Accepting transformation: Black artists influence Corinne Bailey Rae's new music

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Sep. 30—There are often moments in one's life when transformation is made.

For Corinne Bailey Rae, it was a visit in 2017 to the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago that forever changed her life.

"There was something about entering those doors that was special," Bailey Rae says. "Coming out of there, I felt really excited about the record."

Built in 1923 on the South Side of Chicago as a community savings and loan, the building was purchased by renowned artist Theaster Gates in 2012 and reimagined into a cathedral of Black art — 17,000 square feet housing a one-of-a-kind space for innovation in contemporary art and archival practice.

Among them are house music legend Frankie Knuckles' 5,000-deep vinyl collection, a trove of 15,000 books and periodicals donated by the Johnson Publishing Company — publisher of Ebony and Jet magazine — and a collection of "negrobilia" that includes postcards depicting lynching and ashtrays sculpted in the images of Black children.

"There's a tension among all the objects," she says. "I was interested, and I found myself intrigued by it all."

That inspiration carried over and informed her latest album, "Black Rainbows."

Bailey Rae is currently on tour and is slated to make a stop on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe.

The English musician rose to fame in 2006 with her self-titled debut album, which topped the UK charts and featured hits like "Put Your Records On" and "Like A Star." Since then, she's picked up two Grammy Awards.

Bailey Rae worked on the material for "Black Rainbows," for nearly seven years. In that time, she became a mother and found the balance among the many roles.

Bailey Rae admits that the album is supposed to be two parts.

"I haven't finished the second half yet," she says. "I'm still getting to know the work and it will come. When I finish the next 10 songs, I feel like I will be able to tell a complete story, all inspired by this place."

Bailey Rae is also not in a hurry to finish the second part of the project. She's focusing on "Black Rainbows" right now and giving it time to breathe.

Becoming a mother has also changed her focus.

"I feel more focused now that I have young children," she says. "I've been in this weird hormone dream space. I feel I get lost and then the song ideas come. Though, when I have those moments, I have to stick to an allotted time. The moments spent writing are those when my children are doing other tasks."

Bailey Rae has also placed her hands in a number of projects in different mediums — each challenging her.

"The main thing for me is my exposure to the arts bank has been a real transformation in the way that I've seen myself," she says. "Coming out of having lots of success with my first record — which I'm so grateful of — you can start to feel, especially when you work with major labels, that you have to go on repeating a particular type of pattern, 'We want you to make sunny, up-tempo, positive songs that also might be about love.' I want to make more than that."