Corinne Bailey Rae
The Fillmore - San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Corinne Bailey Rae:
Corinne Bailey Rae was born and raised in Leeds, the oldest of three daughters to a West Indian father and a Yorkshire mother. At school, she studied classical violin to a high standard, but any ambitions to take this to a higher level were quickly scotched when the afore-mentioned Zeppelin adoration took hold. By the time she turned 15, Corinne was also obsessing over female-led, indie noiseniks like Veruca Salt and L7, and wanted to start her own band. And so she did. Its name was Helen.
Helen? "I know, I know," she says in defence. "What can I say? We were 15 years old, and thought that Helen was a cheeky, indie kind of thing to do. It seemed clever at the time." She smiles. "Admittedly, it seems less so now."
Uninspiring name notwithstanding, Helen began attracting considerable local attention. Good enough to elicit an offer of a deal from the home to all manner of guitar abusers, Roadrunner Records, all was going well until the bassist fell pregnant, and the band fragmented.
"Disappointed? I was gutted," Corinne says now. "I had no idea what to do next."
And so she went off to Leeds University where she studied English literature and spent evenings working as a modern-day hatcheck girl in a local jazz club. Every now and then she was allowed to sing with the band, and from those evenings new ideas began to form. By now, Corinne was writing songs that she wanted to perform solo, and was moving away from all things indie into more soulful territory. By the time EMI signed her in the spring of last year, she had 10 years of experience tucked neatly under her belt, knew exactly what she wanted and just how to get it.
"I am a fan of jazz, but not the muso kind," she says. "I hate all the noodling, which is why I love classic songs: because they are so pure and succinct. That's what I tried to do with my own songs. They are short and sweet, to the point. I like the idea of leaving people wanting more, not less, you know?"
And so, inspired as much by Bjand Massive Attack as, say, Jill Scott, she went into the studio and came up with her debut album. It is in Corinne's own words, "a little bit of everything: it's chilled out, acoustic, kooky, atmospheric and soulful. I'd also be tempted to say it comes from a very organic place, but that would sound pretentious, so I won't."