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Emeli Sande - Interview

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 30 / 8 / 2023

Emeli Sande - Interview


Nick Dent-Robinson speaks to Brit Award winning Scottish-raised singer-songwriter Emeli Sande before her performance at the Nocturne Live festival about her love of jazz and charity work.

When I spoke to her, four-time Brit Award winning Scottish-raised singer-songwriter Emeli Sande was about to perform at the Nocturne Live event (held from Thursday 15 to Saturday 17 June) in the magnificent setting of Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire. “Playing a festival is very different from performing in your own show,” she began. “Because, obviously, it is a very different crowd here at Blenheim and you can't guarantee they'll know anything much about you at all. You have to really work at winning them over – but I am very much looking forward to it. It will be fun to be able to say 'I've played Woodstock', too!” Emile, 36, performed jazz interpretations of her songs at Blenheim. “It is a unique show. Last year I did a documentary about Nina Simone so I got to play with some incredible jazz musicians and I've learned to really appreciate jazz. So I am doing my songs with the jazz band headed by Gregory Porter. There will be most of my past hit numbers which hopefully at least some of the crowd might know - and a few from my latest album, ‘Let's Say for Instance’, too.” Emeli's father moved to the UK from Zambia and met her mother when both were studying at Sunderland's polytechnic college but the family moved to Aberdeenshire when Emeli was just four. “Yes, I definitely count myself as Scottish,” Emeli confirms - even if I was born in the North East of England. I love the Scottish culture and I was writing songs there from the age of 11 or so. I was actually quite keen on school - my dad was one of my teachers - and I won a place to study medicine at Glasgow University. I had completed more than four years medical training but never quite became a qualified doctor. I had always wanted to be a musician ever since I was a small child and had kept playing instruments and writing songs. Then, suddenly, when I was about to start my fifth year of medical training, some of my songs were published. I was so thrilled and immediately moved to London to see if I could make a successful musical career. Thankfully that happened! My debut album ‘Our Version of Events’ was released in 2012 after I'd won the Critics' Choice Award at the Brits that year.” “My career just went from there. I like doing a variety of styles of music - there are just so many genres I love - and I have collaborated with lots of rappers and DJs to try to get my name out there. But I think there are some similarities between my earliest work and what I am doing now...some common threads running through it all. I did a lot of classes in music as a child and that classical training has been a huge help, especially with my song-writing. I've now written for quite a few people – including Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis, Preeya Kalidas, Cheryl Cole and Tinie Tempah. My dad was a big Nina Simone fan so I was listening to her from the age of 12 or so and before that I loved the major female singers like Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Anita Baker. Then, as I got older, I started to really appreciate the skill of great song-writers like Bob Dylan, Lennon-McCartney and Joni Mitchell. At that point lyricism really started to excite me. There are lots of people today who I admire, too. I like Frank Ocean who is a brilliant lyricist and I love Raye ...it is so refreshing to see a woman really taking charge and putting so much truth into her lyrics.” Emile says her proudest moments include singing at the London 2012 Olympics and at Elton John's 2013 AIDS Foundation event. She currently campaigns for a number of causes – including raising money and awareness for HIV and breast cancer in her dad's native Zambia and for women's education in many parts of the world. “All of these things are important to me and if my success in music helps me to contribute, then that is a true bonus. But I am thrilled at what I am able to do as a performer, too. I love playing to a big capacity audience like the one at Nocturne, Blenheim Palace and I love being on the same bill there as people like Lionel Richie, Mica Miller, Gabrielle, Pete Tong and all the others! It really is a privilege.

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Emeli Sande - Interview

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