Rising out of the ashes

Widowed at just 29, singer Corinne Bailey Rae has since overcome her grief and found new hope – and love – in life.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Widowed at just 29, singer Corinne Bailey Rae has since overcome her grief and found new hope – and love – in life.

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Most of us know Corinne Bailey rae as the singer of the bubbly, feel-good pop tune, “Put Your Records On”. When I last interviewed Corinne before her Singapore gig in 2010, she struck me as a more grownup version of that sweet, carefree persona. She was warm, effusive and remarkably open, and we chatted easily about music and her  work with water and sanitation charity, pump aid.

The only topic we steered clear of was her love life, as Corinne was still feeling raw from the death of her musician husband Jason Rae. The tragedy, the result of an accidental drug and alcohol overdose in 2008, was a huge blow to her, and she took time after promoting her second album The Sea to rest, and come to terms with her grief.

Fast forward seven years, and Corinne is like a new woman. Now 38, she’s remarried, having found love unexpectedly with music producer Steve Brown, who has worked with Corinne since her debut. They wed in 2013.


Over the phone from the UK, ahead of her gig at the Singapore international Jazz Festival (SingJazz) on March 31, Corinne still sounds as sweet as ever.

“I’m really looking forward to coming to Singapore again,” she says. “Walking around the city when I was last there, I was struck by how it’s such a new, modern place. In Europe, we’re so often looking back into the past, so I found it refreshing how people in Singapore are so excited for the future.”

Corinne is no stranger to dealing with the past. She admitted she struggled with the shock of her husband Jason’s passing, which caused her deep despair and grief. But her new album, The Heart Speaks in Whispers, celebrates how she has rediscovered love.

Was it difficult opening up and finding love again? “It can be, but you have to wait until it’s the right time. When you love someone new, one doesn’t replace the other,” she shares. “When someone’s gone, it can also be a new start for you. In fact, I’d call it rebuilding your life, rather than moving on.”

“Finding new love was a great surprise. I’m really happy now with how it all worked out.”

Corinne admitted surviving her grief was a long process, but giving herself time has helped heal her wounds.

“When you lose a really strong, close relationship, you think it’s the end, but you will always have them in your heart. You have to allow yourself time to grieve, and not just look at the calendar and wonder how long it’s going to take.”

As for her current husband Steve Brown, Corrinne says they are blissfully in love. “It’s good working together. We work such long hours, so it’s really nice to have the person you love with you. The best part of the job is travelling together to places like paris, the Caribbean and New Orleans; it’s such fun!”

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Corinne recently contributed a cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” to the soundtrack of sexy film Fifty Shades Darker, which plays over the movie’s opening credits.

“(Fifty Shades) is engaging people with the erotic, and making ideas about sexuality mainstream,” she says. “I think you feel most sexy and alive when you are happy in your body; being active, and eating and sleeping well. Sex and sexuality are all part of your health – of both your body and mind. You won’t feel sexy if you’re stressed and tired; you need to get the quality of life you deserve, and being in touch with your health.

As a female artist, Corinne also believes in supporting her fellow women in the arts. “As women, we’re brought up to believe we’re in competition with one another, and that there’s only room for one woman at the top. But I feel like feminism has freed a lot of people, even men, to believe they don’t have to act a certain way just because they were born in a certain body.” For Corinne, she really is free – to be that cheerful, breezy girl again, but with newfound womanly wisdom.

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