Corinne Bailey Rae: UKNY Q&A
Corinne Bailey Rae's fourth album, Black Rainbows, was not only the Leeds-born singer, songwriter and composer's first album in seven years, but it represented a journey that was at once personal, artistic, and edifying in her deep exploration of Black history, literature, and culture.
While on tour for her 2016 album, The Heart Speaks in Whispers, Rae first visited Chicago's Stony Island Arts Bank, a gallery, archive, library, and performance space founded by installation artist, urban planner, and professor Theaster Gates, capturing all facets of the Black experience in the United States. For Rae, that first time at the bank-turned-artistic haven was a watershed moment, leading to a series of visits, a residency, and ongoing global networking with artists, playwrights, photographers, writers and fellow musicians.
That dedicated immersion led to 2023's Black Rainbows, the first of what Rae says will be two albums inspired by her extraordinary and edifying journey. She has also published a book, Reflections/Refractions at the Stony Island Arts Bank, featuring a transcript of a conversation with Gates, and images by South African photographer Koto Bolofo.
Rae is a consummate and compelling storyteller and our conversation covered not only some of the songs on the album — like the punk rocker "New York Transit Queen," inspired by Audrey Smaltz —but how this experience of research and recording altered her life and artistic decisions.
In addition, Rae will bring the songs of Black Rainbows and her other albums back to New York this winter, playing eight shows at the Blue Note Jazz Club from February 15-18.