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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 December 2006, 10:35 GMT
Bailey Rae's year as Sound of 2006
By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Corinne Bailey Rae
Rae's debut album has sold almost a million copies in the UK alone
A year ago, British soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae came top of the BBC News website's Sound of 2006 survey, voted the best new act by more than 100 music pundits.

Here she talks about the stellar year she has enjoyed and how she has managed to keep her feet firmly on the ground since finding fame.

The top five acts in the Sound of 2007 survey will be counted down every day from Monday to Friday, when the winner and full top 10 will be revealed.

Over the past twelve months, Corinne Bailey Rae has graduated from promising newcomer to one of the country's most cherished artists, selling almost 2.5 million copies of her self-titled debut album.

"I'm really just pleased with the response," she says.

Corinne Bailey Rae
Corinne Bailey Rae starts a tour of Europe and the US in the spring
"It feels like all of the people I've met have been able to discover the album and it hasn't been forced down their throats.

"There are all different kinds of people at the gigs, from teenagers to 60-year-olds.

"And in America there's a really big gay following.

"I feel like we haven't tried to target it. It's just a bunch of songs I've worked on that hopefully are good."

Rae's broad appeal comes from her timeless, finely-crafted songs that hark back to the classic sounds of Stax and Motown.

Her soulful melodies and dusky, vulnerable voice have earned her two Mobo Awards and Mojo magazine's prize for best new act.

And she has also received three Grammy nominations, including in the prestigious record of the year and song of the year categories.

Avoiding celebrity

But this time last year, Rae said she wanted to "keep in the background" and "sneak home to Leeds" as often as possible. Has she been able to achieve those aims?

"It's been a real effort, but yes," she says.

The one weird thing is who you get compared to - it's Billie Holiday in one country and Tina Turner in another
Corinne Bailey Rae
"Press agents organise things where people go out and get drunk and their agent rings up the papers and says: 'So-and-so is going to be stumbling out of this pub.'

"I didn't realise it was as contrived and set up as that, but I've made a massive effort not to do it."

Rae may have managed to stay out of the gossip columns, but she has still been the focus of press attention wherever she has gone.

"You get the same questions everywhere," she smiles. "But the one weird thing is who you get compared to.

"It's Billie Holiday in one country, Tina Turner in another and Nelly Furtado somewhere else.

"And my biography got mis-translated in France, so I always get asked about my dad being Indian, even though he comes from the West Indies."

With her album released in 60 countries, Rae says she has accumulated "so many air miles" in 2006, but has no problem remembering one of the highlights of her year.

Jon Bon Jovi and Sir Elton John with Corinne Bailey Rae
The singer rubbed shoulders with music legends in 2006
"Three or four days ago, I was singing onstage and Stevie Wonder introduced me," she beams.

"I've got to meet him twice and he invited me to play at this charity gig and he loves the record. That's a big highlight."

Another music legend was less impressive, though. Rae was due to play at Prince's Las Vegas club in December but the show was cancelled.

"We didn't do that because Prince is being - I don't know if I'm allowed to say this - I guess he's sort of difficult to pin down," she says.

"But I suppose you want that from people of that level - you want that weirdness and elusiveness."

Second album

She admits she doesn't aim for Prince's iconic status - "I don't want to be a world superstar". But that is part of her charm.

The singer is enjoying a Christmas break until mid-January - but faces a hectic schedule when she returns.

"I can tell you exactly what I'm doing," she explains.

"We're doing a little bit of TV, then we're off to Japan for 10 days, then we play the Grammys and the Brits. After that is a tour, and the festivals.

"And then I've got some space to write the next album."

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