Emeli Sandé Covers FAULT Magazine Issue 30

Emeli Sandé X FAULT Magazine Issue 30


Photography: Marta Literska | Fashion Editor: Edith Walker Millwood | Hair and Makeup: Kim Kiefer


Words: Trina John Charles

Upon seeing Emeli Sandé for the first time in a long time, I am instantly drawn to her hair and her smile. Both seem different. In a good way. Her trademark, meticulously styled, the quiff is gone and an abundance of natural curls and much more natural energy seems to have taken place. It certainly becomes her. 

There was a time when you couldn’t escape Emeli Sandé, she was labelled ‘the next big thing’, at most major events, winning most of the awards and her songs were in constant rotation. However, although always still working and making music, the public eye side of her career seemed to have decimated somewhat, on her own terms. Emeli’s new album ‘Real Life’ allowed us in for a more personal interview, where we discuss her ascension into what she calls her ‘true self’ and finally knowing who she is. 


 The press release for this new album talks about you ushering in a ‘brand new chapter, with a brand new sound’. It sounds like you’ve been on a bit of a journey.

 I have definitely been on quite a journey. I can see things in a much more organised way. I was on a very big self-discovery journey, from the first album… it really began from the second album and when I was making that, but this time around I really had time to step away. I built my own studio [at home] and I was working with an engineer called Ratchet and another guy I was working with called Nigel. We put together this studio at my house and it was wonderful to have space for the first time. To grow musically and personally. I got to be around my sister… a lot was going on but, I think I just learned so much about myself by taking that step back. I did some serious self-reflection… but all the time music was being made. I think that was also a healing process. I think now I’ve come out of the other side having a much more realistic view of the world and how people work and how I work, understanding my flaws… Much more than ever, I really feel in love with music again. I don’t think there was a point where I fell out of love with it, but I think that initial passion of what sparked my whole singing journey in the first place has come back to me. I feel good and I have very solid confidence now. Whereas before, I felt like I built my confidence in things that were tangible or fleeting, or other people’s perception of me, so now I just feel like, I know who I am. I know my own strength and my own power and it feels good. I don’t know if it comes with age or just a lot of thinking…


Or dealing with a lot of crap, in life.

 [laughs] Yes, that too. 

You also speak about discovering who you were as a black female. What did that look like for you? 

That took form in many different elements for me. My hair was a big journey for me…There were so many things… because when you are working… you are working and working and so focused on work you kind of forget that you need to be in touch with your body, you need to be in touch with your culture. Having grown up in Scotland I really had to put together my own version of myself. I could hear music and I feel like I was taught a lot by a lot of black artists, like Lauryn Hill or Jill Scott, when I heard these women, I felt like I was learning so much about being a black woman through music. Then when I came to London, that journey continued. This was about me understanding who I am as a black woman, but also as a black woman of duel heritage. I went to Zambia to meet my family out there for the very first time in 2014. That was the first time I had been as an adult. [I went once before when I was two]. I met my grandmother, I have a brother there, all my family over there. There was this whole culture that had never been a part of my life growing up, suddenly right in front of me. I was loving this part of me, but it was also a lot to take in at once, so I went back in 2016. Being around my grandmother and my aunties and seeing what they did with the earth and that reconnection to the planet… it is hard to quantify it. It has been a full, whole big evolution in my life. Just also letting go of ideas and thoughts and the way I thought things should be, just letting go of the whole illusion of perfect or what is perfect. Its kind of like the Matrix, where Neo wakes up in reality and yes, the first part of it is pretty shit, where he is like, vomiting and the food is rubbish… I’m not saying that is literally what happened to me [laughs], but it was a rude awakening. I had to get to know myself on a very real level. 


I found listening to the new album ‘Real Life’ really left me coming away so self-empowered, but also really spoke to me as a black woman. Did you write with black women specifically in mind?

I think maybe subconsciously, just being a black woman, these perspectives come out. The thing that I really tried to do was just be as honest and frank as I could be and hopefully, this coming from me as a black woman will speak directly to black women. Also, beyond colour, I just wanted to speak to anybody struggling. I read every day about homophobia or racism or sexism and these things have become everyday headlines, but essentially these are also individuals going through a tough time designed by other people. There is no reason for them to be suffering other than these kinds of rules we put on society and these kinds of judgements. I want this album to be for anybody who listens to it, but also especially for those who need to be reminded of their greatness. 

Because you also talk about wanting to reach people who ‘don’t have confidence, because of who they have been told they are’. We don’t realise the impact of the way society labels us.

It really is a struggle. When I started to look at myself like, ‘who are you? …well I’m this, I’m a med student, I’m a wife now… well what if that isn’t there? Who are you then, on a human or personal level?’ A lot of roles and categories are put on you and you don’t realise. I just wanted something like one of those ‘Men In Black’ pens that erase all memory. Everything that someone else has taught you about yourself, forget that for a minute and really just remember how wonderful you are. 


For someone so accomplished, 7 times platinum in the UK & Ireland, MBE, 6million albums sold, what do you have left to achieve? What would make you say, ‘I am so happy this has happened for me’?

Definitely children. I just love children so much and whether it’s having my own children or adopting children, I just think it is a privilege to be in a child’s life and watch them grow. Also maybe just pushing myself more musically. Like, no lyrics allowed, just pure melody and it can’t repeat or be formulaic. I have thought about going back to uni and studying composition. That’s where I see myself pushing myself. In those ways. 

I find the mixed-race experience is often belittled, dismissed or silenced, by both sides. I would like to hear what your experiences have been like growing up as a mixed child in Scotland and being one of only two mixed families where you lived at the time.


ES: Essentially, at the beginning, it was really just us. Later another mixed family moved in. I think it’s the confusion and I didn’t really accept that I was until I was a lot older. I’d be with my mum and people wouldn’t think, or believe she was my mum. Things like that just kind of just play with your head. I remember when I was much younger there was a bully on our estate and she was like, ‘you must be adopted, because your mum is white and your dad is back and that doesn’t make sense’. It’s just being in between two very distinctively different cultures. Having not having the Zambian side for such a huge part of my life and being so in awe of it. It’s finding that balance and accepting every part of you. I know who I am, I identify as a black woman, but I am made up of so many different parts and once I got over feeling like, someone needs to tell me who I am, thats when it all fell into place.