While still a teenager, Emeli Sandé got her first big break as a singer-songwriter. After her kid sister filmed her performing one of her own songs (the smoldering “Nasty Little Lady”) at a piano in their rural Scotland home, Sandé sent the clip to a BBC talent contest. She was named one of the contest winners, and record-deal offers soon started pouring in. But instead of signing to a label, Sandé put her music career on hold and embarked on a six-year degree in medicine. Studying at Glasgow University, she specialized in clinical neuroscience “‘cause I really like all the brain stuff.”
Starting in her early childhood, Sandé’s father (from Zambia) and mother (from Cumbria) helped refine her musical knowledge and supported her ambitions as a singer and musician.
One of their first compositions, “Diamond Rings,” was quickly snatched up by British rapper Chipmunk. Featuring guest vocals by Sandé, the track became Chipmunk’s first top-ten single in summer 2009. By the following March, Virgin Records signed Sandé, who then decided to take time out from her medical studies. After writing a slew of songs for British acts like Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle, Tinie Tempah, Professor Green, Tinchy Stryder, Cheryl Cole, and The Saturdays, Sandé set to work on her debut record.