Entertainment & Arts

Emeli Sande wants to 'develop new artists'

Emeli Sande Image copyright EPA
Image caption Sande's debut album was the biggest seller of 2012 and the second biggest a year later

For an artist who has performed in front of an audience of millions at the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2012 London Olympics and even sung for the outgoing US President Barack Obama, is there anything left that can make Emeli Sande nervous?

The answer is "yes", apparently, as she releases her second album Long Live the Angels - the follow-up to Our Version of Events, the biggest-selling album in the UK in 2012 and the second biggest of 2013.

"It's such a personal one - it's the depth of my emotions over the past few years, so I guess there's a bit of nerves about how people will receive it," she says, adding that she's "excited to get it out there because it's been so long in the making".

Three years ago, Sande was an inescapable presence in the UK chart, from her hugely successful album to her guest slots working with the likes of producer Naughty Boy on his 2013 debut album Hotel Cabana and east Londoners Rudimental on Home.

'A beautiful thing'

It was an astonishing career trajectory for the former medical student from Aberdeenshire, north-east Scotland. She now admits that as a performing artist, you are expected to deal with rejection, but there is little to help prepare you for massive success.

"Comprehending it was the biggest thing. The experience of it was really fun and to have connections with so many people was a beautiful thing.

"But kind of taking the time to sit and reflect wasn't something I did. So when I had the time off, I went, 'Whoa'. I don't think I was really absorbing what was happening and what it was doing, so now I've learned to enjoy it in the moment. But it was a lot and so fast."

And like so many performers before her, Sande admits that it is difficult to maintain the natural high that comes with live performance.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionEmeli Sande performs Highs and Lows on Later… with Jools Holland, BBC Two

"It's euphoric, the whole thing. Especially the end and you come off stage and there's not really anything to continue that rise up, so that's another thing about the team that I have around me now. I can bounce off their energy and come off stage and they're excited."

She says the real challenge for any artist is "going back to write", adding: "It is two extremes from playing the Olympics or the Royal Albert Hall to a dark, tiny studio just intensely focusing on lyrics. So there are those extremes, and it's about trying to find a bridge to merge them a bit better."

Following her huge success, which saw her collect won two Brit Awards at the 2013 ceremony for best British female and British album of the year, Sande took a break from the limelight. Towards the end of 2012, she married her long-term boyfriend, marine biologist Adam Gouraguine, in his home country of Montenegro.

In November 2014, she revealed the couple had divorced after a year of marriage.

She told Radio 4's Front Row in September that the painful break-up had formed the basis of her comeback song Hurts.

'Crash course in life'

"This was the only relationship I'd ever experienced - so to finally be without him and without the relationship in my life, it took a lot of adjusting. Even just a small thing like learning how to handle myself in the real world. So there was a lot going on. It was like a crash course in life.

"The shock of it all made me forget about the emotion for a while - put it off, put it off, put it off. So Hurts came when I felt a bit more stable and ready to face it."

The new album, Long Live the Angels is a story of heartbreak and redemption. It sees Sande at her most vulnerable, from the epic sadness of Hurts to uplifting tracks like Breathing Underwater and Babe, to the hip hop-inspired Garden and gospel chorus of Highs and Lows.

Sande says the first person to listen to any of her new music is very close to home - her younger sister Lucy.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Her Brit awards came for best album and female solo artist

"Since I was about eight, I'd be like, 'I've got this new song come and listen'. I was the bossy older sister. At first she had to come and listen but then she got into it with me. So, she is definitely my first port of call because she is so real she won't sweeten her words or anything.

"She will be like, 'You've got to put that on the album', or 'You can't have this one'. She is probably my most honest critic but, if she says its good, then its probably worth putting out there."

And, as one might expect of sisters, her pep talks aren't limited to music. She adds: "Even on my personality, if she thinks I'm getting a bit diva-ish, she'll be like 'Whoa, whoa, whoa just chill out'. She's a teacher as well so she'll give me the kids' opinions on songs, a real-life perspective from outside of the music industry."

Family plays a strong role in Sande's life and nowhere is that more evident than the track Tenderly, which she performs with her father Joel and her cousins from his home country of Zambia. Her family are credited on the album as The Serenje Choir, named after Joel's hometown of Serenje, where Sande recently joined them for the first time.

'Beautiful and humbling'

"It was really profound. It was like a pilgrimage and it was pretty life-changing because growing up, I was connected to the community but still felt like there was something I didn't understand about myself, so going there was like everything made sense.

"The word for God is 'Lesa' and they would wake every morning and sing to Lesa and it was so beautiful and humbling."

While she may have bonded with her father's family, there were still some serious negotiations over allowing her relatives to take part in recording the album.

"My dad asked them and got permission from my aunties. It was done in Bemba, my dad's language. I got a text, like 'You have permission from Sarah Sande to use this,' and I was like, 'Great!'"

With the album released and a tour planned for early next summer and next month's BBC Music awards where she is also due to perform, Sande says her mind is now turning to the business side of the music industry and her plans to work with young artists at a grassroots level.

"I'm trying to start a publishing company," she begins, "So I can start really developing talent and giving them the kind of protection that I was lucky enough to have.

"With Naughty Boy, we would just be in the studio creating without any external pressures so I would love to create that environment for other artists."

Though she admits that she may be a novice on a business level, she says :"I feel like I'm getting a little bit better at business. But I'd always want to be the creative arm and start to learn about the numbers, but definitely partner up with someone business-focused so that I don't have to get too serious.

"I can help out with song-writing. I kind of feel I can assess what someone needs as an artist to develop. I think that would be my strong point."

Long Live the Angels is out now.

Follow us on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, on Instagram at bbcnewsents, or if you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

Related Topics

More on this story