With President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle seated just three feet away, Emeli Sandé took the stage at the White House Wednesday (May 22) night in honor of Carole King. The legend became the first woman ever to receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, an award given by the Library of Congress.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Sandé told Radio.com the day after she took the stage. “But I was so excited to be there and to be able to play such an incredible song in front of the person who created it. I mean those nights don’t come around too often.”
It was hard to imagine that only a few days before the performance, which will air May 28 on PBS, Sandé was holed up in a little studio in Brooklyn practicing King’s hit, “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman).” Sandé admitted though that a lot of the rehearsal time was spent gearing up to meet the President.
“I think coming from the U.K. it feels like an even more distant dream to be in America meeting the President,” she said. “It was a massive deal and you know, the circumstance was amazing. I’m such a massive Carole King fan, and she’s inspired me as a writer so to be there to honor to celebrate her success.”
Sandé even got a chance to share a special moment with King when the two first arrived at the White House. In a photograph snapped of the two women, which the “Next To You” singer later shared on Twitter, the two look to be deep in conversation.
— Emeli Sandé (@emelisande) May 23, 2013
Sandé said the two talked about music and the art of songwriting. King even told her that she’s happy to see that people still care about how songs are put together.
“That was such a special conversation for me,” she said. “Learning anything from such a legend. I just wanted to take it all in and make sure I didn’t forget that work.”
But the most memorable piece of advice Sandé received from King was something she had actually said earlier in her career that President Obama quoted in his speech: “My process is that I don’t want to get in the way of the creative process.”
“I thought that was a really great way of putting it,” Sandé said. “You let whatever it is happen and leave yourself and your ego behind and I think that’s how the best songs are written.”
Watch Sandé, along with Gloria Estefan, Billy Joel, Jesse McCartney, James Taylor and Trisha Yearwood, honor the music of Carole King on May 28 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.