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Exclusive interview: Emeli Sande on returning to Belladrum, her new song and embracing festival vibe

Emeli Sande wants to be a role model and inspiration for young women.
Emeli Sande wants to be a role model and inspiration for young women.

Chart topping sensation Emeli Sande remembers the thrill of playing Belladrum Tartan Heart just before her career went stellar.

The Alford raised singer songwriter performed at the popular festival in 2011 – on the same bill as Ed Sheeran.

Within a year Emeli was one of the biggest singers in the world.

Now more than a decade and a string of world-wide smash hits later, Emeli is set to make a triumphant return to Belladrum.

Chart sensation Emeli Sande is excited to play Belledrum Tartan Heart festival. Picture by Olivia Lifungula.

Emeli, a four time BRIT award winner, will headline the Garden Stage on Thursday.

A thrilling bill across the three day festival also includes Nile Rodgers & Chic, Van Morrison, The Fratellis, Shed Seven, Stiff Little Fingers, Sam Ryder and many more.

The festival will run from Thursday July 28 to Saturday July 30.

Emeli revealed she is set to release a single with funk legend Nile Rodgers next month.

And the 35-year-old is hoping for a surprise performance alongside the Chic great at Belladrum.

‘I felt very welcome at Belladrum’

Emeli said: “I performed at Belladrum right at the beginning of my career when Ed Sheeran did a set just after me.

“It feels nice to return to the festival.

“When I played there it felt so welcoming, I remember it as a really friendly environment.

“That was around the time when I was starting to play festivals and it can be quite intimidating doing that at the beginning.

“However I felt very welcome and happy at Belladrum.

“I have a new song coming out in the middle of August with Nile Rodgers which is really exciting.

“I worked on his album previously and now we are putting out a single together.

“It is really funky and feelgood and I’m hoping we can perform it together.

“Nile is performing at Belladrum as well so it will be great to vibe with him on that.

“I would love that if he is not too busy. He is an amazing musician.”

From Belladrum to the Olympics

A month after her performance at Belladrum in 2011 Emeli released her debut solo single Heaven.

A two time Ivor Novello award winner Emeli’s debut long player Our Version of Events was the best selling album in the UK in 2012.

That year Emeli memorably performed a stunning, joyful version of Abide With Me to a television audience of billions at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics,

At the closing ceremony, she performed hit single Read All About It.

The acclaimed singer songwriter was scheduled to play Tartan Heart last summer.

However festival organisers opted to cancel the 2021 event, at Beauly near Inverness, due to uncertainty surrounding the potential Covid restrictions that may be in place.

Coronavirus pandemic restrictions denied musicians the opportunity to express themselves live on stage for more than a year.

Emeli Sande performs live in Perth.

Flipping lockdown into a positive

Although Emeli admits being denied that connection with a live audience was ‘scary’ it offered an opportunity to spend time with family.

She said: “It was quite scary because for every musician that is how we make our living.

“That is what we dedicate our life to music for, to be able to perform live.

“When all that is taken away you have to maybe consider if there are other things you have to retrain in.

“Or if you have made the right decision dedicating your life to music.

“However I think most of us don’t have a choice, it is just something in our blood.

“I flipped it into a positive.

“I didn’t get to do what I was planning to so lets take this time and do things I didn’t have the time to over the previous few years.

“So there was a lot of reading and being around family.

“There was also a lot of practising music which helped me focus my mind on something other than worrying.

“Now I am happy it (Belladrum) has been rescheduled and I get to do it this week.”

Emeli Sande at music venue The Tunnels in Aberdeen.

‘Two full years to really dig in’

Emeli released fourth studio album Let’s Say For Instance to acclaim in May this year.

It was the follow up to 2019’s Real Life.

Emeli says the pandemic allowed the time, and luxury, to hone her music for the recent album.

And it also reaffirmed there is no better feeling than performing in front of an audience.

Emeli Sande sings – #March4Women 2020, a march and rally in London to celebrate International Women’s Day.

She said: “Even when you are making an album there are time limits.

“However I had a full two years to really dig in, try things and complete things.

“And if they weren’t I could throw them away which was a real luxury.

“However, playing live again feels awesome.

Emeli Sande takes in the sights of Union Street, Aberdeen.

“It reminds me that as much as I love being in the studio there is nothing else like being on stage.

“It is really special. I think we all got the time to get to know ourselves on a deeper level.

“It enhanced my performance and certainly makes me feel a lot more settled on stage having had that time.”

Emeli embraces the ‘festival vibe’

Since her debut performance at Belladrum 11 years ago Emeli has become one of the world’s top singers.

She has sold more than 19 million singles, six million albums and racked up 340 million video views.

Emeli is excited to return to the festival.

She said: “I embrace the festival vibe.

“Everyone is there because they are genuine music lovers.

“They stand in the rain sometimes just out of their passion for music.

“I see festivals as an opportunity to share my music with new people.”

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