On Corinne Bailey Rae's New Album, A Focus On Renewal Between her first and second albums, the British singer's world was shattered by loss. Rae says her latest, The Heart Speaks in Whispers, is all about transformation and hope.
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On Corinne Bailey Rae's New Album, A Focus On Renewal

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On Corinne Bailey Rae's New Album, A Focus On Renewal

On Corinne Bailey Rae's New Album, A Focus On Renewal

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Corinne Bailey Rae has traveled a great distance in her music. Her first album 10 years ago was a huge hit, all sunshiny pop.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PUT YOUR RECORDS ON")

CORINNE BAILEY RAE: (Singing) Girl, put your records on. Tell me your favorite song. You go ahead, let your hair down.

SHAPIRO: Her second album was deeper and more emotional.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ARE YOU HERE")

RAE: (Singing) He's a real live wire.

SHAPIRO: It came out shortly after her husband of seven years died of an accidental overdose from taking methadone with alcohol. Rae was 29.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ARE YOU HERE")

RAE: (Singing) Those eyes.

SHAPIRO: Now she's released her third album called "The Heart Speaks In Whispers."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP WHERE YOU ARE")

RAE: (Singing) Tender is a light that shines on you.

SHAPIRO: Corinne Bailey Rae wrote a lot of this album at her home in Leeds, England. And she told me this record is about finding a way back, like this song "Stop Where You Are."

RAE: That song really just coming back gets you thinking about nature and the things that nature tells us. You know, I think that nature has such a powerful message about moving from dark to light and bitterness to sweetness.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP WHERE YOU ARE")

RAE: (Singing) Miracles just like a winter rose will be.

I love the idea of the winter rose, that sort of sleeping underneath the soil and underneath all the snow was this plant that was growing and developing and that could present itself as this peaceful flower at this time when everything else around it is very barren.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP WHERE YOU ARE")

RAE: (Singing) You hold your happiness away from you.

SHAPIRO: And, like the flower, the song bursts out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP WHERE YOU ARE")

RAE: (Singing) Stop where you are under fading stars.

Yeah I love the way that the song develops. You know, it was - I wanted it to start off really intimate. You know, the song is about how it's really important to be in the moment and be present. I've learned to do more and more. I guess as I've just gotten to sort of how rich life can be and how fragile life can be as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP WHERE YOU ARE")

RAE: (Singing) Waiting for the perfect boat to take.

SHAPIRO: What is it that has taught you those lessons? What is it that pulls you away from the present moment?

RAE: I think that I've learned a lot in the last few years about just the fragility of life. You know, obviously, you know, losing my husband in 2008 - that was a completely unexpected thing. And that process of sort of grief and mourning - that's taught me a lot about life and how we never know how long we have.

And I think that every day should be savored. And so a lot of "Stop Where You Are" comes out of that idea that life is really precious. The people around us are precious and that every single moment is worth celebrating.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOP WHERE YOU ARE")

RAE: (Singing) There is no better place. It's true. Light a fire where you are.

SHAPIRO: This idea of transition from darkness to light, from bitterness to sweetness seems to come up in song after song on this album, for example, "Caramel."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CARAMEL")

RAE: (Singing) It isn't love, but pain, that makes you brave.

I was playing my guitar and that first line, you know, it isn't love, but pain that makes you brave. I had no intention of, you know, singing that. I hadn't written it down. But as I just played my guitar, this phrase just came out.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CARAMEL")

RAE: (Singing) It isn't love, but pain, that makes you brave.

And I sort of, you know, was able to look at it and think, what does this mean and realize I was writing a song about self-transformation and renewal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CARAMEL")

RAE: (Singing) After all this bitterness, it tastes like caramel. After all this bitterness, delicious as caramel. And it's like seeing the sun again, after years of only pouring rain on my soul.

I love that image of caramel and how if you've only been tasting bitter things exactly how sweet something like that tastes, you and the idea of feeling that love was a possible thing. I compare it, I think, in the song to like dawn and the idea of the sun slowly coming up. And I think that's really what this transformation time has been about for me, that it's been a very gradual process.

But how when that sun does finally come up, it appears to be so bright. When you finally taste the sweetness, it appears to be so sweet because it's so thrown into relief by what you've experienced.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CARAMEL")

RAE: (Singing) Caramel.

SHAPIRO: Even in what sounds like, I think, the most poppy, upbeat track on the album "Tell Me," there's this idea there will be heartbreaks and blue skies, but feel it all, walk tall, don't close your eyes. Like just get through it and you will emerge.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TELL ME")

RAE: (Singing) Tell me, do you like it? Tell me you're on fire. Tell me that you're right where you belong. We can make our own rules. Power to the people. Turn it into something you can love.

That's a really important thing for me, the idea of, like, telling young people, you know, they'll be blue skies and they'll be heartbreak. You know, I think that it's really important for young people to know that life is not expecting it always to be a kind of sunshiny, easy thing, but being able to sort of roll with it and be pushed around by it and be able to survive it and know when you have to, you know, hide and when you have to sort of, like, hunker down and when you can sort of re-emerge.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TELL ME")

RAE: (Singing) The world seems distant, out of reach. It's happening behind a screen. And we're outside looking in.

SHAPIRO: And you can speak with credibility about coming through darkness because you have not only experienced the darkness, but you've fallen in love again. You are married now to your longtime producer.

RAE: Yeah, that's true. Yeah, Steve and I got married three years ago. And yet, the amazing thing for that - for me about that was just that I never really thought that I would be able to experience love again in this sort of uncomplicated way. And, you know, it was even more incredible for me that it was someone I had known a long time, been friends with a very long time. You know, that's been really a great sort of joy in my life to find this relationship with him.

You know, a big theme of the record for me is hope. And the reason I say a big theme for the record for me is because I feel like the album is being - kind of making itself known to me. I haven't sort of sat down and thought like these are the themes, this is the ideas, these are the songs.

I really feel that just in being still and being quiet and letting the songs kind of flood in, it's really been a stream-like thing for me, almost like a process of waking up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SKIES WILL BREAK")

RAE: (Singing) And the waves crash down, and there's chaos all around.

SHAPIRO: Well, Corinne Bailey Rae, it has been such a pleasure talking with you.

RAE: It's been great to talk to you as well. Thanks for making the space for this music on your program. I really appreciate it.

SHAPIRO: Corinne Bailey Rae's new album is called "The Heart Speaks In Whispers."

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