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WITH four nominations, Emeli Sande is tipped to be crowned Queen of the Brits this week.
But the singer from Alford, Aberdeenshire, got her first taste of fame at a council-run talent show in Inverurie town hall.
At the age of 12, Emeli – then known by her birth name Adele – failed to get through the audition stages at her first attempt.
But the following year, she came a respectable third and collected a cheque for £150.
And later, as part of teenage a cappella trio Celeste, she finally hit the top slot but had to share the £500 first prize with bandmates Nadia Donald and Lorna Routh.
Emeli’s dad Joel, relaxing at the family home in Alford, said: “At every school concert, she wanted to perform.
“She entered the Inverurie talent show the first time and sang Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret and Mariah Carey’s I Will Never Forget You.
“She moved on to Christina Aguilera when she entered a second time and later chose the gospel song I Sing Because I’m Happy/His Eye Is On The Sparrow and Woman’s Work by Alicia Keys.”
Mum Diane, posing at the piano where Emeli worked on her earliest songs, added: “She didn’t get through to the finals that first time but that didn’t put her off.
“When she entered the second time, she came third.
“And winning with Celeste, when they sang Bridge Over Troubled Water and Fields of Gold a cappella, was a fun night.”
George Mitchell, who produced the shows for Gordon District Council, said: “One of the lovely people we came across at these talent shows was a wonderful young lady who is now world famous.
“I have a distinct memory of sitting there on a cold Sunday morning at her very first audition.
“She came in, sang and everybody held their breath as they listened to her. She commanded the hall.
“We used to advise all the contestants on how they could improve their performance so we talked to Emeli, who was still known as Adele at that time.
“She listened and took on board everything we said. She was a lovely person in every sense of the word.”
Emeli had turned 16 by the time she got her first big break, thanks to another talent contest for Trevor Nelson’s BBC3 TV show Rhythm Nation.
She won but turned down the first prize – a short term record deal with Telstar.
Joel said: “She had to turn it down because, having read through the contract, it didn’t give her enough security or longevity.
“It was just for one single and maybe one other after that. She needed something to fall back on.”
The teenage singer returned to Scotland empty-handed, unaware that Carlton Dixon, a producer for BBC3, had spotted her talent and tipped off music business acquaintance Adrian Sykes.
Adrian, who is now her manager, said: “Carlton told me he had found a great girl and that I had to go and see her. Being London-centric, I thought he was going to send me south of the Thames.
“When he told me she was actually in Aberdeen, I was like, ‘Oh, God, really?’ But he persuaded me to go.
“Danny D, a music publisher friend of mine, and I got on a plane, got a taxi from the airport to her house, met the family and sat down to this lovely little girl plinking out some tunes.
“She performed a song called Matchstick Girl. Even at 16, she was clearly incredibly talented.
“She was still at school, a grade A student, just about to take her Highers.
“She had a great determination and she was writing really good songs even then. She was just about to blossom.”
Perhaps mistrustful of the music business, Joel taped the conversation as Adrian pitched for a chance to develop her career.
He said: “People came and schmoozed and talked about the good things and never about the downside of the industry.
“I wanted to make sure we could review what had been said before making any decisions.
“So I recorded all the meetings of the people who came over.” Adrian added: “I can understand why he felt the need to tape those conversations. We were the big record company people coming up from London.
“Joel and Diane were brilliant with us though, incredibly courteous and welcoming.
“They were genuinely pleased that someone else believed in their daughter the way they did.”
Source: The Daily Record