With two massively popular albums and numerous worldwide hits, Scottish soul singer Emeli Sandé proves to be a born superstar. But, of course, it all started somewhere. She opens up about the decisive musical moments in her life.
Has music always played an important role in your life?
Growing up in Scotland, where music is such an important part of the culture, I was obsessed with music ever since I was a kid. My father ran a school choir and I sang in one. But I also played the piano in different bands from an early age.
What was your first-ever music memory?
I remember my mom hoovering when I was 2 or 3 and hearing ‘The Only Way Is Up’ by Yazz on the radio. My mom used to love them. “Hold on! Hold on!” Those harmonies were just mind-blowing.
What made you decide to start writing your own songs?
When I was around 8 I loved making groups with friends and participate in talent shows. But we needed a song. So I thought: let’s just write my own one.
By the age of 16, you already turned down a record deal at Telstar. What was it like to get so much attention with your music at a young age?
It was really exciting and encouraging to see that by doing shows up in Aberdeen it was still possible to get noticed in London. That really doesn’t happen too often.
You met Naughty Boy at an aftershow. What did that mean for you?
That really meant a big deal. The people I was working with at the time lost their passion, but Naughty Boy allowed me to really develop, both as a writer and as an act.
After huge success in the UK, you took the big step to the US. How was it to introduce yourself over there?
Especially live-wise it was really exciting, because the US is the home of soul music. People appreciate your music on such a deep level. And it was unbelievable to hear my song ‘Next to Me’ get played on the radio for the first time.
“In the US, the home of soul, people appreciate my music on such a deep level.”
You often try to raise attention for social justice. What do you want to communicate with your music?
Music really empowered me as a kid, so I aim to do the same for other people. But I think it can also create a sense of community and make people feel less alone. I hope my music does that.
“I hope my music creates a sense of community and makes people feel less alone.”
You’ve performed for Obama, worked together with many musical superstars and won several awards. Out of all your career’s highlights, what was the biggest so far?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Almost all of it was really cool. Performing for Obama was wicked, of course. But in the end, getting the opportunity to make and release albums that I’m happy with is the absolute highlight. Because then I’m completely in control and in the end it’s where all the opportunities come from.
Which song from the album ‘Long Live the Angels’ are you proudest of?
Well, I love ‘Babe’. I don’t know if that’s the one I’m proudest of, but I do really like listening to it. Especially in the summer. But I also love the song ‘Happen’.
You carry a Frida Kahlo tattoo on your arm. What does it stand for?
I got the tattoo when I moved to London and decided to pursue a career in music. For me, she represents being bold and honest through art. It’s empowering and it reminds me that being a woman should never make me compromise on anything.
What does playing at North Sea Jazz Festival mean to you?
It’s a legendary event, so I’m really excited about it. Jazz is such a high form of music, and to be involved in it is a real honour.
What’s next big thing you’re working on?
I’m working on a new album and doing an arena tour to which I’m really looking forward. And, of course, I can’t wait to play all the festivals!