VMAN31

ARTICLE WILLIAM DEFEBAUGH

PHOTOGRAPHY MAX VON GUMPPENBERG AND PATRICK BIENERT

STYLIST SABINA SCHREDER

CREDITS ARTICLE CONTENTS

SPIRITUALIZING

THE TRACK: REPEAT PLEASURE

SAM SMITH: SOUL MAN

EXTRA CREDITS

Hair Akki (Art Partner)  Light director Billy Jim  Digital technician Osvaldo Ponton  Photo assistant Rémi Lamandé  Stylist assistantS Natasha Devereux and Lotte Elisa Agullo-Collins  Videographer Jordan Backhus  Sound technician Jack Pierce  Location ROOT Studios Catering Monterone

MORE TO LOVE

GAGA FOR GAN THE TRACK: SAMPHA TOE THE POINT BEST VIDEOS OF 2012: KAZAKY

SAM SMITH: SOUL MAN

PHOTOGRAPHY MAX VON GUMPPENBERG AND PATRICK BIENERT
FASHION SABINA SCHREDER
TEXT WILLIAM DEFEBAUGH

WITH MULTIPLE AWARDS AND BOISTEROUS INDUSTRY SUPPORT—ALL BEFORE HIS FIRST FULL ALBUM—THE YOUNG BRITISH SINGER IS CAPTIVATING AUDIENCES AROUND THE GLOBE, FINDING NIRVANA IN SINGING SOUL AND BARING HIS OWN.

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It’s an unremarkably cold night in December in New York City and the restaurant lounge of Soho House is packed, though there is a noticeable divide among the people in attendance: the majority is the usual crowd—socialites sipping wine and talking loudly over their seated dinners—the rest are standing between tables, or wherever they can find space, anxiously waiting to see Sam Smith, a buzzed-about British musician from the small town of Cambridgeshire.

Half an hour passes, and finally the 6'3" singer emerges, a towering presence that somehow goes unnoticed by all but his attentive fans. Smith nervously takes the microphone and wastes little time before beginning to sing, but a sound system error makes him almost impossible to hear. Then, mid-note, the volume is suddenly fixed, and his voice fills every square inch of the venue as he belts out a sound that would have given Whitney Houston shivers. The whole restaurant goes quiet, and all eyes turn to Sam Smith.

The Soho House performance was one of his first in the United States—and a very nerve-wracking one for the 21 year old. “I started off doing theater as a kid and I always played a character,” he says. “I hid behind the script and was told where to go. But to actually perform as yourself is very difficult. I didn’t used to enjoy it, but now I do. If you listen to my lyrics, they’re just so honest and personal. When I sing, I want people to feel my soul.”

Smith had a huge debut in the U.K. in the past year, his soulful voice featured on two widely successful tracks: Disclosure’s “Latch” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La,” which reached number one on the official singles chart. These projects speak not only to the faith that more established artists have in him but also to his versatility: Smith can sing on an upbeat electronic track just as easily as on a stirring ballad.

These skills have already garnered him wide recognition in the music industry. Smith began the year with the 2014 Critics’ Choice Brit Award as well as BBC’s “Sound of 2014” award already under his belt, not to mention public support from just about every major British artist, from Jessie Ware to Adele.

Following the success of his debut EP, Nirvana, and first single, “Money on My Mind,” comes Smith’s highly anticipated debut album, In the Lonely Hour.

“The record is about the fact that I’ve never really been in a relationship before,” says Smith. “It sounds so sad, but I believe that the best songs are love songs, and I wanted to make it clear to everybody that unrequited love is a form of love. And even learning to love yourself. There are so many different forms of love. But we don’t call it real love, do we? We say real love is when you’re with someone. This album is my statement. It’s my message, saying, ‘I may never have been in a relationship, but I have felt love. I have felt pain and hurt.’”

It is this warmth and openness that have made so many fans fall in love with Smith. When he sings, just as when he speaks, he is baring his soul. His songs are more than words, more than chords. From writing it to the moment he sings it, music is a spiritual experience for Smith, and this emotional investment in the art is invariably delivered to the listener not just through his incredible voice but also by his earnest sentiment—a rarity in pop music. 

“I’ve written about 100 songs over the past year,” he says. “You just know when you’ve written the right one, because it has that spirituality, it has that honesty and truth. I’ll write a song and think it’s great because I’m concentrating on it so much, and then one day I’ll write a song that just flows. It’s those songs that always make the cut, because they have spirituality in them. My music relies solely on the feeling. Just the feeling.”

EXTRA CREDITS

Hair Akki (Art Partner)  Light director Billy Jim  Digital technician Osvaldo Ponton  Photo assistant Rémi Lamandé  Stylist assistantS Natasha Devereux and Lotte Elisa Agullo-Collins  Videographer Jordan Backhus  Sound technician Jack Pierce  Location ROOT Studios Catering Monterone

MORE TO LOVE

GAGA FOR GAN THE TRACK: SAMPHA TOE THE POINT BEST VIDEOS OF 2012: KAZAKY
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