EMELI Sande has performed to millions at the London Olympics, but her neighbours drew the line at her attempts at singing in the shower as a youngster.
At 10 years old, Emeli – then known by her birth name Adele Sande – loved to perform songs such as The Little Mermaid and Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You to anybody who’d listen.
At Wednesday night’s Brit awards she is nominated for three categories. But she didn’t always get rounds of applause from nearby households in Alford, Aberdeenshire.
Emeli’s sister Lucy recalled: “She was always a singer. Even before school she was singing Disney songs like The Little Mermaid. That was a particular favourite.
“She sang Mariah Carey songs that dad had in his record collection.
“I remember the house would be filled with her singing all the big ballads.
“Those were probably the first songs she sang and I knew how good she was, even when she was just seven years old or maybe even younger.
“Mum and Dad tell me that they used to tend to her crying as a baby until they realised that she was singing.
“She would sing in the bathroom and the neighbours would complain or comment that they could hear her singing in the shower.”
By then Emeli had already shown a talent for music. From six years old, she took choir and recorder lessons at Alford Primary school under the tutelage of music teacher Morag Simpson.
“She was just a wee thing at that point,” said Morag.
“All the children had to play an ocarina, a South American instrument that is a wee cylinder with circles, and I taught her to play the recorder.
“She learned to read music.”
Emeli bagged the lead role in the school’s nativity play, Hosanna Rock.
Head teacher Liz MacLeod said: “She had a wonderful voice and when she sang the song Hosanna Rock solo, it sent shivers down my spine.
“On hearing a 10-year-old sing with such power and depth, everybody remarked on how special it was.
“Obviously, it was long before she became mega-famous but everybody was spellbound.
“It really was special.”
Morag, who remains proud of her protegé, added: “We chose her for the lead role of Mary because we could see her talent then.
“She had a nice soulful song to sing, which she did beautifully.”
Lucy, 24, admits her big sister’s special talent paid dividends on occasions.
She said: “We were in the choir at the same time but it was always her that got the solo parts.
“We would sing together in public at Halloween.
“We’d go round trick or treating and would sing a song.
“I was always the backing singer.
“We’d sing the songs we learned at school. We did quite well out of it.”
Having enjoyed Britain’s biggest-selling album with her chart-topping debut Our Version of Events, these days Emeli is also in demand as a songwriter for acts such as Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Leona Lewis.
But even in primary school, her songwriting talent was beginning to shine through.
Liz said: “She wrote a song for a talent show the children were doing. She didn’t perform it. Her friends performed it for her. It is amazing that she was writing songs for other people even then.”
Lucy, who recently secured a first degree in law but plans to become an English teacher, said: “I have always loved my sister’s songs so much. Even when she started writing her first songs, they were always special.
“They always touched me and I just thought they must touch other people like this.
“As a child Emeli was very good at making up games.
“She’d always be in control of what we were doing and singing.
“It was my birthday the other day and she wrote in the card this song we had written as kids. It was a really bad techno song we had created moves to. She wrote a few lines from it on the card.
“We also wrote a song on guitar as well, about a saviour who wasn’t a fighter, but the techno one convinced us we could write songs, even though it is quite embarrassing.
“The main line was ‘Techno is in the house’. We used to write songs and play at radio stations.
“Now it is inspiring to see her living her dream and seeing her do what she said she would. When I listen to the lyrics to her song River, I think of her and how she has been such a good role model to me.”
As a newcomer, Emeli won last year’s Brits’ critics’ choice award. Her four nominations at next week’s Brits in London are for British album of the year, for Our Version of Events, British female solo artist and best British single, for Next to Me and her collaboration with Labrinth on the song Beneath Your Beautiful.
She’s notched up more than 1.6million sales of her album in the UK, close to another one million worldwide and is making inroads in the US, having toured with Coldplay and in her own right too. Earlier this month she appeared on US TV shows Jimmy Kimmel Live and Ellen.
Mum Diane and dad Joel admit they have to pinch themselves as Emeli’s career continues to reach new heights.
“It seems like a daydream, to be honest,” said council worker Diane. “When she was little she always loved music and performing on the recorder.
“When she got a little bit older and was in P7 or S1, I noticed that it didn’t bother her getting up on stage.
“I could see the lyrics she was writing and how deep she was going into the songwriting by the time she was 13 or 14.
“There was a lot of music around but I think Emeli had the music in her from the moment that she was born.”
Born in Sunderland to Diane and Zambian-born dad Joel, a teacher at Alford Academy, Emeli spent a few months in Zambia before her parents moved back to the UK, eventually settling in Scotland.
Diane said: “Emeli was born in the same year Joel and I finished off our degree courses in England.
“We went back to Zambia in October 1988 because Joel had finished his mechanical engineering course he had been sponsored to do.
“But I was pregnant with Lucy at the time and I got malaria so things didn’t really work out in Zambia.
“I came back to Cumbria because that was where my sister was in 1989.
“Joel came back and we moved up to Alford in 1992. He got a teaching position in Alford.”
Joel added: “I knew when Emeli was six or seven years old that she had something special.
“From then on I realised she wasn’t shy about making music. She tried to imitate the popular singers of the time and tried to get the sound the exact same as the records.
“She was standing in front of a lot of people from a young age. She was happy to be heard in front of adults.
“She would sing Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On and she would try to reach all the notes.
“She sang Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston songs and later, at the age of 12, it was songs by Alicia Keys.
“She picked up on Nina Simone from my music collection.
“We played lots of different music in the house including gospel, R&B and blues.”
Cutbacks in music education led Emeli’s music teacher Morag to take voluntary redundancy from Alford Primary in 1997.
She currently teaches up to 2000 children each week as part of the Government’s Youth Music Initiative and says Emeli’s success is inspiring a new generation.
“I have gone up in the estimation of the children in the schools I am teaching in now because I taught her,” said Morag.
“The kids think I am wonderful now. They are all sticking in with the choir.
“There were lots of musical kids when I taught Emeli but she stood out as being talented enough to go on and do something with her music.
“I would never have guessed how far her talent would take her. I couldn’t have predicted that.
“It is really amazing.”
Source – DailyRecord.co.uk