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Corinne Bailey Rae heals after husband's tragic death

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Corinne Bailey Rae is back
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Corinne Bailey Rae has new album out, "The Sea"
  • Delicate-voiced singer has used music to cope with husband's death
  • Rae says album is about "mixture of hope and hopelessness"
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Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- She was the darling of the 2007 Grammys, with three nominations -- including best new artist -- under her tiny vintage belt.

Corinne Bailey Rae had made a splash in her native England with her self-titled debut album, and enthusiasm for her ethereal brand of jazzy, acoustic pop was building across the pond in the United States.

Then, a year later, her world came crashing down, when her husband, saxophonist Jason Rae, was found dead in a friend's apartment at age 31. The cause was an accidental overdose of alcohol and methadone.

For a while, Corinne sat at her kitchen table and did nothing. Then she slowly rediscovered her guitar. Although nearly two years have passed, she still finds it difficult to speak of Jason's death, except in song.

Yet her long-awaited sophomore album, "The Sea," isn't filled with somber reminiscences. The events in her life have pushed the 30-year-old singer-songwriter to a deeper, more emotional place than her sweetly innocent debut disc, and the resulting sound is grittier and more muscular -- something she's hinted at in concert when covering such tunes as "Since I've Been Loving You" by Led Zeppelin. She even fires up an electric guitar.

When Rae walks into the dressing room at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, where she's about to perform on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," she's wearing a bright smile and a pair of sailor shorts. She's eager to discuss her new album, and it's clear she doesn't want to use her husband's death as a marketing tool. But the record, her growth as an artist and his passing are all intertwined.

CNN: I think a lot of people were waiting to hear through your lyrics that you were doing OK.

Corinne Bailey Rae: I have definitely felt a lot of support from people, from other musicians and also just from the general community. I have felt that. I've been playing music in Leeds, where I'm from. I've been doing a lot of small gigs there, but I wanted to go back out into the world, I guess. And I wanted to finish my record.

CNN: Is music a cathartic process for you?

Rae: I think it enables you to be honest. It enables you to express what you're feeling. I've always kind of sat and played my guitar and sang out my thoughts and feelings.

CNN: This album certainly has a theme to it.

Rae: There's a lot of themes on the album. Obviously, loss is one of the themes on the record, but also I think love is a really important theme on the record, as well. Hope is on the way. It's about that mixture between hope and hopelessness.

CNN: Your first single, "I'd Do It All Again," was one of the first songs you wrote for this album, before everything changed in your life.

Rae: I feel like it's the answer to "Like a Star" (an ode to her husband on her first record). But it's a defiant love song, and it's about loving someone when it's difficult. Sort of listening back at that song, I'm really, really attached to it. I really believe in it. It's a real expression of what a relationship is really like.

CNN: "The Sea" sounds different than your first album. It's darker, edgier.

Rae: For the first time, I've written all the songs on the record myself, and I co-produced the album. I wanted it to sound sort of more raw, more heavy, more live than my first record. I wanted to work with musicians I knew. I wanted to all record at the same time.

CNN: Even back in 2006, you were hinting at going in that direction.

Rae: I wanted to do something that had more energy and sort of moved more air to match the energy that I felt from the audience. I wanted it to be the full range of emotions that you can feel. I wanted it to be strong but also be vulnerable at the same time. I wanted to have some songs that were more aggressive and some songs that were more playful and kind of had some attitude, as well -- and be able to play my electric guitar. I wanted it to be representative of who I am.

CNN: At the end of the liner notes for "The Sea," you say, "God is a mystery and a healer."

Rae: It's a statement that stands on its own. There's a lot of mystery in God, and I've felt a lot of healing. I guess I can say that I have felt something protecting me and comforting me. There's a song called "I Would Like to Call it Beauty," and it's a song that kind of speaks to how you are sort of protected in the most difficult times of your life.

And I lay face upturned on the palm of God / Pushed on by the fingertips of dreams / They haunted me / Consoling me / And I would like to call it beauty.

 
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