Corinne Bailey Rae had a career every artist dreams of. Her 2006 self-titled debut was selling like crazy — it sold close to two million copies worldwide — and she was nominated for four Grammys that year.
But it all came to a grinding halt in December 2008, when her husband, musician Jason Rae, accidentally overdosed and died.
Rae doesn’t like talking about those days. She refers to that period as a “break” or “time off” and never mentions her husband once during our interview. It’s clear though that her time away from music was more than a temporary stop — she alludes that she was close to never playing again.
“I wasn’t thinking like that, (about coming back),” she says. “I didn’t think that far ahead.”
In fact, starting to work again happened by accident she says. “I found myself playing guitar and instead of it being something to do to express myself, I was trying to make stuff up again. It was really surprising to me, really nice and really unexpected. It was a combination of finding myself writing and listening back to what I’ve done before and being happy with it.”
Although Rae didn’t directly address what she’s been through, she didn’t have to — it’s all over her new disc, The Sea. The record is an edgy, emotional trip through loss. You can feel her loneliness on album opener Are You Here. “Are you here, cause my heart recalls that it all seems the same,” she laments in the song’s chorus. On The Blackest Lily she sings, “Colour my heart, make it restart, I want it more than I ever knew.”
The British songstress did say that it wasn’t hard to open up. “I wanted to be truthful,” she explains. “My music is mostly about self-expression. I wanted to make a record that was honest.”
There’s no question she’s jumping into her music and touring, and while she doesn’t say it’s to get away from her personal tragedy at home, it’s hard not to think that the extensive touring she plans to do is her way of dealing with her loss.
“I think I’m going to play a lot,” she says. “I want to do the work, I believe in the record and this disc suits being played live. That’s why I think I can see us doing a lot of gigs. The record deserves it.” And, perhaps, so does she.