Sounds Like Genres: Soul, R&B, Pop, Gospel Influences: Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Prince, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Beyonce, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin Similar Artists: Adele, Jessie Ware Similar Bonnaroo Artists: Frank Ocean
Discography In The Lonely Hour (2014)
Nirvana (EP - 2014)
Biography By the age of 10, Sam knew he wanted to be a famous singer. At 12 he had his first manager. And when he turned 18 he moved from his small town of Cambridgeshire to London to pursue his dream. He said of the support of his parents at that time, "I think back to that now and it kind of warms my heart a bit cause when I left school at 18, every single person at the school had a plan to go to uni or do something. And I remember sitting with my career advisor at school and she was like, “Right, so what are you doing? Have you figured out what you’re doing?” And my answer was literally, “I’m going to move to London and be a well-known singer.” That was it. And you could see she was just like, “What the f*ck are you doing, you’re crazy.” She thought I was crazy, but my parents never doubted me. Not once. They let me move to London by myself and pay my rent by myself and work in a bar for two years. I really hustled and grinded and it just shows they had such a belief in my voice." (Pigeons and Planes)
It wasn't long before his dream began turning into a reality. He met songwriter Jimmy Napes while working in a bar in Essex, they immediately began working together and Napes sent some of that work on to the managers of young house duo, Disclosure. "...during their first meeting they wrote a song called Latch. Released in late 2012, it eventually charted at No 11, while shortly after, Disclosure's album Settle went to No 1. 'I was working in a bar when Latch was released,' he says. 'It used to come on the radio when I was working, and a friend in the restaurant next door would run in every time it was played. We had balloons and champagne to celebrate it going to No 11, but I'd still have to serve customers.' Shortly after that, Smith left his bar job to concentrate on music full-time, or as he puts it, to 'really take music by the balls.'" (Gloucestershire ECHO).
The exposure from his feature on Latch helped land him a record deal with Capitol Records, as well as more work as a featured artist with Naughty Boy, on his track "La La La". At first, Sam was hesitant about doing another feature spot, "I didn't want to just become a feature artist that could only live on other people's songs. But thank God I did do it, 'cause it did so well and was completely unexpected...What's been amazing is I've had a year of practicing my trade, and I wasn't singing live a lot before, and now I've managed to kind of feel so much more confident in what I do on stage. And that's because of features, that's the main thing I take away from them." (YouTube)
While working and touring with other artists in the guest slot, Smith continued to perfect his own vulnerable debut solo album. In The Lonely Hour is about his experience with love; or the absence of romantic love, more specifically, that very well may have resulted from his exhaustive focus on his music career. "'I've never been in a relationship,” Smith said. “I wanted to write love songs — that's the music I adore. But the only kind of love I can talk about is unrequited love, when someone doesn't love you back. I fell in love with someone that didn't love me back. I was feeling so lonely and wanted to get over it. And I have by writing this album.'" (Chicago Tribune)
Lay Me Down (live & chill inspiring)
Make It To Me (live)
Sweet Love (Anita Baker cover, live)
Stay with Me (live)
Leave Your Lover
Physical Reaction/Live Show Expect Sam's live show to be soulful and emotional. Even his collaborative dance hits will be pared down to better showcase his vocals (as seen in the videos above). I have only seen him live as a guest artist with Disclosure last year, but even that brief introduction to him left a big impression of his wonderful vocal abilities.
Random Fun Facts He has mentioned in multiple interviews that his "dream collaboration" would be with Chaka Khan (Come on AC!)
This year he has won both the BBC Sound of 2014 poll as well as the Brits Critics' Choice Award
On his track "Stay with Me", what sounds like a gospel choir backing him up is actually many many layers of his own voice (he mentioned in an interview he wishes more people could know that YouTube )
He is a third-cousin of Lily Allen & her brother Alfie Allen (aka Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones)
Personal Notes In researching for this post, my love for Sam Smith has grown exponentially. He is consistently humble, appreciative, and lovely. He is a true artist who is on the brink of becoming a household name and (I believe) a fixture of the music industry for many years to come. I am excited to see what he has in store for us at Bonnaroo, and hope some of you will join me for what is sure to be a beautiful performance.