Stevie soulful harmonies.”
“Que Sera Sera” (1956) Doris Day
“The version of ‘Que Sera Sera’ I know is the one by Sly & The Family Stone. I love Sly Stone. He is one my favorite singers and one of my favorite performers. I just love his whole vibe and I love the fact that they were these black hippies and white soul musicians. It’s a nice mixture. That’s how I feel about my background. The band I play with is a mixture of men and women, black people and white people. That’s an important thing to us. We’re into rock music. We’re hippies who like soul music as well. Sly and the Family Stone are a massive influence to the whole band. I was playing this song in the break between the two albums when I wasn’t working. I was playing it off the radar. When we started playing live, I knew this was the song I wanted to bring into to the set. It wasn’t one of mine but I felt like it was really heavy.”