Corinne Bai­ley Rae

Singer-song­writer, 38

Esquire (Singapore) - - Contents -


I love singing my old songs and hear­ing how they fit next to my new work. But I don’t re­ally lis­ten to my own mu­sic. I al­ways find it a bit em­bar­rass­ing when I go into a shop and it’s play­ing, or some­times, some­one will put it on de­lib­er­ately—I don’t re­ally know why they do that, maybe to say, oh, we like you. I try not to re­act, be­cause I feel like if I do, then ev­ery­body will be like,

I knew it was her!

In­spi­ra­tion just keeps hap­pen­ing and that’s be­cause I like all the dif­fer­ent phases of the work. I re­ally en­joy writ­ing—the phase where you’re start­ing from scratch and don’t know what you’ve got to say but dif­fer­ent ideas come in. I also re­ally en­joy pro­duc­ing, where I’m de­cid­ing how I want a song to sound. And then there’s the phase where I’m so sick of it as I’ve been in the stu­dio moving high hats around for a month and I just want to do a ver­sion of it in front of peo­ple. So, that’s when I re­ally like tour­ing.

The start of a project is the most ex­cit­ing time be­cause it doesn’t ex­ist yet and could be any­thing.

I’ve def­i­nitely had the ex­pe­ri­ence where I’ve had an idea for a song, and then I’ll hear some­thing sim­i­lar a few months later. Some­times, I think they’re in that idea of a col­lec­tive con­scious­ness that we are all think­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar things. The song idea taps in on dif­fer­ent peo­ple’s minds and who­ever re­acts to it the fastest will be the one to get the song out be­fore ev­ery­one else does.

When I was young, mu­sic helped me be more con­fi­dent and meet friends. Now I find that it’s a mas­sive source of self­ex­pres­sion, a way for me to or­der my thoughts and con­nect with oth­ers.

The best gigs are al­most like if you died in that mo­ment, it would be fine be­cause you’ve had this amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It can be re­ally eu­phoric. I live for those mo­ments, I guess. You’re not ex­pect­ing it, and then you’re to­tally trip­ping out.

It’s re­ally hard be­cause, some­times, you make art that doesn’t sell well, but it’s still im­por­tant to make the work. As an artist, you must sep­a­rate your­self from the idea of what’s go­ing to be suc­cess­ful. You’re not run­ning a shop. The artist’s role is to do the work that comes to you, and hon­our and re­spect that work by mak­ing it ex­ist. It’s re­ally out of your hands as to what works well and what doesn’t.

I’ve learnt that the best way I can write is the quiet way of wait­ing for ideas to “in­trude”. Part of be­ing in the in­dus­try is grow­ing in con­fi­dence and trust­ing in your own unique abil­ity, and not try­ing to chase what’s hap­pen­ing at the time. It’s not re­ally imag­i­na­tive to try and make some­thing that is liked by ev­ery­body else. By the time it gets out, it’ll sound so out of date any­way.

Life is full of in­cred­i­ble things, and ter­ri­ble things. It’s just a ride where you have to ex­pect the un­ex­pected.

Life has taught me that it’s un­ex­pected, that you don’t con­trol it. I’m not one of those peo­ple who is like, oh, you just put it out into the uni­verse

and it will all hap­pen. I don’t be­lieve that. Ob­vi­ously, you try and do as much as you can, but there are so many things in life that are beyond your con­trol. Los­ing my first hus­band when I was 29 was a big les­son in that fact. I think what I’ve learnt is that it’s im­por­tant to have a re­ally strong sense of self and cul­ti­vate good re­la­tion­ships.

I was singing “Stop Where You Are”— it’s all about be­ing in the present, and not think­ing about the fu­ture—when I saw a man and his two- or three-year-old daugh­ter. He threw her up in the air and caught her. I was like, oh, this is so in­cred­i­ble. Dur­ing the same con­cert, I was play­ing “Like a Star” and there was this cou­ple slow­danc­ing to the mu­sic. I thought to my­self, this is a mo­ment that’s hap­pen­ing be­tween us all now and we will never all be in the same place again. That’s what I re­ally en­joy about per­form­ing; there’s no past, there’s no fu­ture. It’s about mo­ments that just hap­pen.

I don’t mind if I am com­pletely for­got­ten. I don’t feel like I’m build­ing up a thing for his­tory or any­thing grand like that. The ben­e­fit that I get from do­ing mu­sic is so present. Once I’m not here, it won’t re­ally af­fect me whether peo­ple are like, oh, we

love her or we don’t re­mem­ber her at all. I’m not both­ered about what hap­pens after I’m not here. I feel like I won’t be con­nected to it. It’ll be some­one else’s turn.

The ad­vice that I re­ally like is some­thing that Patti Smith said: “Build a name and keep it clean.” You’ve got to think about your name all the time, what it rep­re­sents, what it means to you, what it means to other peo­ple. And to me, that’s a re­ally good way of help­ing me de­cide what things to do.

I’m get­ting to know my­self over time. That’s the other thing about iden­tity: it is con­stantly de­vel­op­ing. There’s maybe a core that is you, but there are also lay­ers that grow with new friends, new in­ter­ests, and new con­cepts and be­liefs. How I think about the world changes ac­cord­ing to what I see, who I’ve meet, and what I’ve learnt.

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