CHECK OUT THE LATEST
Before British up-and-comer Sam Smith had released any of his own music, he’d already had two top five UK hits — Latch, with critically-acclaimed EDM stars Disclosure, and La La La, with garage producer Naughty Boy — and taken to the stage at both Coachella and Glastonbury festivals.
Since then he’s become one of the most hyped names in the world of British pop music. This year has already seen the 21-year-old top BBC’s Sound of 2014 and receive a Critic’s Choice Award at the Brits, an honour previously bestowed upon the likes of superstars Adele and Ellie Goulding.
Smith is now gearing up to release his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, this May, and talked to us about the process behind the forthcoming debut, playing live, and his new single, Money on My Mind, which moments before the interview, had topped the UK iTunes chart.
Has it been a bit of a crazy week?
Sam Smith: Yeah, it’s been pretty mad, you know. It’s about nine o’clock here so I’m winding down and I’ve got the Brits tomorrow, so I wanted to chill and get a good night’s sleep.
Are you excited for the Brits?
SS: I’m very excited, man. I just can’t wait to celebrate everything that’s been happening and I get to go there with a number one song on iTunes.
I don’t want to jinx you, but it’s looking like you might have a number one UK single in a few days…
SS: You’re jinxing it! [laughs]
I’m sorry. If it doesn’t happen, blame me…
SS: You know what? I don’t think it’s going to happen, because Pharrell is going to perform Happy at the Brits and it’s third currently in the UK, so I have no idea. I don’t know if it will, but I hope with all my heart that it will.
Does it feel good to be out on your own, releasing solo work, after doing a number of feature slots?
SS: It’s incredible. It’s nerve racking, but I’m really enjoying it. I feel like I’m finally doing what I love.
Were you ever worried that you may be doing too many features?
SS: I think after Latch I was a bit worried to do another feature, but I’m so happy that I did do La La La.
Do you find your solo live shows quite nerve racking after sharing the stage with others?
SS: Doing the Disclosure and Naughty Boy gigs was the perfect form of practice for me. I was able to perfect my trade and get used to performing live. It means that when I perform myself I feel a lot more confident. The only difference is I’m singing really personal songs when I perform, so that’s a little bit more difficult because you feel like you’re singing your diary to everyone, but other than that I feel really good performing at the moment.
How did the feature come about with Disclosure?
SS: Disclosure heard my song, Lay Me Down, and they were really into it and they asked me to come for a session. So I went for a session and we wrote Latch on the first day we met each other.
Watch: Disclosure ft Sam Smith – Latch
What’s your record collection like?
SS: It’s eclectic actually, very eclectic. I never knew of dance music and I was never a fan of it, to be honest, until I met the Disclosure boys and now I really like some of it. But I like all types of music. I’ve only ever really listened to female singers until about a year and a half ago. The only male singer I listened to was Stevie Wonder. That was it. I love the female voice and I grew up with Whitney Houston.
Jessie Ware also did a similar thing as you, growing up in dance music. Do you thinking growing up in dance music was a helpful way to learn?
SS: I think it was because it’s such a specialised side of the industry and I personally found it a really nice way to be introduced to everything. All these electronic artists are genuine musicians and they’re doing it for the love of making music and writing. They’re obsessed by sounds and everything that makes music, music. So, it’s a really nice way to be introduced.
Soul music hasn’t been very prominent in the mainstream for a while. Were you worried about your sound at all?
SS: No, I wasn’t actually, because I have a lot of faith in my music. I’m a very insecure person and I have a lot of doubts in my personal life, but when it comes to music I know when I’ve got something good and I have pride in what I put out.
You worked with producer Two Inch Punch on Money on My Mind and Safe With Me. It’s perhaps an odd couple combination but it works. How did that come about?
SS: My manager put me in with Two Inch Punch just as an experiment and the first day we were with each other we wrote Safe With Me. I just love that song so much and my album sounds nothing like it.
It was important for my first single to be something obscure and different like that. I wanted to rock the boat and leave people guessing about what my sound is because why should we have a sound? I don’t like being pigeonholed. I want my voice and what I say to be the focus.
Should we expect the album to go in the same direction as Money on My Mind or is there a few curve balls coming our way?
SS: Massive curveball on the way. My second single is a huge curveball.
What is Money on my Mind about?
SS: When I was going through the process of doing my album I was doing a lot of sessions. There was one session which upset me because I didn’t feel like the person I was writing with was doing it for the right reasons and I just wanted to get it off my chest. I’m writing music purely for the joy of writing music. Music is my form of therapy and when I’m writing music, I’m not thinking about what type of car I’m gonna get.
Watch: Sam Smith – Money On My Mind
You topped the BBC Sound of 2014 and then received a Critic’s Choice Award. Is it all a bit overwhelming?
SS: It’s still overwhelming, but it’s also really great. I feel like it puts the music on a great platform for when the album comes out.
What’s the writing process like for you? Do you write acoustically and then fill it in with producers in the studio?
SS: I mostly write my songs with a piano or guitar and a voice. We write the whole song before I even think about production.
Do you prefer the writing process or do you like seeing the songs come together in the studio?
SS: I love it. For me the production part is more difficult because my focus is my vocals and what I’m saying in the song. And once I’ve delivered the vocal I’m happy with and said what I want to say, I’m happy and I fall in love with the song. Playing with the production can sometimes be more difficult.
I guess the album’s under lock and key now. Are you anxious to get it out?
SS: I’m just excited for people to hear it. [Now that] Money on My Mind has come out and people are starting to like it, I’m excited for them to hear the album. I’m so proud of it and I’m just ready to get it out there now.
Do you have any plans to come to Australia?
SS: I think I might be coming next year. I’m so desperate to see your country. I really am. It’s something I’ve wanted to do from a very young age so I hope I’ll be over sooner rather than later.