Emeli Sande hits gold with invitation to Olympic heights of the Castle

Emeli Sande
Emeli Sande
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AS far as invitations go, being asked to play in front of 8500 fans at Edinburgh Castle to celebrate the visit of the London 2012 Olympic torch is a biggie.

Well, you don’t get to do that sort of thing every day, even if you happen to be 2012’s biggest-selling new artist, with a No1 album, a chart-topping single and a Brit Award to your name.

The BIG Project' s Youth Choir

The BIG Project' s Youth Choir

Little wonder that Emeli Sande has to pinch herself when she contemplates the prospect of taking part in the two-hour-long party at the famous Castle Esplanade on Wednesday.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” says the 24-year-old soul-pop star, who grew up in the small Aberdeenshire town of Alford. “It’s going to be a special day and I’m looking forward to it so much.

“When I was a kid we used to come to Edinburgh and do the whole tourist thing of going to the Castle, so to be playing there is a dream come true.

“I was hugely honoured to be asked. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and something I don’t take for granted.

“It’s always special playing to a Scottish crowd,” she adds. “I just want enjoy every minute of it.”

Sande appeared to come from nowhere to become one of the biggest female acts around (only Adele has sold more albums than her in Britain this year), but she first made a name for herself in the music industry penning hits for the likes of Leona Lewis, Cheryl Cole, Cher Lloyd, Susan Boyle and Tinie Tempah to name a few.

“I don’t ‘sell’ songs, as such,” says the singer, whose real name, believe it or not, is actually Adele. “I give them to people. I love the reinterpretation, and the fact someone can change a lyric to mean something I’d never thought about or intended. The first time I heard someone singing a song of mine was Cheryl Cole, who sang Boys. Leona Lewis did another around that time, too.

“There’s no one who’s sung a song of mine that I haven’t respected, and no one who made me think they didn’t understand what the song was about.”

Sande, who made her breakthrough featuring on Professor Green’s No1 single Read All About It late last year, had previously felt that the odds were stacked against her becoming a successful solo artist. That’s why before her incredible rise to fame she ploughed on with academia, completing four years of a six-year medicine and neuroscience degree at Glasgow University.

“I’m so happy I took time to study,” she says. “It was the first time I’d been away from home and I learned a lot about myself, let alone the subject. I feel a lot more in control now that I have a degree. It meant that music wasn’t the be-all and end-all, so that takes some pressure off.

“There was a point at university where I was leaning towards a career in medicine, mainly because I didn’t see a way into the music industry. I was losing hope, but it was never an actual, complete decision.”

Sande’s debut album, Our Version Of Events, was released in February and features the hit singles Heaven, Daddy and Next To Me, which caught Madonna’s attention when she performed it in front of her on Graham Norton’s chat show earlier this year.

“That was a strange night,” laughs the singer. “We chatted briefly, she said she liked the song and my voice, and I shook her hand. Very memorable, but surreal.”

Far and away the breakout star of 2012, Sande says it would be tough to single out a favourite moment.

“There have been so many highlights that it would be impossible to pick just one,” she says. “Playing with Coldplay was very special, so that’s one of them. But also winning the Critics’ Choice award at the Brits, because that’s where it all started for me.

“But I guess if I really, really had to pick one it would be releasing my debut album and having it do so well. That’s something I’d always dreamed of, having a No1 album.”

The Scottish singer recently appeared as a guest vocalist on BBC1’s The Voice, but would she consider going down the same road as Jessie J and becoming a vocal coach on the TV talent show?

“No way,” she says in an instant. “I don’t think I’d ever consider it. For one thing, I’d be too self- conscious to ever do anything like that. It’s a great show, but it’s not for me.”

The Olympic Torch Celebration, Edinburgh Castle, Royal Mile, Wednesday, 5pm, free but ticketed, www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk

Going to see Emeli Sande? Tweet a review to @edinburghpaper using the hash tag #EENreview

You can join in the action and hand on the torch

Emeli Sande will headline, followed by stunning acrobatic and dance performances, before the BIG Project’s Youth Choir (above) bring the event to a close.

Prior to and during the show, the audience will have the opportunity to participate in a number of activities, such as having photographs taken with the London 2012 Torch and other Olympic-related activities.