Sounds like heaven

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Eguide Music - NOEL MEN­GEL

EMELI Sande stands out from the crowd.

That’s even be­fore you see the star­tling per­ox­ide blonde quiff and know any­thing about her part- Zam­bian, part- Scot­tish back­ground.

The first thing you no­tice about her is the voice. First ev­i­dence of that in Australia was her first sin­gle Heaven, a clas­sic slice of Brit- soul that harks back to bands like Mas­sive At­tack and Soul II Soul with its skip­ping elec­tro- beat, lush strings and as­cend­ing chordal hook.

But what re­ally grabs the lis­tener is that voice, an in­stru­ment that’s as soul­ful as it is soar­ing. With the suc­cess of Adele, it seems a no- brainer that some­one with a voice as strik­ing as this would make their mark.

And she has. Sande ( pic­tured) won the Crit­ics’ Choice sec­tion at the Brit Awards be­fore the re­lease of her de­but al­bum, Our Ver­sion of Events. Last month that al­bum knocked Lana Del Ray from the top spot in the UK.

Yet it was not as a singer but a song­writer that Sande first won at­ten­tion with hits for Chip­munk’s Di­a­mond Rings and Pro­fes­sor Green’s Read All About It, not to men­tion a song for Su­san Boyle.

She is also not about to be pushed around as any­one’s pop pup­pet. She’s a high achiever, a for­mer med­i­cal stu­dent at Glas­gow Univer­sity who only gave up her stud­ies ( neu­ro­science) when she was of­fered a song­writer’s pub­lish­ing deal with EMI.

‘‘ Mu­sic was al­ways some­thing that I’ve been pas­sion­ate about ever since I was re­ally young,’’ Sande says.

‘‘ I knew in my heart I was a mu­si­cian and that was what I wanted to do with my life.

‘‘ I also wanted an ed­u­ca­tion and a de­gree be­fore I did any­thing in the mu­sic in­dus­try but it came to a point where the door opened for me in mu­sic and I de­cided to de­fer medicine for a cou­ple of years.’’

Now that safer ca­reer choice is on hold in­def­i­nitely, although she does see the par­al­lel be­tween the two in that mu­sic also has a heal­ing kind of force.

‘‘ I was al­ways in­ter­ested in the link be­tween ther­apy and mu­sic and how mu­sic can change us in the head,’’ Sande says.

‘‘ I’ve been to a lot of mu­sic ther­apy ses­sions and seen how pow­er­ful mu­sic can be, es­pe­cially for chil­dren with learn­ing dis­or­ders or autism, and with treat­ing de­pres­sion as well.’’

No one is un­happy when they are singing or writ­ing a song, or lis­ten­ing to their mu­si­cal he­roes. In Sande’s case, those are peo­ple such as Joni Mitchell and Nina Si­mone, strong, dis­tinc­tive artists and per­son­al­i­ties who cre­ated records peo­ple are lis­ten­ing to 40 and 50 years later.

‘‘ I al­ways wanted to be a singer but I also wanted to write songs that would last a long time, to re­ally learn the craft of writ­ing. The big in­flu­ence for me was Nina Si­mone.

‘‘ I had heard the big bal­lad singers and had been im­pressed by their vo­cal tech­nique but when I heard Nina it was all in the tone of her voice and the re­ally sub­tle changes she would use. That’s when I re­alised you re­ally need to know your voice to bring out the emo­tion with­out be­ing too pow­er­ful with it.’’

While study­ing at univer­sity she played pi­ano part- time to earn money but says her course was so in­ten­sive she found it very dif­fi­cult to write.

Back then she was known by her first name, Adele, but as she launched her record­ing ca­reer a change to her sec­ond name, Emeli, was needed for ob­vi­ous rea­sons.

But she says artists such as Amy Wine­house and Adele showed the path for her: ‘‘ They re­ally changed the game for me be­cause they are peo­ple who had the brav­ery to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.’’

In a world awash with generic, sound- alike pop songs, she thinks the only sen­si­ble course is to carve your own niche.

‘‘ If you do some­thing dif­fer­ent now it’s like a breath of fresh air. Be­cause ev­ery­one feels they have to make the same kind of pop to get on the ra­dio, it’s al­most a bit eas­ier now if you are brave enough to take your own route, to stand strong in what you do, then you stand out more.’’

Her thoughts on the com­mer­cial as­pects of the mu­sic in­dus­try are con­tained in a song on her al­bum called Clown, which draws the anal­ogy be­tween the pop artist and the cir­cus per­former with lines like ‘‘ I’ll be your clown/ Be­hind the glass/ Go ahead and laugh ’ cause it’s funny/ I would too if I saw me.’’

‘‘ There is the risk you will be the clown, be made a fool of and laughed at. But if no one tries any­thing, if you’re afraid, then noth­ing is ever achieved.’’

In Sande’s case, look who’s laugh­ing now.

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