Biography of Sam Smith

Sam Smith
Photo by Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Sam Smith ( born May 19, 1992 ) emerged as a worldwide pop star in 2014 on the strength of his debut album In the Midnight Hour. He took home Grammy Awards for Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year for his hit song "Stay With Me."

Early Life

Sam Smith was born in London, England. He grew up with a comfortable, affluent family life. In 2007, he starred in the Youth Music Theatre UK production of Oh! Carol.

He studied singing and songwriting with English jazz pianist Joanna Eden. In 2012, Smith connected with the electronic music duo Disclosure and recorded the vocals for their song "Latch." The duo said, "We were amazed he wasn't a girl," after hearing his vocals the first time. The song turned into an international pop hit.

Personal Life

In May 2014, when his pop career began to soar, Sam Smith came out publicly as gay. He mentioned having a previous relationship with actor Jonathan Zeizel. He referred to the end of the relationship when accepting his Grammy Award for Record of the Year with "Stay With Me." Smith said, "I want to thank the man who this record is about, who I fell in love with last year. Thank you so much for breaking my heart because you got me four Grammys!" In October 2017, Sam announced identification as gender non-binary stating that he feels, "as much a woman as I am a man." (As of October 2017, he has not publicly expressed a pronoun preference.) 

Career as Pop Star

After the early 2013 U.K. pop chart success of "Latch," Sam Smith was identified as one of the most promising new British artists. He sang the vocals on and co-wrote Naughty Boy's single "La La La" in May 2013. It was another U.K. #1 pop hit that would eventually reach the top twenty in the U.S. in 2014.

As 2014 opened, Smith earned the two most respected rising artist accolades in the U.K. He won the BBC's Sound of 2014 poll and the Brit Awards Critic's Choice. These accomplishments were followed by worldwide chart success for the single "Stay With Me." In May 2014, Sam Smith's released his album In the Lonely Hour. Although it only reached #2 on the U.S. album chart, by the end of the year it was the second-best selling album of the year behind only Taylor Swift's 1989.

In February 2015, Sam Smith earned four Grammy Awards including Best New Artist, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. In March, he released the single "Lay Me Down" and it became his third top 10 pop hit single from In the Lonely Hour. At the end of the summer, Smith confirmed that he was hired to record the new James Bond theme song for Spectre, and "Writing's on the Wall" was released in late September. It ultimately earned an Academy Award in the U.S. for Best Original Song following in the footsteps of Sam Smith's idol Adele whose "Skyfall" was the first James Bond theme to win the Academy Award.

Sam Smith spent most of 2016 in the studio working on material for his next studio album The Thrill of It All. The first fruits of those recording sessions appeared in September 2017 with the release of the single "Too Good at Goodbyes." It was a #5 pop chart success in the U.S. becoming Sam's fifth top 10 appearance in the US.

Top Sam Smith Songs

  • "Latch" with Disclosure (2012): Sam Smith sang the featured vocals on this single by the electronic dance music duo Disclosure. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Guy and Howard of Disclosure said they thought "Latch" was, "too weird for the radio and not clubby enough for the clubs." Ultimately it peaked at #11 on the U.K. pop songs chart in 2013. It was a sleeper hit in the U.S. and eventually climbed to #7.
  • "Stay With Me" (2014): This is a gospel-influenced ballad co-written by Sam Smith. It was his debut single in the U.S. and the follow up to "Money on My Mind" in the U.K. Due to similarities in the structure of the songs, 12.5% of the songwriting credit for "Stay With Me" was awarded to the writers of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." "Stay With Me" peaked at #1 on the U.K. pop singles chart and at #2 in the U.S. It earned Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
  • "I'm Not the Only One" (2014): This ballad about infidelity in a relationship was inspired by a relationship Sam Smith observed, and he thought of himself as in the woman's shoes. Critics praised his emotional performance. "I'm Not the Only One" was #5 charting pop hit single in the U.S. It also landed in the top three at adult contemporary and adult pop radio.
  • "Writing's on the Wall" (2015): After Sam Smith was hired to write and record the James Bond theme song for the film Spectre, he wrote it with his long-term songwriting partner Jimmy Napes. They recorded a demo after only half an hour of writing. The final recording was the first James Bond song to hit #1 following Adele's "Skyfall" peaking at #2. In the U.S., the commercial success was more muted. "Writing's On the Wall" failed to reach the pop top 40. However, it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
  • "Too Good at Goodbyes" (2017): Expectations were very high for Sam Smith's second studio album The Thrill Of It All. "Too Good at Goodbyes," the first single from the project, was released in September 2017. It was an instant chart success in the US opening at #5 on the pop singles chart. It was co-written by the Norwegian songwriting and production duo Stargate.

Legacy

Sam Smith occupies a rare position among male pop stars seeing female singers as his primary influences. He has mentioned Adele and Amy Winehouse as having the most significant impact. He says that he only listened to female singers while growing up.

His openness about his sexual orientation and gender identity has made Smith an icon in the LGBT community.

He is one of the first stars to speak openly about identifying as gender non-binary.