It started with Heaven and was followed by a stratospheric rise from one of the most successful singer-songwriters ever to emerge from Scotland.
Indeed, such was the impact Emeli Sande made on the music world when her first single was released a decade ago that she was performing at the opening and closing ceremonies at the London Olympics less than a year later.
Not bad for the self-confessed “very shy, nerdy and extremely well-behaved” pupil who attended Alford Academy and developed a love of music and creating her own work.
There have been myriad honours, prizes and accolades from her peers, the public and the glitterati, both in Britain and across the globe, and an MBE for her services to music, after she honed her talents while growing up in Aberdeenshire in the 1990s.
But she has never strayed too far from the down-to-earth philosophy of composing her own songs and collaborating with others to make a joyful noise.
It helped that she was encouraged to pursue her dreams by her parents, Joel and Diane, after they moved to the north-east of Scotland from Sunderland when she was a child.
Those who remember the youngster in her formative years describe her as quiet but conscientious, introverted but creative… a person who took her studies seriously but whose fascination with making music was obvious.
She penned her first song at the age of 11 for a primary-school talent show and later recalled: “I always knew that I wanted to be a musician and I knew I wanted to write because the people I was listening to all wrote.
“I never thought it was an option to sing anybody else’s songs.”
However, at the outset of her professional career, Emeli seemed to prefer working with other artists than striking out on her own, not that it did her any harm.
She first rose to prominence after being featured on the 2009 Chipmunk track Diamond Rings.
It was their first top 10 single, then she was featured on Never Be Your Woman by the rapper Wiley, which was another major success in the following year.
Still only in her early 20s, there are pictures of her on the keyboards at a gig at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen, where she received a rapturous reception from the crowd.
She was clearly in her element, whipping up a storm with a series of catchy melodies, which were part of her efforts to take centre stage and build her own repertoire.
And, once Heaven was released in the autumn of 2011, the torch paper had been lit. A new star was in the ascendancy and she was about to take the world by storm.
A single-minded individual, Emeli decided to go to university in Glasgow rather than rush into pursuing what could have been ephemeral popularity in the pop world.
She also chose not to use her original birth name, Adele, given the fact she had noticed another talented woman had rather claimed it as her own.
She explained: “I changed it as soon as Adele (became a star). I just thought: ‘You’ve kind of taken the (name) now’, so I went with my middle name.
“She was just getting bigger and bigger, so I thought I really need (to change it).”
Heaven proved a stratospheric success
Her first solo single was the start of an astonishing period in Emeli’s life.
Heaven was showered with positive reviews and the momentum around her built up like a snowball rolling down a hill and sparking an avalanche.
Within the next three months, she achieved her maiden No 1 single in the UK singles chart when Read All About It entered at the very top of the pile.
Then, on November 26, she performed at the LG ARENA in Birmingham, was named as the Brit Awards Critics’ Choice for 2012 the following month and her hit-studded debut album, Our Version of Events, reached No 1 shortly after its release in February 2012.
Even notoriously hard-to-please critics were positive in their reviews for the work, which eventually sold more than five million copies – a remarkable number in the age of streaming – and was described as a collection of richly melodic, classically powerful, and retro-futurist soul-pop songs, with nods to Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and others.
Barack Obama and White House gig
And, as the phone kept ringing and her reputation soared, there was communication between her representatives and the organisers of the London Olympics.
It seems like an awfully long time since a genuine feelgood factor engulfed Britain during the triumphant staging of the Games, which offered a warm welcome to an international audience and provided abundant moments of joy.
On July 27, Emeli rose to the occasion when she sang Abide with Me at the opening ceremony, while the ubiquitous Heaven was used to accompany the section with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, widely regarded as the man who invented the Internet.
It was a stunning illustration of her meteoric rise and she subsequently performed Read All About It (Part III) at the closing ceremony a fortnight later, while a video montage of emotional scenes from the spectacular event was screened in London.
She also recorded a version of John Lennon’s classic song, Imagine, for the BBC, who used it for their climactic montage at the conclusion of their Olympic coverage.
If anybody imagined that Emeli was a transient phenomenon, she dispelled that concern by continuing to expand her horizons and conquering the US market.
The latter accomplishment was celebrated in style when she performed at the White House as one of the featured artists at the award ceremony in 2013 when Barack Obama presented Carole King with the Library of Congress Gershwin Medal.
A few months later, she started writing her second album, Long Live the Angels, whose painstaking progress reaped dividends when it debuted at No 2 in the UK chart in 2016.
Campaigner and fundraiser
Given the scale of her success worldwide and especially in the UK and the US, Emeli has been a presence in many important campaigns.
Whether through her performances at fundraising concerts or launching initiatives of her own, she has backed up her lyrics of social change and equality with direct action.
Following her performance at Sir Elton John’s Aids Foundation Event back in 2013, she has offered whole-hearted support in raising money for and awareness of the HIV/Aids blight, which is still a massive problem in many countries throughout the African continent, including her father’s birthplace in Zambia.
But she has never forgotten her roots and talked about how her life had changed and her response to tackling social issues when she returned to Aberdeen in 2017.
Emeli responded to the horror of terrorist attacks at several music events and arts festivals in 2017 with a sense of mounting incredulity and shock.
But, as she prepared to make her first-ever appearance at Aberdeen’s old AECC venue four years ago, her message was: “It’s a scary world, but let’s all make music together.”
She was as horrified as everyone else by the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert, which killed 22 people in Manchester in May 2017, but she told me she was convinced that music had the power to heal division and break down barriers.
“These things are horrific, but as a musician, I hope I can bring people closer together.
“That’s why we do what we do. And, by starting this tour in Aberdeen, I also hope I can say thanks to so many of the people who helped me get to where I am today.”
Emeli has new projects in the pipeline
In 2019 Emeli announced the release of her third album, Real Life, following what was described as an intense personal journey of self-doubt and discovery.
It was more reflective and downbeat than her previous works, but the track Extraordinary Being was part of the soundtrack for the film X-Men – Dark Phoenix.
She was also involved in a BBC Scotland show, Emeli Sande’s Street Symphony, meeting and collaborating with a variety of artists in a four-part documentary series.
Everything was placed on hiatus during the Covid pandemic, but she hasn’t been idle behind the scenes and has just confirmed that a new album is on the way.
Oh, and there’s a fizzing single, Family, which shows she hasn’t lost her groove.
So excited to share “Family” with you, the opener to my fourth album! I hope it brings you strength and reminds you to keep rising and pushing forward no matter what life throws at you!
Listen now and tune in to the video premiere at 10am BST: https://t.co/98XWc6qc0j pic.twitter.com/M4efm9vGgA
— Emeli Sandé (@emelisande) September 15, 2021
Emeli Sande is the most internationally-renowned singer-songwriter to emerge from the north-east since Annie Lennox burst into the spotlight with The Tourists and Eurythmics 40 years ago.
They share some of the same characteristics: both are fiercely independent, passionate about championing causes close to their heart, and creating idiosyncratic music.
Yet while Annie has moved far from where she grew up in the 1960s, Emeli has maintained her connection with her roots and makes no apology for doing so.
Hopefully, as the world opens up again in the future, we can all get the chance to commemorate her decade of achievement at the P&J Live!