Emeli Sandé is undoubtedly the reigning queen of new British soul. The New York Times reports that her debut album, Our Version of Events, has now spent 63 weeks at in the top 10 of the U.K. album charts, besting the Beatles’ 62-week run with their debut, Please Please Me.
Sandé’s success across the pond in America continues to grows — “Next To Me” was recently officially certified as a platinum single — and as it does, her relationship to the States takes on an interesting new shine.
In an interview with Radio.com, Sandé told us what she finds inspiring about our fair country and how American music influenced her formative songwriting years. Sandé says some of the artists who’ve most impressed her were American R&B artists from the 2000s.
“I grew up in this small, rural town on the north east of Scotland,” she said. “There weren’t too many people that liked the same music as I did. But I had all the stuff my dad had introduced me to, like Mariah Carey and Anitia Baker, which I loved. But I was really trying to find my own identity, my own kind of music group. There’s this radio station called Rhythm Nation and that’s how I heard [Alicia Keys’] “Fallin'” for the first time. I heard Jill Scott and Lauryn Hill and Muisq Souldchild — that whole neo-soul scene that was coming out… Then to work with Alicia [on songwriting] was amazing, you know? From 15 [and] hearing her on the radio from Scotland, to sitting with her in New York was incredible.”
Sandé goes on to note that it’s not only American artists who’ve influenced her, it’s the whole competitive spirit and fast pace of the U.S. that she finds inspiring. That should come as little surprise to those familiar with Sandé’s background, however; a strong work ethic is in her DNA. She diverged from her original path, studying to be a neuroscientist (no walk in the park, for sure), into songwriting in her early 20s.
“Everything over here is done very efficiently, you know?” she said. “And, especially when you come to a place like New York, everyone is top of their game and you have to be because it’s so competitive. I really like that because it keeps you working hard and it keeps you wanting to be the best you can be.”
For more on the new wave of British soul and R&B stars, check out our Radio.com Inside Out episode on the resurfacing musical trend, below.