Let's Say Emeli


“I’m trying to grow up and be a bit wiser,” says Emeli Sandé with a gentle giggle sitting in the home studio where she recorded her new album Let’s Say For Instance. She’s actually talking about her hair and how she’s ditched the trademark blonde and quiffed and shaved look for something more, well, grown-up. 

“I’d had that hairstyle for years and I did love it because when I first came to London, it was the first thing I wanted to do after leaving med school. I was like, ‘I want to rebel. I want to get a tattoo and shave my hair and dye it.’ But after seven or eight years, I feel like I’ve grown up a little bit.”

But the hair is the least of the growing up Emeli has done recently. “I want to be honest about everything in my life right now,” she says, talking about the songs on the album. “I’m in love now so it’s fantastic just to be in that state of mind. This is me.” 

What she’s about to say for the first time is that she’s actually in love with a woman. The woman sitting behind her on a settee having sandwiches. 

“I’m in love with Yoana,” she says, and smiles, as if to say, “That wasn’t so hard.” She met Yoana Karemova, a pianist, when she decided she wanted to learn more about classical music and they ended up writing together. “And we just slowly fell in love…” 

She looks round and Yoana gives me a little wave between bites. 

The fact that she’s now in love with a woman might not be so surprising if Emeli hadn’t already been married to a man and had a string of high-profile relationships with men but does the new relationship mean she now identifies as bisexual? 

“I’m not sure what I identify as,” she says, like it’s the first time the question has occurred to her. “I just feel like I should fall in love with whoever I fall in love with. And I definitely feel happier than ever and like she’s the one for life.

“For me, having true love in your life makes everything fit into place. You can have everything you dreamt of career-wise and tick all the boxes but if you don’t really have someone to share it with, someone supporting you behind the scenes, it’s very difficult. So I feel very fulfilled. I’ll always love music and love my career but now it just feels that whatever happens, I can just enjoy life and be really happy.”

And this new lease of life is seeping into her work: the video for the first song from the album, There Isn’t Much, featured queer women –  “We really wanted it to be inclusive of everybody and give people a shot who don’t usually get in the industry, so that was everyone behind the camera and in front of it, dancers from the queer community, other women” – while the second is a romantic travelogue featuring Emeli and Yoana running around Paris, singing about being ready to love again.

The new open attitude even extends to a new independent record label, Chrysalis, “who are super-amazing in that they’ve allowed me to be who I am, express myself as I wish, even with the videos.” With her debut album spending a total of ten weeks at number one and becoming the UK’s biggest selling album of 2012 – the year she appeared not once but twice at the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies- the pressure was always going to be on from a major label. Now, she can relax and be herself.

Now splitting her time between the house with the studio in Hertfordshire and her old place in Bethnal Green in east London – “for when I need a bit of city inspiration” – it feels like everything has finally fallen into place for Emeli. She even took Yoana up to meet her parents in Aberdeenshire for Christmas last year. And she’s all smiles when you ask her how it went. 

“All good,” she says. 

Sounds like it really is all good.

Let’s Say For Instance is out now