Sam Smith opens up about his rise to fame, his sexuality and more in a deeply personal cover story interview with Rolling Stone. ‘Stay with Me,’ his international hit and his six Grammy Award nominations and now, the cover of Rolling Stone herald his arrival as a major international music star.

Sam Smith

Photo: Sam Smith
Credit: PR Photos

The 22-year-old soul singer is indeed celebrating a breakthrough year, as his song ‘Stay with Me’ became one of the biggest hits of 2014, and seems destined to become one of the iconic songs we will forever associate with the 2010s.

The meteoric rise, at least from the view of the public, has been just that. For Sam Smith himself, there were the years of struggle that many a music artist has had to endure.

As Rolling Stone notes, two years ago Smith was working as a barback in London and eating leftovers from the plates of customers.

Now he has six Grammy Award nominations. Along the way to global fame and industry recognition he has also come out publicly as gay.

And so he spoke of his upbringing and coming to terms with his sexuality, expressing even more candor than in previous interviews, notably his interview with ‘The Fader’ which served as his coming out as he spoke about the unrequited love for a man who inspired the songs of his breakthrough debut album, ‘In the Lonely Hour.’

He opened up about a teenage crush to whom he had written a “really intense” love letter. As it turns out, the object of his passion and desire was straight, but wrote back thoughtfully yet making it clear that he saw Smith as a friend only. He said of the experience, “It makes me emotional, actually.” Further recounting the painful episode of his past, he went on to say, “He looked out for me for the rest of school. He just made sure that if anyone took the piss out of me, he would stick up for me. He could have made it hell for me, you know?”

But unfortunately, Sam Smith was not spared of anti-gay bullying growing up, as he revealed. He said he had been called “f—-t” in the presence of his father. He said, “I was just embarrassed that my dad had to see that, because I could only imagine how you feel as a parent. You just want to kill them. I was always embarrassed for the people around me. It actually never deeply affected me, you know?”

He also spoke of being physically attacked shortly after moving to London. He said it had happened when he was out walking and was wearing makeup. “I got punched in my neck, just out of nowhere,” he explained, adding, “It wasn’t the easiest.”

Fast forwarding to present fame, Sam Smith spoke about the comparisons that have been drawn frequently between Adele and him that have led to him being dubbed the “male Adele.” And of course, it’s not just because both are British soul singers who have written and sung emotionally powerful autobiographical songs that are focused on relationships and their dissolution. There is too that matter of what a pop music star is supposed to look like these days as we are subjected to many with the looks of models and movie stars who just incidentally happen to sing (often with a great deal of help from Auto-Tune and other such recording studio wizardry).

Sam Smith said of Adele, “We’re very different, and I feel like the constant comparisons might piss her off…It just annoys me that people can’t digest two pop stars singing really personal songs who don’t look like normal pop stars.”

He did go on to concede ambivalence about his physical appearance. Rolling Stone notes that he is on a “cayenne-pepper juice regimen” leading up to the Grammy Awards ceremony. He told the publication, “I just want to lose weight for the Grammys, if I’m honest…I’m just very body-conscious. Sometimes I’m really proud that I don’t look like other pop stars. But there’s also moments where I’m like, ‘Ugh, I wish I had abs like Bieber.'”

He spoke of his admiration of Beyonce and in speaking of being in competition with her for the much coveted Album of the Year Grammy, ” She deserves it way more than I do.” He continued, saying, “I’d be embarrassed if I got it over her. If I got it, I’d give it to her.”

You can see the more excerpts from the interview and the cover photo here. A behind-the-scenes video is below, in which Rolling Stones’ camera and interviewer accompany him on a trip to the dentist. It’s a as candid and unassuming clip giving us yet another glimpse into the life of one of our major new music superstars whose career is on a remarkable and exciting ascendency.