Interview: Corinne Bailey Rae, singer

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WHEN honey-voiced soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae emerged on the back of being voted the "Sound of 2006" in a BBC poll, the press were quick to hail her as Britain's answer to Billie Holiday, but with none of Lady Day's tragic, merry-go-round life.

The shy lass from Leeds went on to become a global superstar, winning a Grammy Award, selling four million albums and not only taking up residence in her own country's charts but also cracking the lucrative US market.

Bailey Rae may have become the woman of the moment after hits like Put Your Records On and Like A Star, but sadly she was soon to get the tragic backstory (a la Holiday) to go with the success.

A couple of years back, the singer's husband, Scots-born saxophonist Jason Rae, died after an accidental overdose of methadone and alcohol.

Speaking ahead of her visit to the Queen's Hall on Thursday, Bailey Rae says that she embraced the pain she'd experienced when making second album The Sea, a record that is haunted by the ghost of her late husband.

"I wanted to be open," says the 30-year-old. "I'm aware that I can't hide any of my feelings. With music I feel like it's the one time when I don't have to think and I don't have to contrive anything. So that's how this record turned out. It's not contrived, it's just open."

Shy and unassuming as she is, Bailey Rae doesn't talk herself up the way some artists do, and yet The Sea is an album that puts her up there with the best songwriters in the business.

"All these songs have come from me and they're all about capturing a performance with musicians I know and trust," she says.

Bailey Rae, who has relatives in Musselburgh, says she can't wait to return to Edinburgh. "It's been a few years now since I last visited the city, so I can't wait to come back. I played T in the Park and that was great fun, and I always love playing to Scottish audiences who always make me feel welcome.

"The thing I like most about playing gigs is that they are one-off moments that will never be repeated," she adds.

Bailey Rae reveals that her set in Edinburgh will comprise songs from both her studio albums, including her own favourite song to play live, the jazz-flavoured I Would Like To Call It Beauty.

"I guess that song is about my experiences of late," she says candidly. "It's about grief and what it does and the things it makes you aware of."

The singer's hugely- acclaimed sophomore album, which was released earlier this year and drew rave reviews across the board, saw her nominated for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, though she claims she was glad to lose out to London indie trio the XX at last month's ceremony.

"It's a bit of a funny award, isn't it?" she says. "It's the one that no-one really wants to win because they say the winners are cursed. Seriously, I was just happy to be on the shortlist. It was good exposure for me.

"Being nominated meant playing to an audience who aren't used to seeing me. I'm all for that."

Bailey Rae says she always writes "from personal experience" and that "experience" has been wide and varied. The daughter of a West Indian father and Yorkshire mother, she started singing as a child in her local church.

"We'd sing a cappella hymns, but because there were no instruments we'd create these amazing harmonies. It was a brilliant sound," she says.

Then, as a teen, she discovered the electric guitar, Radiohead and Led Zeppelin, which in turn introduced her to bands such as L7 and Veruca Salt.

She recalls, "It was the first time that I'd seen women with guitars. They were kind of sexy but feminist. I wanted to be like that, at the front of something."

Judging by her career juggernaut, she may already have got her wish.

Corinne Bailey Rae, Queen's Hall, Clerk Street, Thursday, 7pm, 19.50, 0131-668 2019