News Column

Emeli Sande embarks on a personal, musical journey

July 4, 2013

YellowBrix

July 04--The journey to musical stardom often begins with a single song.

For England-born, Scotland-raised singer-songwriter Emeli Sande, that tune is the inescapable anthem Next to Me, an irresistible ode to domestic bliss.

It's the lead single from her 2012 debut, Our Version of Events, and despite Next to Me's success in America (it landed at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100), the 26-year-old musician harbors no illusions about her standing on this side of the Atlantic.

"I think things are progressing, every time I go there," says Sande from London. "You have to be patient with America. For me, it's a massive country I'm still getting to know. I hope I can just build and build and introduce my music to more and more people."

She'll have the opportunity to do just that during her brief summer tour, which brings her to Dallas for the first time Tuesday.

Apart from Next to Me, the soul- and jazz-inclined Sande has also made inroads into hip-hop, guesting on tracks from Professor Green and Naughty Boy and reaching out to rising stars like Kendrick Lamar (who appears on a remix of Next to Me).

"I just work with artists I admire," Sande says. "To be able to go in and out of genres -- I would hate to be tied into one. I want to be tied to good songs and good writing. I feel embraced by the hip-hop community."

She also enjoys the support of her family, including her father, whom Sande describes as "the big education pusher in our family."

Sande, who abandoned a potential medical career for music, says her father wasn't terribly surprised when she swapped surgical suites for recording studios: "He'd always known I was a musician."

Sande hasn't had to reckon with overeager music executives, either. Apart from a few scattered appearances -- she turned up on this season's American Idol finale, for example -- the vocalist hasn't been rammed down America's throat, as can often happen with an imported talent and a hot single.

"I feel quite lucky that the company [Capitol Records] really understands," Sande says. "When you hear the album, I think people understand it's an artist and a writer. I don't think it would work trying to do anything too pop star, hit-oriented. I just try to do as much as you can but still hold on to your integrity."

With tour dates booked in America and elsewhere well into September, Sande won't have too much free time to begin work on the follow-up to Events, although she allows she has already begun writing songs for her next album: "I just needed to write; I really missed it."

Given the response at home and abroad to Events, the creative headspace for album No. 2 is understandably different, albeit one Sande embraces.

"It's like you're hungry in different ways," she says. "I'm hungry to step everything up. I want my writing game to be on the next level. Before, I was hungry to get any type of acknowledgment; it's different in that sense. The artistic approach is similar: to get really deep inside what you're thinking."

For now, though, Sande is content to let her raw, honest songs be the listeners' guide, a road map to artistic satisfaction and, hopefully, a lengthy, rewarding career.

"If I can deliver some kind of hope, then I'll feel happy about that," Sande says. "The album is also an introduction. I hope it's the beginning of a long journey."

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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