Sense of hope in Corinne Bailey Rae's new album The Heart Speaks In Whispers

Grammy-winning artist Corinne Bailey Rae (above) wants to make songs that are useful to people.
Grammy-winning artist Corinne Bailey Rae (above) wants to make songs that are useful to people. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

Singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae moves away from the dark mood of her last record

There is a strong, palpable sense of hope in the music on British singer- songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae's recently released third album, The Heart Speaks In Whispers.

It is quite a departure from the darker mood and tone of the soul/jazz/R&B singer's last record, The Sea, released six years ago.

"I think the main sentiment is transformation, the idea of moving from darkness to light, from bitterness to sweetness," the 37-year-old Grammy winner says of her new record in a recent telephone interview from her home city of Leeds.

"Transformation is possible in your life. Just carrying on and knowing that change is possible, and knowing that difficult times won't last forever."

Rae herself has been through some dark times. In 2008, two years after her self-titled breakout debut album made her a global star, her husband of seven years, musician Jason Rae, was found dead from an accidental overdose.

Today, she is happily remarried to Steve Brown, a producer who worked on all her three albums. He also co-produced her 2011 The Love EP, which had a Bob Marley cover, Is This Love, that won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance in 2012. The couple wed in 2013. They worked closely together on The Heart Speaks In Whispers.

"I think it was really good because we communicate well and that was very important to me," she says of working with her husband.

As a producer herself, trying to get her ideas across with collaborators in the studio can be challenging, so having that communication is key, she adds. "So it's been really good to work together with someone I know so well and we both fight for our ideas. Hopefully, the music is richer for it."

Besides the uplifting tunes, the new album also sees her tackling seductive songs such as Green Aphrodisiac, which she says is about "sensuality and how wellconnected we are to nature".

She elaborates: "This is just a kind of steamy song that reminds me of connecting with your body and how it feels to be in the jungle, forest, greenery or at a botanical garden."

Born to an English mother and a father from West Indies country Saint Kitts and Nevis, Rae studied classical violin at a young age before turning to singing. She honed her vocal talent by singing in church and became part of a worship rock group, Revive, which recorded two albums.

She later played with an indie band, Helen, before switching to writing more soulful music as a solo artist.

BBC music critics selected her as the winner of Sound Of 2006, an annual poll that lists the best budding acts of the year.

Her debut album released in the same year was also a commercial success, debuting at the top of the British charts and going on to sell four million copies around the world.

A song from the debut, Like A Star, was also nominated for Song of the Year at the 2008 Grammys. She did not win that award, but picked up another for her work on veteran jazz pianist Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters, which won Album of the Year.

Her sophomore album The Sea (2010) went into the Top 10 in both Britain and the United States.

"I really like to make songs that are useful to people," she says. "I like to make songs that are positive to people and can be a special part of their lives."

• The Heart Speaks In Whispers is out now.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'Whispering of hope'. Print Edition | Subscribe