Hannah George | 29//11/23
Emeli Sandé can be considered a British pop icon, having graced our ears since the early 2000s with her breakthrough track ‘Diamond Rings’ in collaboration with Chipmunk in 2009. Since then Emeli has collaborated with the likes of Labyrinth and Professor Green alongside maintaining No. 1 for 10 weeks with her album ‘Our Version of Events’ in 2012. I was lucky enough to sit down with Emeli before her latest album release ‘How were we to know’. Having the unique position of being in the British music industry for almost 2 decades now, Emeli has navigated the ebbs and flows that accompany her career as an artist, discussing how she has had to seek a balance between her sense of self and her work. Wanting the know more about how Emeli made her entrance into the popular British music scene back in 2009 I asked how this process was for her “Did it feel like one of like a quick process to you? Or was it just overnight, Did things take off in a way that you maybe had imagined?”
Emeli “I felt like there was a nice build into releasing the album. But I think once the album came out, it was surprising, you know with the Olympics and then having number one with Professor Green before I had even released an album. So it was like I was living a dream. But it felt like this build, build, build, and suddenly, you know, project out of the box. And it definitely at that moment felt like, whoa, this has gone beyond what I expected”
Having such a fast-track success story like Emeli’s is impressive, especially before the time of Internet 'overnight' fame, it did make me wonder how difficult this was to navigate, especially in regards to managing the media and having to deal with it all at once without much anticipation.
Emeli opened up about this process stating “Yeah, it's difficult because suddenly, you're going from an unknown two years ago to being recognised. So I'm quite naturally quite an introverted person, I put feelings into the music, and I like just being in the studios and obviously, you kind of become someone else on stage. But genuinely, I like being at home and having that type of more of a calm life. So I felt like you have to almost have a different persona. The fact that my stage name was Emeli, and my real name is Adele, I do feel I had that separation of code, not that it was a different person, but you have a bit more of a protection around you.”
Hearing the way Emeli has been able to protect her sense of self through this separation between her and her work is very interesting and I believe extremely necessary in an age where traditional media feels like it has access to your whole being. Emeli went on to tell me how this balance wasn't always easy for her to achieve “I put so much into music I think that's when I like leave my soul bear and I've never tried to stop that. You know, I've always wanted to or everything into the music and, also the performance (However) “I did get to a point where I did burn myself out a bit because you just want to keep going, you don't want to miss any opportunity. But at the same time, I think a big lesson I've learned now is there has to be that balance, otherwise, you'll be left with nothing to give.”
I think this balance is also evident in Emeli’s work, being a fan of hers myself since the beginning of her career I have admired how she can craft her lyrics in a way that portrays deep sorrow but not in an extremely heavy way, her music has much more nuance than that in the sense there is always an element of hope thread throughout her songs. I asked Emeli how she has been able to achieve this harmonious balance.
“With any song I'm writing, I feel it's something I've already experienced and tried my best to process within me. And you know, my family, everyone in my family is quite strong, my mum, my dad, they kind of all fought for better lives. And there's a real resilience in both my mum and dad's side. So I think that's impressed and into me”
“I always want to be realistic and often I'll paint like, let's say brighter days in the versus outside paint the picture of how life can sometimes be the reality of those heavy feelings. But then also, let's not be afraid to be optimistic, let's not be afraid to own our destiny. So sometimes I just have these contrasting parts of the song. So you do get the reality, but you also get the hope.”
Having read about Emile’s ambitions and drive to create, she had previously spoken about this hunger she had developed as a child; a hunger to learn and I wanted to know more about how this hunger still exists in her work today.
“I'm always curious, and I'm always trying to push myself as much as I can, you know, I never want to repeat music that I've already made, I always want to make sure that it's evolving or moving, or we're experimenting. And sometimes that can be detrimental. Because you know, a label wants you to kind of keep making something that was successful before, but I just find that impossible. So I always want to push myself out of my comfort zone and be, you know, improving myself”
(How do you think your music has kind of evolved over the various albums obviously got new music coming out? Where do you think you're at with that now in comparison to maybe you were a couple an albums ago or a couple of years back?)
“This album particularly feels quite settled, I'm 36 now so I feel just so much more settled with myself, I feel so much more confident in I'd love people to love it, but it's not gonna affect how I love myself based on that. Whereas I think beforehand, it would have had so much effect on how I felt about myself if it wasn't successful. Now I feel like these are the stories I want to share. And I trust as we're talking about there, like I trust the timing I trust to whoever is going to connect is going to connect music isn't something you can for some people so yeah, I feel more settled. I feel that maybe my perspective on love and life is a bit more mature now. I think there's a new maturity and there's kind of more of a settled honesty within it.”
In anticipation of her upcoming album release, I wanted to know more about the process behind creating this music and what we can expect from 2023 Emeli Sandé.
“Love is such a big theme throughout the album. There are so many songs, whether that be about romantic relationships or love, you know, within humanity, love for yourself. So, definitely, that was ringing. And I think, you know, purpose in what I'm writing about has always been so important from the very beginning, as always, naturally tried to write to speak to people to encourage uplift them. So with this album's format, I feel proud that they are spreading messages of love and also the reality of love. So it's kind of summing up probably the last decade of my life. And I think that this album is made and once it's out it's almost kind of like closure in a way of okay, that was what I went through. These are the tales into the stories here I am at this point in my life. And now moving forward will be you know, completely brand new.”
With more to say on the process of writing Emeli told me “Releasing some of the songs that are years old is almost like a catharsis. Like, here, this is the tale, this is the final chapter on that. And then I'll probably have to, sing it for the next couple of years. But no, it feels good in that sense. And, you know, strangely, I think when you get older, it's almost like, you know, you're a child, you're innocent, you are who you are, then you kind of get conditioned to a point, then you get, you know, your 20s, where you're just like exploring everything, and I think, point where it's, it's returning to who you were when you were held with kind of the sensibility of an adult, but you kind of start deconstructing who you've been told to be. And then you start redefining yourself. And you realise, before I was afraid of this, or I felt I had to be a certain way as an adult. This is who I wasn't so nice to reclaim that.”
This cyclical nature of life and returning to who you are at your core appears to be the overriding theme of Emeli's new album, a cathartic look back on the past few years through what I'm sure will be some intense heartfelt ballads, we look forward to listening that’s for sure.
Emeli Sandés new album ‘How were we to know’ is out now!