No one can accuse Emeli Sande of not living life to the fullest.

The last 12 months have seen her career soar, most recently with four nomination for the 2013 Brit Awards and confirmation that her debut album, "Our Version of Events," was the best-selling album in the U.K. in 2012. She's also nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy Award.

Sande's album was released just a few weeks before her standout performances at the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Critics call Sande's sound a mix of Lauryn Hill meets Nina Simone with a dash of Joni Mitchell -- and much more.

Emeli Sande
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW
Info: $16 in advance, $18 day of; 202-803-2899;

"I began writing the album before I was even signed as an artist," said the Scottish- born singer, who took a break from her medical school studies to fully concentrate on music. "It was such a big self-exploration time, and I was coming from medical school that had so many rules and time constraints. I enjoyed the liberation and enjoyed making music, but I did also miss some of the regulations, the schedule."

Sande could have pursued music much earlier in her life. After winning a BBC talent contest, she was offered myriad record deals. Instead, she turned her focus to studies at Glasgow University, where she specialized in clinical neuroscience.

"I always loved music," said Sande, who was a fledgling songwriter by the time she was 10. "But I was very realistic about the industry and how it works, especially in regard to women. Getting a degree first, before you do anything else, gives you power and control."

She juggled her studies with trips to London to work with writers and producers. Working with Shahid Khan (aka Naughty Boy), she added urban and pop sounds to her more jazz-based music. When rapper Chipmunk covered the duo's song "Diamond Rings," a contract with Virgin Records followed.

"Every time, before I go onstage, I remind myself I want to tell these stories," said the 2012 Critics' Choice Brit Award winner of her very personal songs. "A lot of musicians, especially women in this industry, are quite guarded because you have to be very strong to get ahead. When you do get a chance to be vulnerable, it's exciting to be able to expose a different side."