Ladies, make room on your iPod for “Our Version of Events,” the debut album by UK sensation, Emeli Sande. The singer/songwriter – and get this, former neuroscientist – is quickly becoming your favorite artist’s favorite artist. Her vocal ability is cross between Mariah Carey and Chrisette Michelle coupled with the soul-stirring passion of Aretha Franklin. The 24-year-old Scottish born songstress has penned hits for chart-topping artists like Alicia Keys, Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis and Tinie Tempah. Her debut album is #1 in the UK and is predicted to have similar success in the U.S. “My Kind of Love” and “Mountains” are our personal favorites here at PYNK, along with the newly released single, “Next to Me.” (Click the song titles to hear for yourself.) We recently caught up with the singer/songwriter before her intimate sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC.
You have a tattoo of Frida Kahlo on your forearm. What inspired that?
When I first saw her art I was 16. She really stood out to me as a
strong woman. I thought having this kind of feminine strength was really
something to look up to. I loved her portraits. They were so honest. They
weren’t like the women you see in magazines. All her flaws were there and her
stories were just painted very graphically. I love her honesty and the beauty
of all of it. As I got older I got more and more into her art. She just reminds
me to be strong about my art and honest even if it’s not pretty.
When did you realize that you had a great singing voice?
I always loved singing as a kid. I think it occurred to me when I
was 7 years old that I had a voice. My dad said “you’re getting good at this.”
For my dad to say it – I really respected his opinion – so I thought, “Okay, I
think I might be a singer.” And from then on, I thought to myself, “I am going
to be a singer.”
Were there ever moments where you wanted to quit medical school before
you actually took your official break?
I loved school as a kid. I loved knowing things and getting
involved in science. The first rebellion that I ever had was when I was 22
years old – when I left Scotland. I moved to London. I got tattoos. I changed
my hair. It was a real big liberation but before that I was a really good kid.
Where are you most comfortable?
I enjoy being on stage but I enjoy being in front of my piano.
Just me a glass of wine, in a tiny room, in front of the piano, writing a new
song. There is no feeling like it. For me the feeling of creation gives me such
Who inspired your new single, Next to Me?
I wanted to make a song that was very soulful but very simple.
Nothing gets too complicated. I was inspired about a lot of great men in my
life. I have a fantastic manager since who I have worked with since I was16. I
am engaged, my fiancé is always by my side and has been with me through med school
and through everything. And of course, my dad. The song is just about great men
who I think should be praised.
Who are your other musical influences?
Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, Joni Mitchell, Tracey Chapman, Bjork,
Massive Attack, Alicia Keys.
How is your relationship with Alicia Keys?
I worked with her on her upcoming album. Alicia wrote a song for
me on my album called Hope. She is like a big sister. She experienced so much as
an artist and has gone through it all with such class and integrity. She is
just like the perfect role model. It’s been a real privilege to have her
insight. She has really been very supportive.
I ask everyone I interview to play a game of questions with me. Simply spit out the answers that come to mind.
If you weren’t singing you’d be?
Performing surgery. I would be a neurologist.
You don’t leave home without?
People who feel sorry for themselves all the time.
Not following my dreams.
To establish myself as a worldwide artist.
How would you describe yourself – a tomboy or a girly-girl?
A tomboy. I love to hang with the guys and get the same kind of
respect. I never wanted to be the girl of the group. I want to be among
men and have an attitude like, I can do anything just as good as you.
Malt milkshakes are amazing.
Genel Ambrose is an Editor at PYNK. You can find her @genelambrose.