Emeli Sandé: 'I've tried to learn how to break rules wherever I go'


I've tried to find a scientific way of writing songs The brain really interests me, so I studied clinical neuroscience at Glasgow University [graduating in 2010, having been signed to EMI while studying]. I've discovered that while I don't think you really create a formula, analysing how people think can help [with songwriting].

There's no creativity in medicine By the time you're in your fourth year of med school you have to turn up to hospital looking the same as everybody else. When I left, I finally felt free to express myself in more ways than just music. I did my hair, I got tattoos and I felt liberated.

The whole process of change was gradual When my lyrics first got published [Sandé has also written for Tinie Tempah, Leona Lewis and Cheryl Cole] I got a very small tattoo at first, then others followed, the hair got shorter on the side, and I learnt to become more and more open about who I was.

My favourite tattoo is my first I remember reading Virginia Woolf's essay, "A Room of One's Own", in English classes at school, and then, as I got older, her essay became more poignant to me. So when I got my publishing deal with EMI, I had the title of the essay done as a tattoo, as I felt it was the first time I had money to really create on my own terms.

I felt nervous becoming an artist Being a writer is wonderful: you have everyone's respect and can make a great living. But as a singer-songwriter, while you get to decide how the words are sung, the pressure is on you to create some great work and you can't blame anyone if it isn't a success.

I slip easily into making new rules for myself The record industry is supposed to be really creative, but I realised that if I'm not careful I could turn it into an institution again, like with med school, and find new rules [on songwriting] to follow. So I've tried to learn how to break rules wherever I go; it makes things more interesting.

Chat-up lines do work My father's first line to my mother was, "I'm Sande, as in the day of the week." When I first met my fiancé he went to ask for my number before adding, "Don't worry, I'm not a psycho." It wasn't a good line, but it got me, and years later we're still together.

People trying to make me tidy piss me off I'm 25 now and it's not going to happen, though it really gets on my fiancé's nerves, and in that respect we're complete opposites.

Bringing the Olympic torch to Scotland was epic I carried it in a town near Fort William. It's quite heavy, but the adrenaline kept me going and it was overwhelming to see how many people came out to support me.

Emeli Sandé, 25, is a Scottish soul and R&B artist. She played at the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Special City Celebration in Glasgow, presented by Coca-Cola (cokezone.co.uk)