Corinne Bailey Rae talks new album, love of Olympics

Corinne Bailey Rae performs at The Living Room Series at The Microsoft Lounge.

Invision for Microsoft

Corinne Bailey Rae is back with a new sound and newfound freedom in her third studio album, "The Heart Speaks In Whispers."

The British singer-songwriter first came onto the scene in 2006 with her debut album "Corinne Bailey Rae," best known for global hits like "Put Your Records On" and "Like A Star." Now Rae is rocking out on stages across America on her U.S. tour.

Rae recently paid a special visit to the 12th annual Grammy Camp in Brooklyn to talk with high-school students from across the globe about her journey to success. After she talked to the teens about the music industry, she spoke with CBS News about her new album and her love of the Olympics.

What made you want to be a part of the Grammy camp event today?

I think it is really great to be around young people who make music and who have a great talent. And I think the most important message to tell them is just that you have to be yourself and that you don't have to be like anyone else.

You don't have to work where anyone else has worked before. You can write songs about anything. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. You don't have to look a certain way or be a certain way. I just want to show them that there is so much freedom in the music industry, and there is so much freedom in creativity. So I like to be a part of events that encourage young people to be themselves.

Is that something that you knew getting into the industry or is that something you've learned over time?

I think that it is something that I found just being a young person. You know, I felt like I was doing things which didn't necessarily fit in. And I have found that no one really cared about whether it fit in or not, and I just found that there was a lot of freedom. The more musicians I meet, the more time I've spent with people in the last few years, the more I've realized that freedom is the job of the artist. So that is something that is very close to my heart.


Singer Corinne Bailey Rae speaks to attendees during GRAMMY Camp NY at Converse Rubber Tracks Studio.

Cindy Ord, WireImage for The Recording Academy

Do you ever find that difficult to have that freedom in the industry given the pressure that artists face today?

I don't find it difficult because I think really early on, I set myself up as a songwriter and a producer; I have my own studio. So I think I just am responding to my own instincts to make stuff. And that means that it has to be in that way.

I wanted to ask you about your new album. It took you a bit of time to come out with this latest one. How did you know that it was the right time and when you had the final product?

I just felt like I have to finish it and it has to be out now because I had been working on it for so long and had been experimenting in loads of different ways. I like writing songs but once you have that song, there are so many ways that you can execute it in the world. Are you going to do it on a click, or are you going to do it in free time, or are you working with musicians, or everybody playing at the same time, or are you going to build it up in layers, who are you going to work with and where, and how should it sound. And I just feel like I was exploring all of these questions on all the songs. And eventually I was just like, "I, you know, need to be happy." And I think the tiny changes I could have made would have taken so much longer, and other people wouldn't really notice.

I just felt I was happy enough with each of the songs, you know. I felt like some of them were more filmic and some of them were more joyous, and it was really important for me to put them together and have them be that body, that record of what I had been doing the past few years.

And now that it has been out for a few months does it feel like a huge weight has been lifted? Or do you still find yourself thinking, "Oh I could have done this or that."

I think both of those things. I mean, I think that I feel really free from doing it. I think, "Ah, I'm so glad it is out because I have been working on it for so long." You know instantly other ideas have come in, and other opportunities to play on other people's records and write for films. And so that has been really great, thinking about, "Okay, now I can change my focus completely.'

I also have really enjoyed just being able to tour and be in front of an audience and play a song -- a song that took me ages to record and that I worked on in so many different ways. And then when you play it live it is over in five minutes. And I kind of love the immediacy of that compared to, you know, working in a studio which is so detailed and stuff. So yeah, I feel great relief that it is out and really happy at the way it has been received. But I'm always tinkering and there's definitely songs that I'm like, "Oh, I would love to remix that, I would love to do bits and pieces."

You are also a producer on this album and you have been on some of your previous ones. Does it make any difference in the creative process for you as an artist being a producer as well?

Yeah, I think it is different. And I think when you are writing, there's apparently this -- you know, you aren't meant to introduce the critic too early on. I think sometimes when you are writing you are just supposed to let it pour out and be open and you know, have three verses and be seven minutes long, or whatever it is. Whereas obviously the producer is always thinking, "We need to make this more concise, we need to bring this into focus." So sometimes it is hard not to be in the next stage of "How are you going to make it into a thing?" and stay in the "letting it through" phase. I just really want to learn so much. That's the main reason.

I also wanted to ask you -- since it's happening now -- I know you lent your voice to the Olympics song "Fire" this year. Talk to me about what that was like.

It was amazing! I love the Olympics and I wish that was the way we could solve all of our international crises. I loved watching the Opening Ceremony and seeing you know a huge country with loads of delegates and then you see one Caribbean Island with the two runners that they've got. And you think, 'Gah, that's amazing.'

Everyone is on this equal playing field. I have always really enjoyed watching the Olympics. And I liked that song and the Roots. I know Questlove well -- we have worked together before. So I was really pleased to be asked alongside Lenny Kravitz, who I've been a fan of since I was in his first record. So yeah, that was really great.

Is there any specific sport you are looking forward to?

I always like to see Usain Bolt because I just love seeing him perform. I love the idea that they have been working towards it for four years. It would almost be like you write an album and you record it and then you only get to do one gig, or something. So there is so much pressure on this one event.

Sometimes you see them, and it goes completely wrong. And you see the devastation on their face. They are not going to get to do this again for four years. But I just really like all the running things and gymnastics as well.