Samuel Frederick "Sam" Smith (born 19 May 1992) is an English singer-songwriter. He rose to fame in October 2012 when he was featured on Disclosure's breakthrough single "Latch", which peaked at number eleven on the UK Singles Chart. His subsequent feature—on Naughty Boy's "La La La"—earned him his first number one single in May 2013. In December 2013, he was nominated for the 2014 Brit Critics' Choice Award and the BBC's Sound of 2014 poll, both of which he won.
He released his debut studio album, In the Lonely Hour, in May 2014 on Capitol Records UK. The lead single, "Lay Me Down", was released prior to "La La La". The second single, "Money on My Mind", became his second number one single in the UK. The album's third single, "Stay with Me", was an international success, reaching number one in the UK and number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, while the fourth single "I'm Not the Only One" reached the top five in both countries. The fifth single, "Like I Can", reached number nine in the UK. He made his US debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, followed by a performance on Saturday Night Live in March 2014.
In December 2014, Smith was nominated for six Grammy Awards, and at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in February 2015 he won four: Best New Artist, "Stay with Me" for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and In the Lonely Hour for Best Pop Vocal Album. At the 2015 Brit Awards, he won the awards for British Breakthrough Act and Global Success. At the 2015 Billboard Music Awards, Smith received three Billboard Awards: Top Male Artist, Top New Artist, and Top Radio Songs Artist. His musical achievements have also led him to be mentioned twice in the Guinness World Records.
For his and Jimmy Napes' song "Writing's on the Wall", the theme for the James Bond film Spectre (2015), Smith won the Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Smith was born in London, England, the son of Frederick Smith and Kate Cassidy, a broker. He was an alumnus of Youth Music Theatre UK and starred in their 2007 production of "Oh! Carol". Before entering the musical theatre, Smith had been in jazz bands. For a number of years he studied singing and songwriting under jazz pianist Joanna Eden. He attended St Mary's Catholic School in Bishop's Stortford. He was a member of the Bishop's Stortford Junior Operatics (now Bishops Stortford Musical Theatre Society) and the Cantate Youth Choir.
Smith was featured on the Disclosure song "Latch", which was released on 8 October 2012 and peaked at No. 11 on the UK Singles Chart. In February 2013, he released the first single from his debut album, "Lay Me Down". He was also featured on Naughty Boy's single "La La La". It was released on 19 May 2013 and peaked at No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart. The same year, he released his first EP Nirvana consisting of four tracks. The first song on the EP titled, "Safe with Me", is produced by Two Inch Punch and premiered on MistaJam's BBC Radio 1Xtra show on 24 July 2013. The second song on the EP is titled "Nirvana" and is produced by Craze & Hoax and Jonathan Creek. The EP also includes Smith's acoustic solo version of "Latch" and a live version of "I've Told You Now". Smith released the Disclosure, Nile Rodgers, and Jimmy Napes collaboration "Together" on 25 November 2013 as the only single from Settle: The Remixes.
The second single from his debut album, titled "Money on My Mind", was released on 16 February 2014. It was announced on 16 December that Smith's debut studio album titled In the Lonely Hour would be released on 26 May 2014 through Capitol Records. He describes the album as "all about unrequited love" because he has never been loved back by any of his love interests. The album reached number one in the UK Albums Chart and number two on the Billboard 200, and by 5 November it had become the second biggest selling album of 2014 in the US behind only 1989 by Taylor Swift. In January 2015, In the Lonely Hour was named the second best selling album of 2014 in the UK, behind x by Ed Sheeran.
A live version of album track "I've Told You Now", performed at St Pancras Old Church, was made available for free download as part of an Amazon.com promotion on 27 December 2013. The album track "Make It To Me", co-written by Howard of Disclosure and Jimmy Napes, was made available for free download as part of an iTunes Store promotion on 13 January 2014. Smith went on his debut American headlining tour in the Spring of 2014, with a setlist of primarily new material.
On 20 January 2014, Smith made his American television debut performing "Latch" with Disclosure on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He also performed on Saturday Night Live on 29 March 2014, performing the gospel-tinged "Stay with Me" and an acoustic version of "Lay Me Down". "Stay with Me" reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and number two on the US Billboard Hot 100. The fourth single from the album, "I'm Not the Only One", reached number three in the UK and number five in the US.
In June 2014, Smith first appeared on the cover of The Fader in its 92nd issue. In August 2014, Smith's single "Stay with Me" was named Variance Magazine's Song of Summer. Smith performed "Stay With Me" live at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards on 24 August at The Forum in Inglewood, California. On 15 November 2014, Smith joined the charity group Band Aid 30 along with other British and Irish pop acts, recording the latest version of the track "Do They Know It's Christmas?" at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, to raise money for the 2014 Ebola crisis in Western Africa.
In 2015, it came to light that singer Tom Petty, noting similarities between "Stay with Me" and his 1989 hit song "I Won't Back Down", had negotiated an out-of-court settlement with Smith in October 2014. Petty and co-composer Jeff Lynne were awarded 12.5% of the royalties from "Stay with Me", and the names of Petty and Lynne joined James John Napier (known professionally as Jimmy Napes) in the ASCAP song credit. At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, held on 8 February 2015, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Smith performed "Stay with Me" and also received four Grammy Awards: Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year (for "Stay with Me") and Best Pop Vocal Album (for In the Lonely Hour). At the 2015 Brit Awards held at The O2 Arena in London on 25 February, Smith performed "Lay Me Down", and won the Brit Awards for British Breakthrough Act, and Global Success.
In March 2015, "Lay Me Down" was re-released as the sixth single from the album, peaking at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 (Smith's third US top 10 single). The same month, Smith recorded another version of the song, featuring John Legend, for the British charity telethon Comic Relief, which reached number one in the UK. At the 2015 Billboard Music Awards on 17 May, Smith received three Billboard Awards: Top Male Artist, Top New Artist, and Top Radio Songs Artist. Smith features on Disclosure's single "Omen" which was released on 27 July 2015.
On 8 September 2015, Smith confirmed that he and Jimmy Napes had composed "Writing's on the Wall", the theme song to Spectre, the 24th James Bond film. The song was released on 25 September 2015 and became the first James Bond theme to reach number one in the UK. On 19 October, Smith was presented with two Guinness World Records—one for recording the first James Bond theme song to go to number one in the UK, and another for scoring the most consecutive weeks in the UK top 10 by a debut album (In the Lonely Hour). At the 73rd Golden Globe Awards on 10 January 2016, Smith received the Award for Best Original Song for "Writing's on the Wall". On 14 January, the song earned Smith an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. In the nominations for the 2016 Brit Awards announced on 14 January, the song was among the nominees for Best British Video. Smith performed "Writing's on the Wall" at the Academy Awards on 28 February and, along with Napes, collected the prize for Best Original Song. In his acceptance speech, Smith referenced an article by Ian McKellen published before the awards ceremony that claimed no openly gay man had won an Oscar for Best Actor; he misquoted McKellen as saying that no gay man in general had won an Oscar. This was quickly discredited by openly gay recipient Dustin Lance Black, but McKellen mentioned that the error "doesn’t detract" from Smith's achievement.
Smith cites Adele and Amy Winehouse as his main influences. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Smith cited Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey as the greatest R&B voices. The singer also lists Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga as influences. Smith said about a diva quality to his voice:
"It's all I listened to. I actually didn't listen to male vocalists until about two years ago. I just listened to Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan. Massive voices."
In May 2014, Smith came out to the public as gay. He acknowledged a relationship—since ended—with actor and model Jonathan Zeizel. At the 2015 Grammy Awards, where he won four categories, he 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 an interview with 4Music, Smith discussed his struggles with obsessive–compulsive disorder. "I actually have OCD really bad, and it's getting a bit worse at the moment", he said. "I have to check taps... before I leave the house, to make sure I've checked everything in case it floods."
He is a third-cousin of singer Lily Allen and actor Alfie Allen. He's also the godfather of close friend and collaborator Jimmy Napes' son Jackson. According to Smith, he is a feminist.
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