Sam Smith: How A Brit Ruled Soul Music (Again)

Sam Smith will own the Grammys. Quote us. The blue-eyed singer is 2014’s soul controller. Deal with it. While resting in his Cambridge hometown, UK’s latest import gets real on the annoying fame monster, being gay and those constant Adele comparisons.

Photography: Alberto Oviedo

He begged us to stay. And seconds after hearing his voice tremble with heartache, honesty and vulnerability—we obliged.

At just 22 years old, Sam Smith’s debut album, In The Lonely Hour, scored the highest first-week sales for a debut album from a male UK artist in SoundScan’s twenty-three year history. “At this point, he’s only competing against himself because there’s no one else like him,” says ‘Stay’ producer Rodney Jerkins. “Anyone who can tour without fireworks, explosions and thirty dancers and can just stand there alone on stage and capture an audience is the real deal.”

It seems like nothing can stop this import’s success, not even himself. After rumors began to swirl about Smith’s sexuality, he set the record straight on his own terms. Back in May, just weeks before the release of the album, Smith revealed the inspiration behind his hit “Leave Your Lover” was a straight man who didn’t return his love. And after his fans all gave one collective who-gives-a-damn shoulder shrug, Smith got back to singing.

Smith called VIBE from his hometown of Cambridge and spoke honestly about adjusting to fame—and that moment four years ago when he knew it was now or never.