When he was 18 years old, Sam Smith wrote his first truthful song, a flashbulb moment for the brilliant blue-eyed soul singer. Three years later and the song has long since been discarded as a naive folly. Like all singer songwriters that are rich in emotion, knee-deep in their own small personal complications and dependent on their precociously youthful talent to engage with the world, Sam resolved never to write a song again that didn’t connect straight from the heart. The first set of results, delivered with breathtaking vocal depth and range, were put to the litmus test of public opinion when his debut album dropped in 2014.
When he reached number one on the singles chart last year, collaborating with London production wizard Naughty Boy, on the insanely catchy global smash La, La, La, Sam Smith didn’t feel triumphant. He felt relief. ‘It’s almost like a little gift,’ he says. ‘Now I’ve had a number one I don’t feel that pressure. Of course I want the songs to do well but it’s about making an artistic statement. The focus is more selfish now. I’ve ticked that box off, it was lovely, amazing in a way, but I can concentrate on other things.’
Anyone that was lucky enough to see Sam when he came to Vancouver last month (to a sold-out crowd at the Orpheum Theatre) knows that this is a show you must check out!
As can be heard clearly and distinctly on his debut album, Sam is all about the feeling. He was deposited to a local jazz singer teacher in infancy and the first song he learnt the craft and composition of was Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me. By his early teens he was singing back-up for the teacher at prestige jazz gigs in the capital. Sam found his way to part time classes at a London stage school and his vocal coach became another early cheerleader for his young gift. He flitted in and out of the music industry until happening across a manager at an Adele gig.
“I was 16 and heckled the support act. I went home that night, onto Myspace and found him to apologize. Three years after that gig I went to another show and he was in that crowd. I asked if he remembered me and he became my manager.”
His musical purity is starting to ring the right bells. Adele has tweeted her support. After one single show in New York he has become something of a cause celebre for global soulman, Maxwell. ‘He’s a great friend to have.’
He recently finished sessions in Old Street with Nile Rodgers for an as yet unconfirmed Disclosure work. He ties to Jessie Ware, Naughty Boy and that whole scene of London underground talent that is taking their new soul to the mainstream. Sam Smith might yet be at the vanguard of a wave of British talent schooled through the verbal brilliance of Jill Scott, India Arie and Angie Stone in the States a decade ago. Audaciously, he is covering Anita Baker’s Sweet Love on tour at the moment and making it sound as if it were penned for him. Why does he believe stardom beckons? ‘When it came to writing and delivering I’d worked out that it was all about truth. When you listen to my album, the songs I love and my label love, it’s all the personal things. That are relatable to other people.’
Sam Smith Vancouver 2015 Concert
When: Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Where: Pepsi Live at Rogers Arena
Time: Doors: 6 p.m. / Show: 7 p.m.
Tickets: On sale Friday, October 24 at 10 a.m. at www.livenation.com