Born in Leeds, Corinne Bailey Rae, 44, studied English at the University of Leeds. In 2006, she released her self-titled debut album, which became a UK No 1 and gave her the global hits Put Your Records On and Like a Star. She has two Grammy awards and two Mobos. Black Rainbows, her first album of new material in seven years, has just been released. She is married with two children and lives in Leeds.
What is your earliest memory?
Being in our flat on the fifth floor with my mum and dad. We could look out and see this big garden. I remember the sun being blinding, and my dad’s friend arriving with a soft toy penguin in a plastic bag for me.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Lying in the bath reading The World of Interiors.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
My mum, for the way that she brought up her three children and managed to make her money work. She worked as a cleaner for all these families we went to church with. She would cycle there with my little sister on the back of her bike – we didn’t have a car. She had an amazing mind for planning and organising so that we got to do ballet, we went to Brownies.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
I remember being a teenager and writing this romantic short story in the style of the Brontës on a computer and I didn’t realise that the person whose computer it was could just print it out. A group of boys had a couple of pages and they were all reading it.
What makes you unhappy?
Which book are you ashamed not to have read?
I’m not really ashamed, but I haven’t read Lord of the Rings.
Would you choose fame or anonymity?
Fame. I write songs and sometimes people stop me on the street and talk to me about the songs and what they mean to them, and to do that people have to know that it’s you.
Who is your celebrity crush?
What is the worst job you’ve done?
I worked in a cafe, which I loved, but when it was quiet we had to scrape the fat out from between the tiles on the floor with a butter knife.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn’t change anything. When I was 29, my first husband died, so I learned a new way of thinking about life, which is: there are many things that you can’t control.
When did you last cry, and why?
Listening to a song that my brother-in-law – the brother of Jason, my first husband – wrote, about how hard it was to live without his brother.
How often do you have sex?
When we get the opportunity to be away from our children and our work.
What is the closest you’ve come to death?
When my first husband died, because it felt like my life was over, and it was challenging to keep in life at the time.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
My mum looks after our kids all the time, but on the very few weeks she takes time off, doing it all is a big juggle. My mum is a combination of Mary Poppins and Angela Davis, so I’d clone her.
What keeps you awake at night?
All the big ones – climate change, safety for our children, money.
Tell us a secret
I am secretly a bit mean. People think I’m really nice – I remember being in a lift and someone said to me, “I bet you’ve never done a mean thing in your whole life.” My closest friends know that I can be quite acerbic, and in my private world I’m very opinionated.