This haunting number is the title track from English singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae's second studio album. The Sea was recorded mostly in Limefield Studios, a house in suburban Manchester co-owned by Steve Brown (who co-produced the tracks recorded there) which was once an old ballroom and has been converted into a recording space. However this track, the first song Bailey Rae recorded for the album, was taped in a far more bleak location. She explained on her record label's website: "We recorded it in a barn near Scarborough in winter, very close to the sea itself. It was freezing cold, the wind was wild and the air was very different that night. And above us was an amazing sky full of stars as there were no street lights for miles. It's a very special recording to me."
This song was written about the death of Bailey Rae's maternal grandfather in a tragic boating accident. The powerful elucidation of loss was written before the singer's husband, Jason, died of an accidental overdose in 2008, however its message resonated with Bailey Rae all the more powerfully after she found herself on her own. She explained: "It was a family story that I had grown up with and never asked much about, but I had never realized that my aunt had been there, on the beach, when it happened. She could see it unfolding but was powerless to do anything about it. It made me think about how that grief and sense of powerlessness can shape a person, watching something that's going to change your life for ever? So really that song is about how that grief has affected her. And obviously it's strange to me having lost Jason since then that I was thinking so much about grief."
The Daily Mirror January 29, 2010 asked Bailey Rae if she felt she predicted Jason's death, in writing about the loss of her grandfather in this song. The English singer-songwriter replied: "It was strange I'd written about that, it's a reason I liked the record so much when I came back - things took on different meanings," she said. "I engaged with the songs in a different way. The Sea had a feeling of being protected. I was thinking of spiritual experiences and connection. I was really happy to hear that song from this side, thinking I feel that even more now. I'd made a record I could still relate to."
Corinne Bailey Rae regularly plays the autoharp, and the English songstress composed this tune using chords that she'd composed on the string instrument.