Inspiration

Rae of Light

Leeds-born, singer songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae tells Claire Casey about new songs, love, loss and the power of music.

The Leeds music scene has had a massive impact on the music I write and listen to.

When I was growing up, almost every pub had live bands playing, both black and white, a real mix of cultures. I got into the Indie scene, listening to bands like Nirvana and Veruca Salt. We used to play at the Duchess of York and the Town and Country Club. I used to go to Brighton Beach night at the Cockpit every week where you could hear The Charlatans and Stevie Wonder in the same venue.

To me, Leeds is a city of culture

I'm really proud to be from here and be part of the energy. Leeds has amazing talent, energy and passion for music and singing. There are so many diverse communities. I love seeing local groups shine and local artists become successful and put Leeds in the spotlight. The thriving arts scene in Leeds helps to nurture future stars from the area.

Growing up here was the best.

I lived near Moortown and Roundhay with my parents and sisters and I have such happy memories. I sang at church and played violin in the school orchestra, just normal stuff. My grandparents and relations lived at Chapeltown and we went to Carnival every year. It used to be free to get into Canal Gardens at Roundhay with its maze and Butterfly House, so we were there every school holiday. It felt like it was always great weather.

I started an all-girl band called Helen when I was 15.

It wasn't a precocious thing to do – everyone we knew was in a band and all the bars and pubs in Leeds put on nights. We were all underage and everyone knew it. I really liked that scene: walking down the street making up songs, going to play them in front of strangers who accepted them as legitimate. It made me realise music was something that you could be part of, that you could just make in your room.

I love bringing friends over from the USA to Yorkshire.

They can’t get their heads round the scale of it. Within 15 minutes (depending on which direction I drive), we can get to breathtaking countryside, a busy city centre, the coolest, edgiest club or an isolated country pub with no phone signal. I can't think of anywhere else in the world with that kind of variety all in such close proximity. The history, the culture and heritage, everyone I know who comes here is blown away by it.

I couldn’t listen to music just after I lost Jason

(Corinne’s husband, Jason Rae, a saxophonist died of an accidental drug overdose in 2008).

You learn how to cope and you do that by talking to friends and family about it. People stopped me in the street to tell me how much my album (released in 2016) meant to them and how they’d gone through something similar and I’m grateful that my music has been helpful for people. We don’t talk about death even though it’s a fundamental part of life. We seem to think if we don’t talk about it then maybe it won’t happen but then we’re traumatized when it does. I’m glad to have been part of that conversation about living and dying.

I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles, but I always gravitate back to Yorkshire.

My family and close friends are here, I have a house and garden which I adore. There's something about the Dales, the stone of the buildings, the greenery and the grit of the towns that makes me feel so happy.

I like to touch base with people based in Yorkshire working on international musical, dance and theatre projects.

I recently worked with Richard Hawley (Sheffield guitarist from the Longpigs) on a song for the film Funny Cow, a biography of comedian Marti Caine, starring Maxine Peake, which is filmed around Leeds, Hebden Bridge and Saltaire. I even have a small role in it.

This article was taken from This is Y 2018