Emeli Sande, this year’s toast of the Brit Awards, is part Nina Simone and part Neneh Cherry. Her album, Our Version Of Events (Virgin Records), is a return to the dark side of pop and it’s amazingly haunting. Hear out for this peroxide quiffed singer…
You had a meteoric 2012, and with the four Brit Awards nominations (and two wins) and the release of the live DVD, 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger. Is there a particular moment that has stood out?
Finding out I was nominated for the Brit Awards was a big highlight because winning the Critics Choice Award last year was cool but I hadn’t really achieved much at that point. So, it was exciting to have it but I still felt I had so much to prove. So winning this year was incredible because it summed up a lot of hard work.
Performing at the Olympics, especially the opening ceremony, was another big highlight. I’m a brand new artiste and to be selected by someone like Danny Boyle to represent your country like that and to be part of such a massive occasion was a true honour.
And the album (Our Version Of Events) going number one in the UK was another massive highlight because it had been years of work up until the release of the album.
And how was it playing your own show (November 2012) at the legendary Royal Albert Hall?
A dream come true. I’ve always wanted to play at the Royal Albert Hall, especially as legends like Nina Simone and Jacqueline Du Pre had played there. I’d actually opened for Alicia Keys there about two years ago and I remember stepping out and thinking that one day maybe I’d be able to do that… but I was thinking in terms of five or six years. So, to have my own show, so quickly, was amazing. It was a very special night.
You are touring across Europe in March, so do you have any entertaining road stories to share… that we can print?!
Well, our bus caught fire. Not once, but twice on our recent US tour. It didn’t catch fire completely. I guess it was a budget bus and we had the air-conditioning running all night. The first time was just before we got to Boston and Darren, our sound engineer, was like “everybody off the bus. It’s on fire!” And the smoke filled up the whole place and we all had to get off in our pyjamas in the freezing cold. What had happened was that the air-conditioning had blown a fuse. It got fixed but then it happened again when we got into San Francisco! It was very funny. Other than that it’s just the standard drinking and partying.
Is there one place in the world you’d like to go?
Japan, I’d love to go there. Australia as well, as I’ve never been there either.
Biggest musical influences...
Lauryn Hill is a big influence as well as Nina Simone and Donny Hathaway. Donny’s daughter (Kenya Hathaway) is actually singing backing vocals with me at the moment.
One artiste, past or present, that you would love to work with...
Lauryn Hill… she’s amazing. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is such a great album. And Stevie Wonder. I would just love to be able to sit in a room with him.
Top five songs that are exciting you at the moment...
Gabriel (Lamb), Twice (Little Dragon), Swimming Pools (Kendrick Lamar), 101 (Alicia Keys) and Thinking About You (Frank Ocean).
What are your next goals?
To establish myself in America is a big goal for this year. Also, to write a second album that I’m really proud of and that is an improvement on the first album, so I feel like I’ve progressed.
Her version of events…
She quit a medical degree course (specialised in neuroscience) at Glasgow University to concentrate on music. Had completed four years of the six-year course.
She has penned songs for Cheryl Cole and Susan Boyle.
Nina Simone’s Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead) changed her life. It was written after Martin Luther King died.
Married her boyfriend, marine
biologist Adam Gouraguine, in Montenegro, on September 15, 2012.
She is of English and Zambian descent.
Decoding her tattoos
Left forearm: The Spanish phrase “Un Cuarto Propio”. It means ‘A Room of One’s Own’, the title of an essay by Virginia Woolf.
Right forearm: A self-portrait by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. “Kahlo’s work is very raw. I think a lot of females feel, especially in this industry, that they have to be pretty, acceptable on all levels.”
On her collarbone: “Volim to Adame”, meaning ‘I love you, Adam’ in Serbian. Hubby Adam Gouraguine is from Montenegro.
Right wrist: “First, Lucy”. A reference to her sister Lucy.