THERE comes a time in a pop star’s life – usually after the first wave of success and the second album, and sometimes after the first or second marriage – when the draw of the city pales and they start binge-watching episodes of Escape to the Country on the iPlayer.

Emeli Sande, 31, has arrived at this point in her career. In this, if nothing else, can we draw comparisons between her and fish farmer Roger Daltrey and Blur’s cheesemonger Alex James.

As yet, Sande has not, as far as I know, set up her own jam and knitting factory. But she has left London behind, moved to the outskirts, found a place and built a recording studio in it, which means, she tells me, if she wants to make music at three in the morning there’s no one to stop her.

“Nowadays, because I’m a grown-up I try to get to bed before one,” Sande adds. “But you never know when the spirit hits you and you get one of those songs.”

In a way, of course, this means that her life has come full circle. Growing up in Alford in Aberdeenshire, Sande was surrounded by nature. Now she is again.

“I had kind of forgotten how healing nature can be,” she says. “Because I grew up in the countryside you want to live in the city because you want all the fun and the excitement of it. But now I’m reminded of how lovely the peace of nature is.”

Already this morning she’s sat in her garden having breakfast serenaded by a chorus of birdsong. “It just feels like a dream to me,” she says. I am imagining her toes curling up in pleasure as she says it.

Emeli Sande in 2018 says she is in a good place, and not just geographically. She’s working on a new album and living with her sister. Maybe you could say she was nesting, although the only new arrival on the horizon is the next record, her third, which she’s hoping to finish in the next few months. “It’s soulful, it’s quite a positive album,” she tells me, though she’s not sure when we’ll be able to judge for ourselves. That’s up to her record company.

If so, though, that would mark a step-change from her last album, Long Live the Angels which arrived in 2016 in the wake of her short-lived marriage to her long-term boyfriend Adam Gouraguine. Even though Sande denied it was a break-up album at the time, it was difficult to listen to songs like Hurts and Lonely and think it could be anything else.

It’s not something she wants to talk about today though. What Sande has learned in the last few years, she says, is when to say nothing.

“I know what I feel comfortable talking about and how much of yourself feels good to be out there. And how much I just want to leave for the music to say.

“I’m quite a shy person when it comes to speaking about myself. I’d rather talk about how we made a song or something.”

Which is fair enough but, still, a bit of a shame. Not so much because I want her to spill the beans on her innermost secrets. More because she can default to a sunny positivity that glides over real feeling.

Added to that, I wonder if she couldn’t use her position to be more vocal. Visually, Sande has always been the model of what a pop star should be. But unlike Miley or Katy or Beyonce or Janelle, outspokenness doesn’t come naturally to her. Still, she has her moments, as we will discover later.

It’s been more than six years since we last met. Back then, Sande was still only potentially huge. She’d won a Critic’s Choice Brit Award and her debut album Our Version of Events had just come out. But it was before we knew it was going to be the best-selling album of the year, before we knew she’d be performing at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics (she sang Abide With Me in the former as part of Danny Boyle’s glorious progressive vision of liberal Britain; remember that used to be a thing?)

Before, in short, she became one of the biggest names in the country.

The years that followed were a whirlwind of tours and press and attention and, for a while, Sande says, being at the eye of the storm was hugely exciting. “It happened so quickly. I’d gone from being at med school and then suddenly I was touring the world.”

But she recognises that there were times when she was all work and no play. “Yeah, I love to be busy and I get itchy feet if I’m in one placed too long. But it was definitely intense and when you see that your whole year has been booked up at the beginning of the year … It’s quite a lot.”

And maybe that public demand had a toll on her private life. She’d been with Gouraguine for 10 years, since she was 17, when they got married in 2012. And yet their marriage ended a year later.

What did it feel like to be a rabbit in the headlights? “I think it really made me have a look at myself and what I’m comfortable with.”

The Emeli Sande story goes something like this. Born to an English mum and Zambian father in Sunderland, Adele Sande grew up in a noisy house in Alford in Aberdeenshire.

She and her sister Lucy were the only mixed-race kids in their school, something which she has admitted she found difficult to deal with (Sande once said she felt “alien” growing up). She was shy, and introverted. But she loved performing.

Her dad being a teacher, education was a big thing in the Sande household and she was studious. Music mattered too, though. She took piano lessons, played the clarinet, listened to her dad’s Nina Simone records.

She began writing songs as early as nine or 10 and at 16 she even got to the final of the BBC’s Urban Music competition. But medicine trumped music in her teens and she came to Glasgow to study. It was, she says, the first time she’d been away from home.

Did you go a bit mad in Glasgow, Emeli? “A little bit. But I was so nervous about failing exams. I didn’t go too crazy.”

She loved her time in the city. Meeting new people, discovering new ideas. Prompt her and she’s happy to reminisce. “I started finding my favourite spots. I used to go to a place called Tchai-Ovna, a tea place. The guy who owned it played the saxophone. He had a Bible of different teas. That was really great.”

She’d go to Nice and Sleazy’s on a Monday night, perform in med school talent shows. She even got up on stage at the Arches once. “I remember it as a free-for-all. As long as you were studying everything was just such fun. I feel so safe in Glasgow.”

And, yet, by the time she left uni she had met Naughty Boy who would become her songwriting partner for her first album and soon she was writing songs with Alicia Keys and for Susan Boyle.

But, really, the idea of Sande being a backroom song wallah wasn’t going to fly as soon as anyone heard that voice. Even if you found some of her songs a little too tame, the setting a little too polished, the pedigree and punch of her vocals couldn’t be ignored.

And they weren’t. Her first album, Our Version of Events became the best-selling album of 2012, with more than 4.5 million people buying it. As a performer she dropped her first name as she reckoned Adele had already been claimed. That said Sande’s album outsold Adele’s that year.

And once you do that you are public property.

In the wake of huge success and its subsequent discontents, Sande retreated before emerging again last year with the Long Live The Angels album, a record that was just as polished and immaculate as her first, but a record with a bruised heart.

Maybe now she’s in a position to put the last six years behind her. If that’s the case, 2018 marks a new start. “2018 has been really awesome so far. I always had the feeling this year would be quite electric and full of energy and so far it has been.”

She started it in Glastonbury for New Year’s Eve. “We went to a community hall. Everyone dancing, no alcohol and that was quite different for New Year’s Eve for me.”

Of all the places you could have spent Hogmanay, why there Emeli?

“We were told it the heart chakra of the world and I’d never really been. My sister is into meditation and spirituality, so we went there and it was such a refreshing start to the year.”

How so? “Just the general consciousness of the town is really inspiring. Everyone’s thinking about love and how to come together. There’s a real sense of community and we felt very welcome.

“There’s lots of vegan places, lots to eat. We learned a lot about energy and protecting energy and remaining positive even if the world seems full of pressure and darkness. Trying to protect that within yourself. I learnt a lot about boundaries.”

Well, we have suddenly strayed into new age territory. It might seem a world away from what you might expect from a former medical student. But then we all contain multitudes, don’t we?

And, actually, maybe that medical student isn’t so very far away. At the end of our conversation we raise our eyes and talk about the world we’re currently living in. Last year Sande was one of the artists who recorded a charity record for the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster, alongside Robbie Williams, Paloma Faith and Mister Daltrey.

And here’s the thing I want to ask you, Emeli, I say. This is the age of Trump and Brexit. We’re speaking in the wake of the Windrush debacle where the government has been deporting British citizens because of the colour of their skin. As a mixed-race woman, how does Britain feel to you at the moment?

Her answer is a surprise. “It feels more honest than ever,” she says. “I feel like these topics even being discussed is a step in the right direction. It’s not as if we’ve suddenly got to this place. And with social media things that may have been swept under the carpet parliament is being forced to discuss them.

“It’s not a taboo subject to talk about race anymore. These things are open to be discussed.”

Hmm, maybe, I say. But some of that discussion is openly racist, isn’t it?

“With the anonymity of social media you have a lot more brave people – I say ‘brave’ – saying how they actually feel, but from behind a mask,” she agrees.

“But it’s good to expose all of this, because to solve a problem we need to know how big and deep it goes.”

Let the wound breathe, you mean? There speaks a former medical student, I tell her.

Emeli Sande has to go. She has an album to finish. Outside, the birds are still singing. Soon, she will, too. It is her favourite thing. “It’s definitely cathartic,” she says. “How often do you get to be that loud and not look like you’re crazy?”

Emeli Sande plays Fiesta X Fold at Kelvingrove Park on Sunday, July 1.