Sam Smith Is the Next Big Sound

by Patrick Bowman / photographed by Jason Rodgers
"I'm way too open," says British singer Sam Smith. "Everyone tells me to shut my mouth. It's really bad. I've said too much." Smith's laid-bare lyrics about love lost and his lush, velvety voice have drawn comparisons to fellow UK artist Adele, whose soul-shattering pipes and 2011 breakup album won her a Grammy and superstar status. "Everything you need to know is on this album; I wanted to talk about someone I fell in love with who didn't love me back," Smith says bluntly.

Coming from a background in jazz, Smith was pegged as the new voice of England's deep garage/electronica scene after providing vocals on Disclosure's worldwide hit "Latch" and Naughty Boy's "La La La," which was number one in the UK in 2013. His rising star status was solidified last December when he won the BBC's coveted Sound of 2014 poll. Smith's voice -- emotional and real in a way that few if any singers on the radio today can muster -- perfectly suits both the glitchy, noirish sound of the electro-duo Disclosure and the sparse, piano-driven ballads that pepper his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, due out June 17 in the US.

Smith says he respects the whole recording process and loves working with his synth-friendly collaborators, but he's almost religious when it comes to the power of honest songwriting and a distinctive voice over production and instrumentation. His voice is his instrument. He is a Singer. Everything else works to support that vision.

"My main aim when I make music is to break this whole boundary of genre," Smith says. "There's this music industry snobbery that it all comes down to the musician. I wanted to make a point that 'No, my voice is going to lead this project.' There is no 'sound' to this album. The 'sound' is my voice."

In the Lonely Hour is out June 17 via Capitol Records; you can stream it now.

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