In this regular Sunday feature, we ask people about 10 things that changed their life. This week, singer Emeli Sandé.

1. Graduation

EDUCATION was a huge part of my upbringing. My father was a teacher at the school I went to, Alford Academy, and my sister was a teacher before having her baby last year. Both of our parents made us aware of how lucky we were to have education opportunities.

They never failed to let us know that those opportunities don’t exist around the world equally, whether it’s among women or through economic background.

As education was such a big presence, it was always my ambition to go to university and have that graduation day – to follow in my parents’ footsteps. I decided to study medicine, and in the end graduated BSc in 2009, with an intercalated degree in neuroscience.

When that graduation day came around, with my parents there, it really was worth all those years of study and work. It was such a brilliant day. Even though I was singing and playing music through that time, it was important for me to do this.

It felt like the summation of all the work I had done at school to get to university and then at Glasgow. It was something I felt I had to do before heading off to London to pursue music.

The National:

2. Zambia

MY father is Zambian. I’m told I was in Zambie (right) around the age of two, but I can’t remember anything of that. I regard my first visit as the one in 2014.

It was the first chance I had to meet my paternal grandmother and my aunties and uncles. It had a massive impact for many reasons.

Of course, the country and those landscapes were something I hadn’t seen before. That experience of being in Africa for the first time was a real life-changing time. I had never really felt that Zambian side of the family before, so having that opportunity to meet them when I was an adult, and thought I knew myself pretty well, opened my eyes to so many things about myself. It all started to make more sense.

3. My nephew being born

I WAS touring last year and on this particular day I was in Locarno, Switzerland for the last show of the run. My phone rang at 6am and initially I was like, “Aaargh! Who’s phoning me at this time?!!”

It was my sister’s partner who was ready to introduce me to my newly born nephew, Loyalty. It was July last year so almost exactly a year ago. I knew that I might be away when he was born but I was so delighted that it was the last show and I could head straight back after to meet him and see my sister.

It is my sister’s first child and felt like something so new – the first of the next generation.

4. My university piano

UNIVERSITY meant leaving home for the first time and living in student halls. One thing I was really missing was playing piano every day. I would play every day, even as soon as I got in from school. It was a huge part of my life.

When I was visiting home, I told my parents how much I was missing it, so they and my boyfriend at the time got together and bought me a MIDI keyboard.

In my rooms at the halls of residence, I could put on the headphones on, play the keyboard and almost feel like I was at home again. That keyboard was with me through all those years at university and subsequently has been played at a lot of shows I’ve done. The keyboard was amazing of course, but what was more important was the fact that they had all put their money together – and these things aren’t cheap – to get it for me. That’s what meant so much.

I also think that having it there and maintaining that link with music was the difference between me pursuing music or not. If I hadn’t had a chance to play every day and keep that musical part of me active, I might not have pursued music in the way I did.

The National:

5. I Luv Live and meeting Naughty Boy

AT the same time as I was studying medicine, I was travelling back and forward to London to take part in what were essentially talent shows. One was called I Luv Live, designed to showcase up-and-coming talent.

On the night I didn’t think anyone was listening to me. Everyone else had been doing rap tunes, really loud stuff, and I stood up and sang acapella and then did one song with just piano. I felt everyone was talking over me and it had been a massive disaster.

However, that night I also met Naughty Boy (left) and that really changed the course of my career. It was the beginning of everything for me. We worked together on a few singles and when I got my own deal, we made the first album, Our Version Of Events, together.

It was a great lesson to me about life. Just keep on because you never know who’s listening. There are always reasons for things happening – good or bad. It had been quite an experience anyway, and I still felt like the Aberdeenshire country girl in big, shiny London. It was also a valuable lesson in sticking to your guns and being true to yourself.

The National:

6. Kundalini

MY SISTER is absolutely fanatical about yoga. For years she had been telling me about all different types of yoga, what it could do for me, and why I should do it. I did listen, but I did absolutely nothing about it. Over the years she obviously wore me down, and I started to try little bits of yoga, but nothing really stuck with me.

However, last year I went to a Kundalini class at Archway in London. That was an amazing experience. Everything that she had previously told me about yoga, particularly the spiritual side of it, really came together for me at that class and in that moment.

There were so many waves of energy, but also of emotion, and after the class I felt more serene than I ever had done before. It was such a natural high. It definitely changed my life and I’ve now been reading a lot about Kundalini.

I think even just being rooted in one place helps for someone who is on the move so much. I think it also helps to have a routine, especially when I’m on tour. The places change so quickly that having that same one thing to do every day and on the same mat is really grounding.

7. Having my first tattoo

HAVING my first tattoo and moving to London go together in many ways. It was a new chapter in my life. It was a new phase with a lot of associated freedom, It was the time I cut my hair into the quiff and I thought to myself, “I can get a tattoo now because I’m not studying medicine and working in hospitals now.”

I had a lot of friends in Glasgow that I envied because they were involved in the artier side of the university. They could do what they wanted, they could wear what they wanted, and I always wanted to go in that direction. Part of that was wanting to have a tattoo done.

At the time I was still somewhere between medicine and music; I hadn’t quite made my mind up. So, to start with I just got a very small one on my wrist. It reads “A Room of One’s Own” in Spanish. I hadn’t long returned from Madrid and Virginia Woolf’s essay had a big effect on me about the need for women to have their own money and their own space if they are to reach their true potential.

When I decided to concentrate on music full-time I had a large portrait of the artist Frida Kahlo on my right arm. They can be quite addictive.

The National:

8. Hearing Amy Winehouse for the first time

WHEN I was about 16 I was already going around record companies looking for a deal. At that point Amy Winehouse hadn’t long been signed to Island records and was about to release Frank. My manager at the time was saying “you really need to hear this girl. She plays guitar and she’s incredibly cool.” When I was in talking to Island, they gave me a copy of the CD before it was released.

It was just incredible. It felt amazing having a copy before it had even been released, and I loved everything about it. Her character, what she was saying in the lyrics, it was so clever and something I hadn’t heard before. Everything about her was so powerful and potent.

Obviously Back to Black was a brilliant album, but there was something so fresh about Frank. It’s always great when you feel that you know about this amazing artist before the rest of the world, who of course caught up with Back to Black.

In the beginning it felt so new and exciting to listen to her, though. It’s a great regret to me that I never got the chance to see her perform live, as the show was cancelled. It was always a dream to see her – such an incredible artist.

9. Hearing Heaven on radio for the first time

WHEN I was working with Naughty Boy, we would tend to carry on through the night and finish in the early hours. One night when I was driving home, the sun was just coming up. I was driving across a bridge and a radio station, I wish I remember which one it was, played Heaven.

It was the first time I had heard it on radio, and it was such a beautiful moment. To me it signifies everything about that time, especially London and the excitement of being in the city.

The fact that I had just come from working with Naughty Boy and hearing something we had produced together, combined with the beautiful morning – it was such a strange and special moment.

The National:

10. Nina Simone

HEARING Nina Simone for the first time changed my whole musical life. I would have been about 11 or 12 and we were waiting to pick my mum up from work in Aberdeen. I’m sure we were parked opposite Codona’s, but we were definitely by the sea. My dad was playing music in the car, which I knew was really having an effect on me. At the time, I didn’t even realise this was a woman’s voice. When my dad told me that, I was completely blown away. You couldn’t put anything that she did in a box, it was just Nina Simone – pure and strong.

She was also the person who made me realise how far you can take the piano, how you can weave voice and piano together and how the countermelodies can work. Everything she was doing, the fusion of classical and jazz, I just felt it was pure genius.

She also inspired me to think differently about singing. About using the voice as another instrument.

Emeli plays Edinburgh Usher Hall 17th November and Glasgow SEC Armadillo 19th November. Her new album Real Life will be released on 13th September