When Ringo Starr released his last recording “Enlarge” last year, the piece that warms the heart “Here are the nights”, featuring backing vocals from Paul McCartney, Sheryl Crow, Lenny Kravitz, Joe Walsh and British neo-soul star Corinne Bailey Rae.
“I jumped at the chance to do it” Bailey Rae explained. “It was Ringo and his friends and I was next to the Beatles sometimes. I covered a Paul McCartney song and I got to play at a Paul McCartney event at the White House. It was amazing. Everything the world was in its little squares (on Zoom) when we recorded it, and we got to sing along. It was so Ringo, so friendly.
Two-time Grammy winner, considered one of the great modern soul singers of our time, Bailey Rae returns to Maui on Friday to perform at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center as part of her North American summer. “Tower of the Sun.”
“Can’t wait to see Maui again,” she enthuses. “It seemed like a magical place the first time I came to Hawaii. The spirit of the people was really lovely.
Kicking off her East Coast tour before heading to Canada, Bailey Rae is thrilled to be back on the road.
“We couldn’t tour for about two years and couldn’t rehearse with the band, and making recordings was really difficult.” she says. “Being on the road and riding in new cities is such a blessing. To be part of bringing people together again is really special. The public is really enjoying being outside.
With notable fans including Stevie Wonder and Prince, Bailey Rae has recorded with jazz legend Herbie Hancock and soul great Al Green, and performed at the White House for President Obama.
Her hit debut album topped the UK charts in 2006 and sold 4 million copies worldwide. The global hit single “Put your records on”, was nominated for Grammy Awards for Record and Song of the Year in 2007, and her single “Like a star” from the self-titled album, was nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year in 2008.
Born in Leeds, she was exposed to a variety of music growing up, from Motown to Bjork, and cites Billie Holiday and Nirvana as her main early influences. After studying English Literature at the University of Leeds, she played with an independent band before going solo, and quickly won acclaim as “the Sade of her age.”
How was it for her to be compared to a legend like Sade?
“It was a huge honor” she says. “All these different names were thrown around at the beginning like Billie Holiday, and I was very grateful. I’ve always loved the elegance of Sade. All the people I meet who are giants, I’m always amazed to be alongside them and what I can learn.
These giants include Stevie Wonder – she hung out at his house and sang with him – and Prince, who came to one of his concerts.
“I went to his house and his church” she said of Wonder. “It was amazing. He’s so generous with his time. He’s really caring and a good listener. I’ve sung with him a few times. If I’m there and he’s there, I often get a call, very late, about 10 minutes before they continue saying, ‘you want to do this’ or ‘he wants to know if you know this song.’ He works everything to the last minute. To me, he’s the greatest living musician and songwriter.
Finding Prince was a fan of his music “It was a real trip. I was able to meet him and he was so playful and kind. she says. “I always feel like the brightest people are always the nicest people. Spiky people are insecure and harbor an illusion or a mask. I hung out with him quite a bit in Abu Dhabi. This are people in my pantheon of heroes, so getting their approval goes a long way to keep believing in me.
When jazz icon Herbie Hancock decided to pay tribute to Joni Mitchell with the “River: Joni’s Letters”, he invited Bailey Rae to sing the title track. It won a Grammy for Album of the Year.
“It was my first time working with Herbie,” she remembers. “I was also able to do a lot of different things together. He is another big cheerleader for me.
Bailey Rae’s critically acclaimed second album “The sea,” was released after the 2008 death of her husband, who died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and methadone, according to the UK’s The Guardian. She told the outlet that she didn’t write or work for an entire year because “Life is gone.”
She kept releasing “The sea” in 2010. He was hailed by The Telegraph of the UK as a “an album that suggests Nina Simone is singing a modern version of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.”
A sensual version of Bob Marley “Is this love,” went on to win him a Grammy for Best R&B Performance. It was included on his EP “Love” in 2011, as well as Paul McCartney & Wings covers “My love,” and that of the prince “I want to be your lover.”
His last album, “The heart speaks in a whisper” felt ecstatic, like a ray of sunshine shining through a cloudy day.
“It was about coming out of heaviness into playfulness and freedom, gratitude and joy,” she says. “I wanted to be free and really sensitive to my heart.”
Bailey Rae performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $35, $55, and $75, with a limited number of premium seats at $125 (plus applicable fees). Tickets are available at mauiarts.org.