Emeli Shares Her ‘Love’ For Science And J. Cole
When Emeli Sande speaks, her voice has a tranquil quality. Hearing her talk is like witnessing a spoken lullaby being created. However, the singer’s peaceful tone transforms once she steps behind a microphone. The Scottish-born, British native showcases powerfully poignant vocals when she graces the stage. Listen to her sing and two things will either occur: a smile or tears. Sande’s lyrics hit home for many when she expresses her devotion to family with “Breaking the Law,” risk-taking efforts on “Clown” and the loyalty she’s experienced with “Next to Me.”
At 25, she’s switched her name — she shares an interesting birthname with another esteemed chanteuse — attended medical school, won the 2012 Brit Awards Critic’s Choice and debuted her first album, Our Version of Events, around the world. By the time she reaches 30, a Grammy award could very well be in her hands. After all, the blonde-haired beauty’s already locked down studio time with multiple Grammy-winner Alicia Keys, an experience Sande calls “a real big honor.”
From med student to soulful songstress, passion is a key component in Emeli Sande’s life. She demonstrates that in her performance for AOL Music’s Sessions as well as her chat with The BoomBox. Her upcoming U.S. tour with Coldplay, Adele’s support, J. Cole’s artistry and geeky fans are all a part of the conversation.
You have an awesome song called “Next to Me,” which is about the strong, loyal men that you have in your life. Many times, singers go the bashing route when it comes to speaking about men in their songs. Why did you decide to celebrate men?
I guess when I write, I always want to write like things that are important to me and things I’ve experienced in my life. So you know, I’m lucky that I have had very strong men in my life and who have always been very loyal to me, from my dad, my manager, to my fiance. So I just felt, how cool would it be if I could hear a song celebrating those qualities not just in men, but in people. You know, loyalty between one another and… like real uncompromising love between one another. How cool would that be if we could hear on the radio and hopefully, you know, people will be able to relate to that more than kind of just… bashing men and bashing people. So I wanted a positive outlook on it.
Your album Our Version Of Events was released in the U.K. first and now it’s out in the U.S. Did you have any apprehension at first, as far as how the U.S was going to embrace you?
Really I just wanted to have the opportunity to introduce my music over here. You know I’m really happy with everything that’s happening in the U.K. and now I’m just approaching it like a brand new challenge. I really didn’t want any expectations because that’s how I’ve approached everything in the U.K. and I think that’s the best way — just to introduce your music and your stories, slowly… in a more intimate fashion, and then slowly build it like that. So I’m excited and so far I’ve just been really blown away with people’s reactions here and people connecting, so I’m really happy.
With the Coldplay tour that you’re going to go on in the coming months, what kind of conversations did you have with Chris Martin beforehand, before you got brought on? Was he asking you, “What’s your plan on the stage?”
He didn’t ask me any of those questions which I really respected. He heard the music and he heard what I was about as a musician and from that, just kind of brought me onboard. So we did the European tour with them which was incredible, so I’m just really honored to be asked to come back and introduce my music over here [in the U.S.] with them. He’s great. The whole band was welcoming to us and I had a fantastic time. So I’m very excited about this summer. Coming back and doing even bigger shows is going to be incredible.
You were a med student before we knew you as Emeli Sande. So what sparked your interest to go to medical school?
Well, I mean I always loved school as a kid. It was such a big thing in my life so I loved science and I thought the human body was just fascinating. There’s so much we don’t know, especially about the brain. So I was really interested in neurology and I guess I picked medicine because it would give me the academic challenge that I wanted. On top of that, you can be around people and you can feel like you’re contributing and helping and really getting into the real hearts of people. So medicine seemed like the perfect combination between using your… academic side of your brain, but then also the other side where you can kind of connect.
When did you realize that you had a talent to sing? You have such a powerful voice.
I’ve been singing since I can remember. I remember when I was 7 was the first time my parents really kind of took notes and they’re like, “Oh OK, you’re quite musical.” But before that, I mean I was singing since I was really, really young. So it’s something I’ve always loved and then I kind of fell into songwriting a bit later on and just the whole process of writing a song and creating music just has always been a big part of my life.
Alicia Keys has openly professed she’s a fan of your artistry. Have you two worked together? Explain that relationship.
Yeah. We have met. I opened up for her in London when she was doing the Piano & I tour and that was… a great honor to be asked to do that. And since then, she’s just showed so much support. I’m such a big fan of hers, so I really appreciate it and it’s a real big honor. We’ve worked together. We worked on this album [Our Version of Events], there’s a song called “Hope” that we wrote together.
Our Version Of Events is done. Have you recorded any new songs for a sophomore album?
I’m pretty focused on this. There isn’t like a block of time in the studio, but there are a few new songs… I mean little ideas in my head so any time I can kind of sit at a piano, I’m trying to work on them. But at the moment, I just want to focus on really promoting this album as much as possible.
Is there someone in the spotlight right now that has told you that they’re a fan of your work, which surprised you? I’m sure you meet a lot of people at different events who share their opinion.
I mean I’m surprised… when I hear Alicia is a fan or Adele likes my stuff… that blows my mind because these are artists that… I love and I’ve listened to for a very long time. It’s when people that I don’t expect to come to shows; I get a lot of med students, a lot of like neurologists coming. I love that because, you know, I feel like the geeks can unite and they’re there at my show. It’s just amazing when I just get people from all around — different ages, different races — it still kind of gets me.
Speaking of Adele, you and her share the same first name. So explain that decision to go with Emeli rather than Adele.
Well, Emeli’s my middle name and about three years ago, Adele was really starting off and getting really big and she won the Brit’s Critics’ Choice. I just felt you know, why not just change my name. Adele is not a very… it’s not a common name. I thought… I just want my own identity as a musician so I picked Emeli.
We know that the medical field is something that you’re passionate about; we know singing is something that you’re passionate about. What is something that people would be really surprised to know about you? Maybe you’re a geek in something else.
What do I like? I really like Disney’s, but that’s mainly because the music’s in it [laughs]. But I don’t know; everything is usually connected to music so I don’t know if there’s anything that would really surprise anyone [laughs].
Is there a song that you always find to be your guilty pleasure? I know everyone has one.
Guilty pleasure… there’s a new artist out in the U.K., he’s called Conor Maynard and you know all the girls love him. He’s really young, but he has this song, it’s incredible. It’s about girls and I just love that so I sing it all the time. So I guess at the moment that’s my guilty pleasure I guess.
You’re a soulful singer but are there any rap artists that are on your radar?
Yeah, I love J. Cole. I think he’s incredible mainly because of his lyric. I think he’s saying things that are quite different and in such a new way. I’m a big fan of his.
What’s the message you want people to take away when listening to your album?
The message is that they’re very honest songs. The one thing I hope is that people can take the stories and can relate it to their own life. I hope that these songs aren’t just, you know, limited to me. I want people to listen to the album and hopefully these songs will live with them for a long time and can kind of grow with them as well.