British soul songstress Emeli Sandé chats about her style, songwriting and start in the music industry.
R&B newcomer Emeli Sandé has a lot in common with gilded chanteuse Adele. Last February, the Scottish-born singer’s orbit toward fame kicked into high gear when she picked up a coveted Critics Choice Award at the BRITs—an honour that went to Adele in 2008. And, funnily enough, the two also share the same first name. “I had to change it as soon as she came out—I knew there couldn’t be two Adeles,” says Sandé, who ended up going by her middle name, one that sometimes baffles journos. “It’s pronounced ‘Emily,’” says the petite 25-year-old with a laugh. “And yet every once in a while, I’ll get someone calling me ‘Emil Sand.’” But with the release of her debut album, Our Version of Events, a gig opening for Coldplay this summer and fans like Simon Cowell, the confusion about her name shouldn’t last much longer.
“I would have loved to be a neurologist or a psychiatrist."
Sandé was knee-deep in medical studies—a degree she’d pursued to please her parents—when she quit to take a stab at music full time. “My research was in neuroscience. That whole area really spoke to me,” she explains. And while the notion of keeping a career as a neurologist as Plan B might sound mind-boggling, Sandé’s passion—and talent, may we add—for soul music couldn’t be ignored.
“My intuition definitely helps with my songwriting.”
A sought-after songwriter who has crafted music for Alicia Keys, Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle, Sandé is a gifted piano player and knows her way around the cello and the clarinet too. “I can sit at a piano for hours,” she says. “I don’t think people realize how therapeutic and relaxing it can be.” Well, songwriter Diane Warren has been swayed. The icon was moved by one of Sandé’s performances in Los Angeles. “She took me out afterwards,” enthuses Sandé. “That was a dream night. It was so surreal.”
“My stylist has helped me branch out."
Her style can be described as minimalist with an IV drip of cool. “I love wearing black and accessorizing with jewellery that has real sentimental value to me,” says the Alexander McQueen fan, gesturing at her nose ring. It’s her signature bleached-blond ’do that catches your eye, though. (She has coined it “the cuif.”) “I wanted to try something different, and as soon as I left med school I had the freedom to do so,” she says. “I really enjoy expressing myself in as many ways as possible.”
“I fit the pisces characteristics very well."
Her pop symphonies “Next to Me” and “Heaven” were huge chart-toppers in the United Kingdom and are punctuated with Sandé’s impassioned delivery and prescient lyricism—the watermarks of a true Pisces. “Pisces are very creative; we’re always in a dream world and definitely require someone more grounded to reel us in,” says Sandé, who is engaged but won’t reveal anything beyond the fact that her fiancé is “an Aries.”
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