September 25, 2014
Doors at 6:30 pm
show at 7:30 pm
911 Pine Street
Seattle, WA 98101
Flat Main Floor
GA Balcony Seating
STG Presents Sam Smith at The Paramount Theatre on Thursday September 25th, 2014.
There is a certain undeniable sweetness that one experiences when talking to Sam Smith. It’s not just that the 21 year-old English singer and songwriter is unfailingly polite—which he is—but it has to do than with more than just his demeanor. Listening to the songs on Smith’s full-length debut, In The Lonely Hour, it becomes evident that Sam Smith is something of an emotional wellspring. While lots of artists will say that they’ve been playing music their entire lives, in Smith’s case this is absolutely true. Having spent the majority of his childhood singing—either in the backseat of a car or on a makeshift stage in his parent’s house—the songs Smith has written for Hour are evidence of a life spent yearning for connection and what can only be described as a profoundly powerful and deeply empathetic voice.
Raised in what he describes as “the tiniest of villages” in England near Cambridgeshire, the young Sam Smith learned at an early age to worship at the alter of pop music. Crediting an early love for divas—with a special room in his heart committed to Whitney Houston—Smith was encouraged by his parents to explore the full range of his talents. “We spent a lot of time driving so the car became the place where my family really shared music,” he recalls. “My parents were quick to notice my voice because of all the singing in the car, so they put me into voice lessons with a local jazz singer. ” After years of training under the tutelage of jazz teachers and beloved Chaka Khan records, Smith eventually waded into the morass of the music industry for what would ultimately prove to be several years of ups, downs, and false-starts to his career.
“I’ve had about nine different managers at this point,” says Smith. “I had a lot of letdowns along the way. I met some unfortunate people and believed a lot of false promises. But eventually I met the people who would pretty much change my life. It all just fell into place so beautifully.”
Among those people were Guy and Howard Lawrence, better known as the deep house duo Disclosure. It was a partnership that would essentially serve to launch the career of everyone involved. Smith teamed up with the brothers to write “Latch”—a song that would prove to be one of 2012’s biggest singles. (“We wrote that song the first day I met them!” he says) This success was matched a few months later when Smith’s collaboration with British producer Naughty Boy—the infectious “LaLaLa”—immediately became a #1 single in the UK. With his popularity suddenly and rapidly on the rise, in late 2013 Smith released Nirvana—a four-track EP that gave a glimpse of Smith’s considerable range, both as a singer and a songwriter. As 2014 dawned and Smith busied himself with the business of writing and recording his proper debut, he found himself nominated for the BRIT’s Critic Choice Award and listed for BBC’s Sound of 2014 poll, both of which he ultimately won (making him the first and only male artist ever to do so). Nirvana introduced Smith to the world not only as a pop singer, but as a contemporary soul singer as well. It’s a designation that Smith doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s a huge compliment to me when people call me a soul singer,” he says. “I work on my voice every single day, so all I want is for people to hear that when they listen to my music. Soul singers are people who project their soul through their voice. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
While the excitement of attending awards shows and playing increasingly larger shows has been, as Smith describes it, “undeniably life-altering” the writing and recording of his first full-length album remains his proudest achievement.
As debut albums go, In The Lonely Hour is a remarkably powerful and incredibly vulnerable statement of intent. Produced by Jimmy Napes and including collaborations by the likes of Ben Ash and Eg White, the album gives Smith the platform to finally exercise the full range of his abilities. Whether it be taking a jab at commercialism in “Money On My Mind” or the wrenching plea of the album’s first single, “Stay With Me,” the record eschews false sentimentality and aims for something bigger, darker, and ultimately way more beautiful. Playing out like a kind of treatise on romantic longing, In The Lonely Hour is a ten-track exploration of loneliness that strives to actually explore the subject rather than simply flee from it. And while the subject of unrequited love might prove unmanageably maudlin in other hands, Smiths dexterity as a songwriter—not to mention his stadium-sized voice—save it from ever being so.
“I didn’t want to overthink things,” says Smith of the record. “I basically just decided that I was going to go out and live my life…and then write songs about it. As simple as that. I want to look back on this record when I’m older and have it be a reminder that I really lived.”
Regarding the melancholy nature of In the Lonely Hour, Smith remains patently optimistic. The music may spring form a painful source, but—like so much great art—seeks to transcend it.
“It is kind of a sad album,” says Smith. “I wanted to talk about all aspects of loneliness. Sometimes I think it’s really brave to just admit those things.”
Already hailed as one of 2014’s biggest success stories, Smith is thrilled about the prospect of what the coming year has to bring.
“My life has completely changed. I remember a year and a half ago I was working in a bar. I would walk for an hour and a half to Waterloo Station with 20 euros in my pocket, which I would then exchange to pounds so I could pay for my train ticket home for Christmas. That was a year ago! To wrap your head around that is really hard sometimes, but you know….I’m very happy to try.”