Interview Sam Smith: ‘I Just Want To Document My Life’

Going from barman to chart-topper in the space of a year, Essex boy Sam Smith’s time is now.

Sam Smith

is just about to break. An unlikely star, born and bred in a tiny Cambridgeshire hamlet and nurtured by management from the age of 13, Smith is now 20 and things are at long last taking off. But before the Disclosure and Naughty Boy tracks, before the Emeli Sandé tour – in fact, this time last year – the powerhouse singer was making ends meet working in an Essex bar.

‘In December I met this guy called Jimmy Napes whose managers are Disclosure’s managers and they loved ‘Lay Me Down’, he reminisces in one of his first interviews since the explosion. ‘Then I went into the studio with them one day and we did ‘Latch’ on the first day. Then a month and a bit later, ‘Latch’ was released, I stopped my bar job and I worked with Naughty Boy probably three months after that… I never thought that any of this stuff would do anything.’

No biggie – his potent, blow-your-socks-off vocal is behind one of the best and catchiest No. 1s of the year in Naughty Boy’s ‘La La La’. But absurdly, verging on disgustingly, Smith nearly turned down the opportunity. ‘We were actually cautious for me to do it because I felt after coming from ‘Latch’ it was important for me to start establishing myself by myself,’ he laughs… ‘I couldn’t [have been] more wrong.’

Having heard the chart-smash, all guts, hooks and scale-climbs, it comes as no surprise to learn that Smith trained in musical theatre. But he wasn’t into all the pointless histrionics; he just wanted to be a diva. ‘The whole time, every day, I’d just be singing big diva tunes - Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, all these people. I just tried to replicate them.’

Now trying further to emulate his heroes, he’s going it alone, staying totally cool-headed about it in the process. The clue’s in his debut EP title, ‘Nirvana’. The title-track, which he says describes ‘a certain place in the night-time, a euphoric feeling,’ is a game-changer. By turns steamy then fiery, it’s a fists-in-air gospel ballad about the good times. ‘Nirvana means ‘paradise’, and it kind of perfectly summed up how I’m feeling now at the moment,’ he muses. ‘I’m really happy - I just wanted a little celebration thing, for me.’

‘It was a selfish thing, and I think that’s what I want to do with every album,’ he says honestly, and justifiably. ‘As much as I want everyone to hear it and everyone to love it, it’s for me to put out. It’s my story that I’m telling. Whatever shape that takes is my decision and that’s what ‘Nirvana’ taught me to do, to trust myself.’

A debut album on which ‘every song sounds completely different to the other’ is due for release in May next year. As Smith continues, ‘I have a concept to the album, a story that I want to tell and a name. It’s been my life for the past year. Basically, it’s describing how it’s all happened.’

Whatever the project - collaborations or solo work - it always comes down to telling an honest, anecdotal story. ‘I just want to document my life through my music,’ he reiterates. ‘Apart from that, my main thing at the moment is I just want to have as much fun as I can, live as hard as I can and just enjoy it, every single moment.’

But where does he see this heading in three years’ time? ‘Hopefully, I’ll have fallen in and out of love a few times, had my heart broken,’ he yearns. ‘I’ve never had a proper partner before, so it’d be nice to hopefully go through that. And I hope I’m still making music. I hope people will still come and see me sing.’

Sam Smith’s ‘Nirvana’ EP is out now via PMR.

Taken from the new, free DIY Weekly, available to read online or to download on iPad now.

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