When we heard Emeli Sande‘s UK single “Heaven” last year, we became instant fans. In fact, we highlighted the 25-year-old Scot in our Popping Up series last December before we even knew if her debut LP, Our Version Of Events, would be getting a US release. Thankfully it did. Through her music and two coveted spots on the roster of performers for the London Olympics this past summer, Sande has been introducing herself to audiences on this side of the pond, where music from overseas has been having quite a Renaissance on the charts in 2012.
We had a chat with Emeli about opening for Coldplay in the summer, plus her recent time spent writing with Alicia Keys and the newly-reunited original lineup of UK girl group Sugababes. Catch the full interview below!
How did you come to be involved as a performer for both the opening and closing ceremonies at the London Olympics?
ES: It was about six months ago, they asked me to come and meet them. They had like a secret Olympic planning headquarters, so I went there and they kind of showed me the vision. They had a model of everything they wanted to do, and they had a mockup graphic of what the opening ceremony was going to be. They asked me if I’d like to sing “Abide With Me” in that part. I was just honored — well, one, to meet Danny Boyle and to be considered, but to work with him was really special. And then, the next week the Closing Ceremony people got in touch. It was mad that I was going to be performing in both. It really gave an original view of the UK, which I think is important. It really was very honest about what’s important in our culture. It was great to be a part of something that was very forward-thinking.
When the sheer volume of people watching you sing sunk in, did you panic at all?
ES: It was a little nerve-wracking when I thought of how many people were going to be watching in the opening, because [“Abide With Me”] is such an important hymn. It’s a hymn that means so much to so many people, so I wanted to do it justice. I wanted it to be presented in a way that was special to the song. For me, that was more nerve-wracking, just understanding the importance of that hymn.
You’ve been so busy on the road over the past year. Have you had any time to think about songs for your next album?
ES: Well, I’m trying. Because I’ve experienced so much live music and really kind of experienced creating in so many different ways now, too — with working with different people — I’m starting to think about how I want to approach making it. But I haven’t really had time just to sit back and think about what I want to write about, specifically. I think I need a good few months just to kind of take promotion head off and get back into being an artist and writing.
You were in the States in the summer, opening for Coldplay.
ES: That was really cool. I can’t think of a better way to start introducing myself over here. I’m such a big fan and getting to see their live show every night and hear songs that are such classics was really special. I mean, when you see a band on that level performing, and the way everything is operating, it really is inspiring and gives you something to reach for.
Can you tell us anything about the songs you wrote for Alicia Keys’ upcoming album Girl On Fire?
ES: The time we wrote was fantastic. I’m really excited to see what people will think because they’re very beautiful, very honest songs, and she sings them with such a passion. So I’m excited about that rawness in the songs. But apart from that, I guess it’s up to her to release all the details.
How did you and Alicia come to work together?
ES: I opened up for her in London when she was doing the Piano & I tour. God, that was ages ago — that was even before I’d released “Heaven” in the UK. From there, she’d heard about my stuff and she invited me over and we got writing, it was a really cool time. I’m a massive fan of hers. To get to write with her was a really special moment for me.
Word has it you’re also writing music for the original lineup of Sugababes, aka Mutya Keisha Siobhan.
ES: That one I’ve been told not to speak about. I can’t say much about that, but it sounds great. Those are the Sugababes that I knew and grew up with. I’ll say that it sounds wicked.
Emeli’s album Our Version Of Events is out now.