Sam Smith has taken the music world by storm – at just 21 years old, the soulful singer has broken records with his debut album In The Lonely Hour, entered Billboard’s Top 200 list at #2, and now holds the title of the highest first-week U.S. sales for a UK male artist. The singer, who has been referred to as ‘the male Adele’, has sold over one million copies of his single “Stay With Me” and will be kicking off a tour of the U.S. in September. Amidst his hectic schedule, Sam took a moment to sit down with The Untitled Magazine for an exclusive interview. Sam was additionally been nominated for two MTV Music Awards, “Best Male” and “Artist to Watch”, which will be announced August 24.
Indira Cesarine: How did you get started in the music industry?
Sam Smith: Well, I started singing from the age of eight… it was a passion of mine. As a kid, I always wanted to know what I wanted to be when I was older. I remember being six years old and panicking about trying to figure it out. I felt in my head that I had to have a path, and I used to choose all of these different careers and then write out plans for them. It’s really odd. At about eleven years old, I knew that I wanted to be a pop star. It wasn’t until I moved to London, when I was eighteen, and then I started working in the bath two-years, I was cleaning toilets, and I was just really hustling when I was eighteen. I was really poor. It wasn’t until I kind of got off of my ass and moved to London and started socializing and meeting people that things started to really kick off. I wrote “Lay me Down” and then Disclosure heard that, and I wrote “Latch” and then Naughty Boy heard “Latch”, and then we did “Lalala” and it just felt like ten years in the making, and then one year, things clicked.
IC: What inspires your songwriting?
SS: My life inspires it. I write very autobiographically. I want to write about things that are happening in my life at that time. So, its almost like I’m documenting it.
IC: How would you describe, in your own words, your sound?
SS: When I go to the studio, sometimes I wake up and I want to sound like Beyoncé and then some days I wake up and I want to sound like Joni Mitchell and so that’s exactly what I do.
IC: Can you tell us about your new album?
SS: The album is called In the Lonely Hour. I’ve never been in a relationship before, and when I wanted to write this album, I wanted to be honest and write how I was feeling at the time. I wanted to address this whole subject because I don’t feel like it’s addressed enough; I feel like people are scared of being sad sometimes. People do get sad and I made this EP that has a song called ‘Safe with Me’ and ‘Nirvana’, I released ‘Lalala’, ‘Latch’, ‘Money on my Mind’ – all of these songs are up-tempo, euphoric sounding… happy, sexy songs. I just wanted to do a body of work that focused on my loneliness. I needed it to help me, more than anything I needed to do it for me. And I did.
IC: So its quite autobiographical,?
SS: Yes, I would go out the night before I did sessions and I’d get drunk and kiss people and then write about it the next day!
IC: As an up-and-coming artist what would you consider the biggest struggle you’ve had so far in your career?
SS: I got really sad last year about being lonely. That was one of the struggles but, I mean, professionally I think the biggest struggle so far is just breaking the boundaries of this whole drama thing. I was speaking about this with my friends and mainstream music frustrates me sometimes. If someone sells two or three million records, sometimes people say that they’ve sold out or that their music is not critically good just because they’re selling loads of records. I don’t understand that myself, because I feel like the more people you appeal to, the more magic your music has. I feel like there are deluded opinions out there on that for me. But people also listen to music in different ways and I respect that.
I also feel like all artists have to be a tiny bit insecure to stand on stage and want thousands of people to clap and shout their name. I think all artists have a little bit of insecurity to want to do that. Especially if you’re a songwriter as well, I mean, we’re all a little bit crazy and I think that that’s good – just as long as we’re outputting it into the music. That’s all I’d say. And that’s what I do, whenever I’m sad or feel troubled I output it into my music, and my performance, and then I feel good. I feel really good at the moment, and if anything I should be feeling more lonely now then I ever have because I’m on my own more than I ever have been because I’m on tour, but I feel really good because its almost like the music was my therapy, and it healed me.
Interviewed by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Photography by Juliana Plotkin for The Untitled Magazine
Styling by Francis Urrutia
Grooming by Kristen Bode
Photographed at Shangri-La Studio
Sam wears a shirt by Topman and metal tie by Virgin Blak.