Folkie Soul Singer Corinne Bailey Rae’s Secret Weapon? An Indie-Rock Past

Singer's self-titled debut features blend of styles that aren't 'the latest sound.'

Corinne Bailey Rae’s blend of folk and R&B has earned her the unofficial title of America’s favorite new British import, but her eclectic sound has also come with some downfalls.

“You always feel a little bit out of place in every social situation,” Bailey Rae said at the BET Awards earlier this summer, surrounded by flashy rappers and sultry singers. “If I was a guitar fan, I would feel like the music was too black. And at a blacker venue, the music is too white,” she said of her own sound before turning her attention back to the awards crowd. “My whole vibe is not really fronty and aggressive and blingy … but I’m taking it in as a spectacle.”

And as atypical as she might be, America seems to be taking her in too. Bailey Rae was nominated at the BET Awards for her single “Put Your Records On,” which is slowly garnering radio play across the country (she resumes her first U.S. tour on August 12 in Dallas).

“It’s just a fun song about not being afraid to be different and not being afraid to be yourself and to think how you think,” she said. “And it’s about finding your identity in music, which is something I feel like I did as a teenager — finding ballads that no one else seemed to like that you could make your own, and the stories they said in their songs were how I view life. So it’s about music and identity.”

Overseas, the single is already a smash and has helped Bailey Rae sell more than a million copies of her self-titled debut. Now, she’s set her sights on America, where the album debuted at #17 in June.

“It’s really fun to be over here,” the 27-year-old singer said. “It’s so familiar to British people, culturally, so it’s only a little bit of an adjustment.”

Bailey Rae was a skilled violinist as a child and formed a rock band in her teens, but lately she’s been drawing comparisons to more soul, blues and pop acts like Billie Holiday, Macy Gray and Norah Jones.

“I’ve written a soulful record but it’s informed by my sort of indie guitar past,” Bailey Rae said. “A lot of the songs are more acoustic-based, some of the songs are sort of more upbeat, some of them are more like singer/songwriter things. All different people like it, I guess, because it’s not really about contemporary music and the latest sound and how to package things up. It’s just about melodies and words and it’s something I’m really enjoying in my life at the moment.”

Corrine Bailey Rae tour dates, according to Capitol Records:

  • 8/12 – Dallas, TX @ Gypsy Tea Room/ Ballroom
  • 8/13 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
  • 8/14 – Austin, TX @ Antone’s
  • 8/16 – Atlanta, GA @ Vinyl @ Center Stage
  • 8/18 – Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head On Stage
  • 8/20 – Alexandria, VA @ The Birchmere
  • 8/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
  • 8/23 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
  • 8/25 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club/ Lounge
  • 8/29 – Chicago, IL @ Park West
  • 8/30 – Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theatre