Emeli Sande might not yet be as instantly recognizable a name in America as, say, Susan Boyle or Leona Lewis.
But she should be, considering that she’s written songs for both (as well as Cher, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Cheryl Cole, among many, many others).
Sande’s name should also ding the recognition button because of her soulfully bouncy 2012 hit, “Next to Me,” an international smash that introduced her to American radio. Her debut album, “Our Version of Events,” also spawned chart-climbers “Daddy,” “Heaven,” “Clown” and “My Kind of Love” in other countries.
Aside from “Next to Me,” the English-born, Scottish-reared, London-dwelling Sande, 26, who performed at the Opening and Closing ceremonies at last year’s Olympics, also gained some attention with her seductive cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” for “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack and a hushed take on Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.”
But the singer is a songwriter first, and she says she’ll debut a couple of new tunes on her current run of American dates, which brings her and a six-piece band to The Tabernacle on Wednesday, only six months after wowing a Variety Playhouse crowd.
Sande, who on Sunday scored Best International Act at the BET Awards, was patched in from her apartment in London last week to chat about her Atlanta return, the challenges of cracking the U.S. market and the highlights of her career so far.
Q: You played here in January (at Variety Playhouse) and are already coming back. Was Atlanta a market that seemed to have good potential for you?
A: We loved Atlanta. Before that I had been to the North, but it was my first time for Atlanta and the crowd really stood out. People had told me that it was a warm city and they were right. People were just shouting out and it felt like church!
Q: You’re part of this class that started as songwriters and are now performers as well. Even though you’ve been out there for a couple of years now, how difficult was it to make that transition from behind the scenes to being out front?
A: Quite difficult. Your whole mindset has to change. People would say, “Should we give the song to (this person) or why don’t you sing it? You deserve to be on the stage to singing it.” But it’s an adjustment. You learn about doing press and speaking about yourself and then you’ve got hair and makeup and not being able to stay up until 3 a.m., all the practicalities! I love the life of a writer, but there’s nothing like being able to get up and express everything you feel about a song.
Q: You had the best-selling album in the U.K. last year, but how challenging has it been to crack the U.S.?
A: It’s a big challenge, but I always expected it because it’s such a massive place; it’s a whole other culture for me. You have to approach things from grass roots up, not just, “Here’s an album,” and expect what happened in the U.K. to happen there. It’s challenging, but I’m really enjoying it. There’s progress every time I come over.
Q: I loved your cover of “Crazy in Love” on “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack. What was Jay-Z’s reaction to it?
A: I think he liked it. I went to the premiere and met him briefly there and he was supportive.
Q: You performed at the Opening and Closing ceremonies at the Olympics last year. Would you say those performances were the highlights of your career so far as a performer?
A: They were the biggest things I’ve done and such special evenings for me. But there have been so many performances, I don’t know if I can say that was the highlight, but it was just so massive.
Q: What else would you put on the highlight reel, then?
A: Getting to perform at the White House recently (for the presentation of the Library of Congress Gershwin Medal to Carole King). Carole has really inspired me since I was really young, so that was up there. But there have been so many small gigs that you have a special connection during.
Q: Have you started work on a new album?
A: Yeah, I got back to London a few weeks ago and got inspired to write, and then you just want to put it out! I’ve written some really exciting stuff.
Q: Is it in a similar vein to your previous work?
A: I hope it’s different. I want to make progress and get to the next level as a writer, but people can tell it’s my style. I just locked myself in a room in London. No one has given me a (release) date yet, but I’m sure they’ll start. At the moment, though, I feel like a free agent! I’m going to release an EP soon and want to debut some songs from that (live), so it will be a good tester. (The EP) will come out online. I’m not sure when, yet. All I can say is, “soon.”
Emeli Sande performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday at The Tabernacle. $27.50. 1-800-745-3000,www.ticketmaster.com.
Source: Access Atlanta