Grammy Award-winning singer Corinne Bailey Rae, who will perform on Friday at City Park, loves music because it gives her a means of expression.
The “Like a Star” and “Put Your Records On” singer discovered independent and punk bands in her early teens, and that changed her perception of music.
“I liked watching bands and singers like Veruca Salt and Björk and Courtney Love on TV, because they would sing about things that pop singers didn’t sing about,” Rae said. “I liked the DIY aesthetic, and it kind of gave me permission to write music the way I wanted because there weren’t particularly any rules.”
During the mid-1990s, Rae, then 15, formed her own indie band called Helen in her native England.
There have been many trailblazers in black music and while I don’t feel like I’m a trailblazer, I do feel honored to be a small link in that chain…” – Corinne Bailey Rae
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“It was such a big music scene in the U.K. back then and being in a band was what we did,” she said. “We would make up songs and play them in pubs and bars. And that took up a lot of our time.”
In 2004, Rae signed with Global Talent Publishing, which started her on her own musical road, which includes two Grammys, two Music of Black Origin (MOBO) awards, an NCAAP award and a BMI Pop Award, to name a few.
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Her experience as a Grammy winner in 2006 was a highlight in her career.
“I was invited to the read the Grammy nominees and I had no idea that meant that I got a nomination,” Rae said. “My name came up for Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year and it was such a shock. I had no idea that I was even being considered in all of that.”
Rae’s Grammy experience got even better for her during the awards ceremony a few weeks later when she met one of her idols, American soul singer Mary J. Blige.
“She told me that she loved my record, and it just blew me away that someone I loved and looked up to had heard my album,” Rae said. “I mean, when you play live, you know those 80 people who show up to every gig loves your music, but when a record goes out, you have no idea who is listening.”
While all of these awards are special, Rae said winning a MOBO was something dear to her heart, as a British artist of color.
“The MOBO awards started in the U.K. when people felt a lot of black artists were being overlooked in pop music in a way that almost made it seem like the music they were making wasn’t considered mainstream,” she said. “I’m very happy to get an award like that. There have been many trailblazers in black music and while I don’t feel like I’m a trailblazer, I do feel honored to be a small link in that chain.”
These awards led Rae to eventually work with jazz pioneer and composer Herbie Hancock on his 2007 Joni River tribute album, “River: The Joni Letters.”
The title track landed Rae a Grammy for Best R&B Performance.
“All of these opportunities music has opened up for me has been mind blowing,” she said. “The shift of being able to work with someone like Herbie Hancock or Stevie Wonder is amazing.”
A few weeks ago, Rae performed at music producer Quincy Jones’ 85th birthday party with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Other artists who performed during the celebration include Caro Emerald, Jess Glynne, Lalah Hathaway, Mick Hucknall, Beverley Knight, Jonah Nilsson, Mark Ronson, Jack Savoretti and Andreas Varady.
“To do things like that is a privilege and an honor,” she said. “These are something that I will never take for granted.”
Rae said these opportunities have changed the way she looks at her music career.
“When my first album came out, I didn’t know about international careers,” she said with a laugh. “I would see an artist from the U.K. or hear a single and see a video and then not see them for a few months. I never realized they were going to different countries promoting these things, too.
“Now, I’m coming to Park City,” Rae said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Park City Institute’s St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Summer Concert Series continues with Grammy-winning singer Corinne Bailey Rae at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 10, at City Park. Tickets are $49 and $89. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.bigstarsbrightnightsconcerts.org.
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