How Corinne Bailey Rae Found Love – and Her Voice – Again After Losing Her First Husband

"Just the possibility that I could, in some distant point, be happy meant a big deal to me," says Rae, whose first husband died in 2008

Photo: Chris Floyd

When Corinne Bailey Rae‘s first husband, Jason Rae, died of an accidental overdose in 2008, she was left rudderless.

“When you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s so much about tearing down the walls between you two that you sort of confuse what is you and what is them. When you lose them, you question: ‘What is left of me?'” says Bailey, who opens up about love after loss in the new issue of PEOPLE and on her album, The Heart Speaks in Whispers, out now.

“There was no specific turning point,” says Rae of recovering from the devastating heartbreak. “Imagine silence, and then slowly the volume gets turned back up on life.”

To pick up the pieces, Rae turned to music and poetry, friends – and Yoko Ono.

“I’d see interviews of people who’d been widowed. I’d be looking at the picture of, like, Yoko Ono, thinking, ‘Does she look happy?'” says Rae of the singer, who was widowed when John Lennon was assassinated in 1980. “And I’d look and think, ‘She does; she looks happy.’ Just the possibility that I could, in some distant point, be happy meant a big deal to me.”

Over time, she found happiness again with a friend, producer Steve Brown, and they wed in 2013.

“I found myself wanting to spend loads of time with him. You don’t even know what’s happening; you’re just like, ‘I want to hang out with him all the time,'” says Rae, now 37.

Letting herself love again took time, though.

“If you aren’t comparing the person you meet to the person you lost – and that’s a definite stage – you’re not thinking about what has come before, you’re just thinking about the newness,” she says.

For more on Corinne Bailey Rae, pick up the new issues of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

Adds the Grammy winner: “I knew [Steve] as a friend for so long, and I’d gotten to know his family really well. So once we were really ready, I felt that I could just dive deep into it.”

Most recently, the longtime collaborators-turned-lovers dove in deep in the studio, co-producing The Heart Speaks in Whispers.

“I would love for people to take encouragement and hope from the record, I really would,” says Rae. “Because people talk to me about their experiences. And I say: ‘The way it feels now, it’s not always going to feel the same way.’ I feel like no one ever says that. You feel like, ‘I can’t live in this pain.’ But you can and you will. It won’t last forever.”

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