At only 25, British soul singer Sam Smith has already brought the music world to his feet.
But despite the success and fame, his second album “The Thrill of it All” coming out on Friday paints another picture altogether — one of pain and heartbreak.
“I went on a bit of a spiral since I released ‘In the Lonely Hour’,” Smith told AFP at a London recording studio, referring to his debut album.
“It was a mental and thrilling three years of self-discovery and loss and heartbreak,” he added.
Sticking to the formula he deployed with great success in his first album, Smith’s second opus is filled with gospel-infused ballads that tell poignant tales of lost love and longing.
In “Too Good at Goodbyes”, the Londoner describes the breakdown of a relationship, singing “every time you walk out, the less I love you”.
“Baby You Make Me Crazy” sees him trying to move on, doing “anything to drown you out tonight”.
Writing from a place of sadness comes easier to Smith.
“When I’m happy, I don’t want to write music,” Smith said, adding that he’s “happy a lot”.
“But just like anyone, there are dips and times when I go deeply into myself and deep in thought and it’s these times that I go to the studio and pick up a pen.
“I feel like a managed to write something that’s honest and from my heart,” he said.
‘I’m ready to work’
Released in 2014, “In The Lonely Hour” went to number one in several countries and won Smith four Grammys, including Best New Artist, Song of the Year and Record of the Year — three of the four most coveted awards at the music industry’s premier gala.
Seemingly unstoppable, he then won an Oscar for his Bond movie theme “Writing’s on the Wall”.
Unprepared for this level of success, Smith retreated from the public eye for a year and a half to “get used to fame and really sit with it and understand it”.
Now, though, he appears calm, collected and comfortable with the attention.
His transformation is also physical as Smith lost over 50 pounds (23 kilos) during his hiatus, making him appear even taller than he already is.
Gone also is the boyish look of his early twenties.
Nowadays, he sports short hair and three-o’clock shadow, making his blue eyes pop out even more.
Still, making a second album off the back of a successful debut is nerve-wrecking and Smith didn’t escape the pressure.
“I did feel it and it affected my writing for the first 2-3 months,” he said.
But with the difficult second album done and dusted, the soft-spoken singer is now “ready to work”.
Smith is preparing to go on a tour between March and September next year that will take him to Europe, Canada, Mexico and the United States.
“I don’t want to take as big a break in between second and third record,” he said, adding: “Think I’ve already got a title for the third record!”