Two to Tango: Corinne Bailey Rae and Ruth B - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Corinne Bailey Rae | photo by Alexandra Valenti // Ruth B | photo by Cameron Postforoosh | courtesy of the artists

Either one of these jazzily emotive vocalists and songwriters could headline a show alone. So then to have the Mistress of gossamer R&B Corinne Bailey Rae and the Lady of funky soul Ruth B on one bill, at Union Transfer this July 31, is both magnetic and shocking. Each of these artists were in different parts of the world (Rae in Korea) when they responded to my call, and each was pleased as punch to be connected to the other.

The Key: I know that the two of you haven’t met. So, there’s that. What impression, however, do you have of each other’s music?

Corinne Bailey Rae: The first time I heard Ruth’s music was from my young niece singing “Lost Boy.” I thought it was such a charming song.

Ruth B: I’ve always been a fan of Corrine’s music. I think she’s an incredible writer and her voice is one of a kind. I always admired her ability to be honest and vulnerable in her music.

TK: Without the chemistry of having met, how can you tell that this will be a good bill?

CBR: I think and feel that our music will work well together — we’re both writers and like telling stories. I like the way Ruth puts herself across, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that works in her live show.

RB: Because I would be interested in going to a show like ours. I think we’ll both enjoy leaving our stories and hearts on the stage.

TK: Let’s talk about your music: whether from your own pen or another writer, what do you want from a great song or collaborative songwriter? Has that changed since your career started?

CBR: I look for different things in different songs. Mostly, I have no expectations. I can be overwhelmed by something super intimate or something that strikes me as universal, something that is epic and grand or something that’s very humble. I love songs that make me think, I love songs that make me cry, I love songs that make me dance. I think the best songs are hard to pin down, they do lots of things for you, but they also work differently at different times based on your emotions or what you are going through.

RB: I think my main goal when writing now is to just keep it as honest as I can and not to get caught up in the technicalities of writing. I used to try to be so precise with syllables and rhyming and whatnot, which can still be cool, but I think the most important part is just to write from your heart and hope for the best.

TK: Looking at your most recent music or upcoming projects: how do you feel they differ from your previous projects? And what, if anything, influenced these changes?

CBR: My work is constantly evolving. It’s really important to me that I never do the same thing twice. I like to challenge myself and push in different directions. I feel very lucky that my audience has stayed with me over the years and during a set we can play music with heavy distorted guitars one minute and electro-jazz with synths the next.

RB: Change is always important. I think evolving is something that happens naturally, as a person, and as a writer. So I don’t think when I was making the new music that I was thinking “this has to be different from my last project” it just kind of happens ’cause you’re in a different place than you were when you writing before.

TK: How long have you been in the music business and how do you think that time has affected what you do, particularly in the context to your newest project and this tour?

CBR: The music business is weird! I like to think what I do is just music in general! I have been making music since I was a child. I was writing songs, I liked looking out the window making up stories and putting music to them, and I played the violin. However, I consider my start in the music business when I was 15 and started my band Helen. That’s when I started to take it seriously.

TK: Going back to touring – both of you have been at this game for a minute. Do you enjoy touring? Does touring get harder or easier — especially considering today’s importance of touring as a source of revenue?

CBR: I love touring, but, my work goes in cycles. There’s the time when I have to write; the time I’m in studio, deep in it; and the exciting time when I’m desperate to share what I’ve done — that starts the tour and I do it until I have to get away again…

RB: Touring is definitely something I had to grow to love, as I was a really shy performer, but I’ve learned to love it and embrace the thrill that being on stage gives.

TK: How do you view your audience? Is there a distinct level of interactivity between you and the audience? Or is there a deep, but passive listenership?

CBR: There’s tons of interaction between the audience and ourselves. Every show is different and so much of that is down to the audience. We don’t use backing tracks so we are free to move with the vibe of the room.

RB: I think it depends on the show it self. It’s kind of like a date. No two dates are ever the same. That’s how I see my relationships with the audience.

TK: Is there any trepidation going into a live setting you aren’t familiar with, or is that part of the fun or challenge?

CBR: I’m generally not nervous about going into a new city or venue. It’s exciting with new people, food, and culture. I fell in love with Oahu, Hawaii recently; we saw whales breaching off the North Shore.

RB: It’s always a little scary but now more than ever it’s exciting.

TK: What will you do as soon as your set is done?

CBR: I always have so much adrenaline post show. I like to meet the audience when possible or hang out with the band.

RB: Eat!

Corinne Bailey Rae and Ruth B play Union Transfer on Wednesday, July 31st. Tickets and more information on the show can be found here.

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