Born in Singapore, but now based in Los Angeles, Corrinne May didn’t always think she was going to be a musician. It wasn’t exactly looked upon as an ideal career to most practical-minded Singaporeans, who oftentimes steer their children towards careers in law, medicine or business.
Then again, perhaps her mother had an inkling. Named after her mother’s favourite song ‘Corinna, Corinna’, she trained in classical piano from the age of 5 and won her first songwriting competition at 15, modeling her earliest songs after popular songs in the 80’s such as those by The Carpenters, U2, Hall and Oates and Abba. She grew up a self-confessed tomboy, choosing to join the cadet corps over the school choir. There, she earned her marksmanship on the AR-15 rifle and spent hours with her fellow platoon-mates shouting military commands and marching up and down her school’s parade square. She was also a school prefect at the academically elite, all-girl’s Raffles Girls Secondary School, and regularly sent her fellow students to detention over too-short skirt hemlines or too-long fingernails.
Thankfully, that soon gave way to more artistic pursuits. She honed her love for Shakespeare with an honours degree in English Literature at the National University of Singapore, and pursued her passion for songwriting and film-scoring at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating with a Bachelor of Music. She then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her musical aspirations.
She released her debut album Corrinne May in 2001 and the album featured the ballad “If You Didn’t Love Me”, co-written with iconic songwriters Carole King and Carole Bayer Sager. The album also earned her the “Kerrville New Folk Award” among 600 contenders at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, TX and the Performing Songwriter Magazine praised the album, calling it a “touching and enchanting record” and likening May’s voice to “the haunting otherworldliness of artists like Sarah McLachlan and Sting with the open veracity of Joni Mitchell”.
The album was subsequently re-titled Fly Away and released in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore and the title track’s music video was featured on MTV Asia. Her song ‘Journey’ was covered by popular Mandarin singers Angela Zhang and Gigi Leung and became a hit after being featured as a theme song in the Taiwanese drama ‘Dolphin Bay Lovers.’
She followed that with Safe in a Crazy World in 2005 and the songs ‘Everything in Its Time’ (co-written with Carole Bayer Sager)
and ‘Save Me’ were featured in the Singapore television series ‘Chase’ which helped to propel the album to the top of the Singapore charts for two weeks. As a result of the album’s success, she had a string of
sold-out concerts at the Esplanade Concert Hall and recital halls in Singapore.
2006 saw the release of the Christmas record The Gift which featured a song ‘The Answer’. The song featured lyrics by Corrinne May, set to the much beloved tune of ‘Jupiter’ from Gustav Holst ‘The Planets’ suite. The album also featured an acapella music setting to the traditional prayer ‘Hail Mary’. The Christmas concert held in conjunction with the album’s release saw Corrinne performing on stage with a 24-piece choir, an 8-piece string ensemble and a full band. The concert, staged at the Esplanade Concert Hall, was a sold-out success.
Beautiful Seed released by Warner Music Singapore in August 2007 achieved platinum status in Singapore, with sales exceeding 15,000, after achieving gold status within its first month. After debuting the material from the album at a sold-out concert in Singapore’s 1600-seat University Cultural Center Hall in August, May embarked on her very first tour of Japan, doing in-store shows to standing room only crowds at Tower Records locations in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka. She also debuted the material for her Los Angeles fans in a full-band concert at the 800-seater Aratani Theatre,
and performed the songs at the Hotel Café, Genghis Cohen and Molly Malones.
In recognition of her contributions to the Singapore and regional music scenes, Corrinne received the Young Composer of the Year award and Wings of Excellence award from COMPASS, the performing rights society of Singapore, in 2007. She was also honoured by her alumni, the National University of Singapore who presented her with the ‘Outstanding Young Alumni Award’, and she represented Singapore at the MIDEM conference showcase in Cannes, France in 2008.
In 2010, Corrinne May was commissioned to write the National Day Theme Song for Singapore’s National Day. She sang her composition ‘Song For Singapore’ at the Padang in front of a 40,ooo strong crowd and the song was also telecast in a live broadcast to the whole nation.
She also sang at a fundraising concert at the Divine Mercy Church to raise funds for Caritas, the charitable arm of the Catholic Church in Singapore and sang in a concert for the International Volunteers Day at the Marina Barrage in December 2010.
More recently, Corrinne wrote the song ‘Beautiful Life’ in conjunction with the theme of the Esplanade’s 10th anniversary, a ‘celebration of life’ and debuted the song at the Esplanade outdoor theatre in October 2011 and at the live broadcast of the Singapore Radio Awards in November 2011. The song is the first single from her new album ‘Crooked Lines' which is currently enjoying extensive airplay on Class 95 FM in Singapore.
'Crooked Lines', Corrinne’s 5th album is set to be released in March 2012 in Singapore, with releases in other countries to follow.