When Emeli Sandé plays Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre this summer, it will be a triumphant homecoming for the global superstar… of sorts.
Although born in Sunderland, 80 miles or so up the coast, Sandé has never been to the resort before. She left the North East with her family for Ulverston in Cumbria when she was a baby, and at the age of four moved again to Aberdeenshire in Scotland.
“I have moved around a lot,” she laughs, speaking from her latest berth, her home just outside London. She has her own studio set up there and is working on new songs for her next album. “And I’m really excited to be playing Scarborough, as I’ve never even been there before.”
Her gig on Thursday July 5 will see Sandé break out the hits that have made her an international singing sensation, including ‘Next To Me’, ‘Read All About It’, and ‘My Kind of Love’.
And she can’t wait to play to a northern crowd again. “Playing in the north always feels like a homecoming for me,” says Sandé, 31. “I grew up in the north, and the kindness and warmth of people there really makes me feel welcome.
“It takes me back to when I was a kid. I have family up north as well, so it gives me a chance to play for all the people who supported me on my journey from the very first step.”
And what a journey it’s been. Sandé broke through to the big time after her vocals were featured on the 2009 hit by Chipmunk, Diamond Rings. The following year she collaborated with rapper Wiley on ‘Never Be Your Woman’, and in 2011 released her first solo single, ‘Heaven’.
“Is that what it was, 2009?” she says, sounding slightly shocked. But it has been a full-on ride since then, with two albums — ‘Our Version of Events’, the bestselling album of 2012, and ‘Long Live The Angels’ in 2016 — as well as performing at the London Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, and scooping a clutch of Brit Awards. Oh, and getting an MBE from the Queen in the 2017 Birthday Honours List for her services to music.
“It’s been a crazy nine years,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone at all in the music industry when I was starting out and was determined to get a foot in the door, and that’s what happened with Chipmunk.
“Then one thing led to another… and at the end of it all I ended up in Buckingham Palace!”
Sandé is really looking forward to Scarborough because she loves playing live to an open-air crowd. “I love doing festivals and gigs like this,” she says. “It always feels more like a celebration, I can feel everyone’s positive energy. It’s so different from doing an arena or an indoor gig.
“For some reason, it feels like I have a lot more freedom on stage when I’m outdoors. I can be a lot more creative. Part of that’s because there’s so much that you can’t control — the weather, who’s going to be in the crowd — that you kind of end up going with the flow a lot more.
“We’re just about to start rehearsals for Scarborough and I think it’s going to be the sort of gig that I tailor especially to the venue. I like to give a passionate, soulful performance when I play live, I want people to feel good.”
And that’s important to Sandé, especially when it seems the news is filled with negative and divisive stories. She says, “Music is healing. It brings people together. There always seems to be something else coming along that divides people, but seeing people of all different races and backgrounds coming together to watch a gig… that’s what keeps me wanting to do the job.”
Meanwhile, Sandé needs to get back to arranging and writing new songs for her third album. Is it out any time soon? “If it was up to me I’d bring it out this year!” she says. “But it might take a little while longer, we’ll see.”
Emeli Sandé joins a stellar line-up at Scarborough OAT this summer which includes not-to-be-missed shows from Britney Spears, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Lionel Richie, Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra’s Ibiza Classics, Sterophonics, James, Nile Rodgers and CHIC, Bastille, James Arthur, Texas, Il Divo, Gary Barlow, The Script, Steps and Alfie Boe.
Tickets are on sale from www.scarboroughopenairtheatre.com or from Scarborough Open Air Theatre Box Office (01723 818111) and the Discover Yorkshire Coast Tourism Bureau (01723 383636).