Corinne Bailey Rae grew up in Leeds, England, and started singing at church at an early age. "People think it must have been a gospel church because of the whole, you know, black assumption," she says in her bio, in reference to her mixed race background. "But it wasn't gospel at all," she adds. "Just your regular brethren church -- very middle class." Singing in church allowed Rae to develop her talent and broaden her tastes in music, and when her youth leader offered to buy her an electric guitar she jumped at the chance.
Rae put the violin she had been playing down and took up the guitar with a vengeance. With a burgeoning love for Led Zeppelin to inspire her, she decided that writing her own music was the key to her future. So when the 15-year-old first heard noisy, female-fronted bands such as Veruca Salt and L7, she immediately wanted in. Enter Helen. Rae and her teenage cohorts may not have been great at picking band names, but they knew how to rock. The group cultivated a large, loyal following and eventually record labels came a-calling. Having signed to Roadrunner Records, Rae felt she had finally fulfilled her destiny. But when the bassist told the band she was pregnant, the group fragmented. Helen was eventually dropped and Rae was gutted. "I had no idea what to do next," she says of those chaotic times.
When in doubt, go back to school. Not a bad motto, and certainly a good fallback for the musician. Immersing herself in English Lit studies by day, she worked as a coat-check girl in a local jazz club at night. Occasionally, she would get up and sing with the band and it felt like she was back in church again, the way new musical ideas washed over her. Moving away from her indie roots to a more soulful sound, Corinne began writing the acoustic-based, chill-out songs that would find their way onto her eponymous debut album. Released in 2006, Corinne Bailey Rae charmed U.K. music lovers with a handful of organic, soul-infused gems such as "Put Your Record On" and "Like a Star."