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Emeli Sande On Working with Kendrick Lamar, Possible EP, British Soul and More — EXCLUSIVE Interview

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Things have been moving fast for Emeli Sande.

The English-bred singer has spent the past two years or so dominating in the European music scene — she took home four Brit Awards this year, including best British Single of the Year (“Next To Me”) and best British Album of the Year (Our Version of Events) — and is slowly becoming familiar to American audiences.

The aforementioned “Next To Me” received a healthy dose of attention when Kendrick Lamar hopped on the song’s remix, boosting its profile exponentially stateside.

While her summer tour plans are still being finalized, Emeli Sande will be in New York for a special performance at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK Airport at 5 PM on April 26th.

Ahead of that performance, we caught up with Mrs. Sande for an EXCLUSIVE interview. Here’s how it went.

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How did the “Next To Me (Remix)” come about?

I really wanted a feature on it, something that would give the perspective of the song. And I was so excited about Kendrick Lamar as an artist. He’s really doing something that’s so different and so honest. We approached him and asked him if it was something he’d be interested in doing and it worked out fantastic. I really love what he did on it and I’d love to work with him again.

There’s been debate about who you’re referring to in “Next To Me.” What inspired the lyrics?

First of all I was thinking about my husband — he wasn’t at the time — but I was thinking about having somebody strong beside you. Sometimes when I sing it I’m speaking about God. I’m just speaking about somebody or something that’s with you all the time, that’s constant in your life. So depending on my mood, depending on the day, I sing it about different.

Soul music isn’t really popular in the United Statest anymore. You see Justin Timberlake doing it a little bit. Why do you think that sound is more embraced in the United States when it comes from the UK as opposed to here?

I’m not sure. I think sometimes you can see that our approach is quite different. It’s this big kind of eclectic mix of a bunch of different genres over here. So I don’t know. We’ve been inspired by so many soul artists from the US. When I say soul I mean [like] Lauryn Hill — who is massive over there — and those kind of people have inspired us. But from where we sit, we see there are so many massive soul artists over there. But maybe I’m wrong.

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British rap music has sort of started to cross over here. Tinie Tempah had a little run. Do you think UK rap will ever have the opportunity to really blow up in the United States?

I hope so. It’s a very different and again it’s a very different approach. And I think rap is so specific to people really relating to what they see around them and what they see in their community. I think it’s difficult for a rapper to break through over there because rap is so massive over there. It’s so big and there are people who are speaking about their communities already. I think that we have something different that could be offered but it would be very tough.

You’re a songwriter who was able to transition into having a full-fledged singing career. What allowed you to do that?

I know it sounds a bit silly but being able to sing was a big thing. If you can deliver a song just as good or better than whoever [you] wanted to give it to, then that gives you literally a voice. It gives you a lot more power than if vocals aren’t your main thing.

Our Version of Events came out in early 2012. Did you think you’d be promoting it this long when you made it?

I was always so focused on “what’s it going to do?” “Am I going to get the chance to make another one?” So no, I don’t think I ever imagined that it would be — you’d sing these songs for this long. That’s a big thing I’ve learned. On the next record make sure that you really, really love the songs in case you have to sing them for the next two years. But I definitely imagined a lot less.

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How do you find time to write while on the road?

I’m trying to find time to do that. But I’ve set up a portable studio on the road so I can put things down and try my best when I can. But it’s difficult because you have snippets of ideas and you never really have time to complete them and develop them. So I’m really looking forward to having time.

Is there a plan in place yet for a new record?

I really want to create an EP, something to just bridge the gap between the first and second album. So I think that is my next plan, putting all these ideas I’ve had on the road into a project. And then after that I’ve got to start thinking about the second album. But I have no idea when it will be ready, when I’ll feel inspired, all of that I’ll kind of have to go with the flow.

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