Changes: Sam Smith
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Annie [00:00:01] Hello. This is Changes. My name is Annie Macmanus, and this is a place where we discuss the biggest changes in people's lives. It is so great to have you here. And this week we have a remarkable guest for you. Their name is Sam Smith. You will know Sam Smith probably from their voice, which is very unique and has afforded them monumental success in their career in music. Sam has sold over 33 million albums and 227 million singles worldwide. They've won four Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. In 2019, Sam came out as non-binary, something which they now talk about from a place of contentment.
Sam [00:00:50] With pronouns and with gender, I've always felt like I wasn't welcome or I wasn't included in conversation and I wasn't fully understood. So to be fully understood is kind of like a vital part of being a human, you know. Your self-worth just grows.
Annie [00:01:08] Sam is back releasing new music with an album on the way. As I'm speaking, I'm looking at their Instagram and they've announced that their new single, Unholy, featuring Kim Petras, is the number one song in the world. So that just gives you an idea of the level of Sam Smith's success at the moment. I have known Sam for a long time, since about 2012 when I first booked Disclosure to come and play at one of my Annie Mac presents stages at Bestival, and Sam came down from a bar job in London to sing with Disclosure. It was the first time they had ever sang to a crowd that big. They were singing Latch, of course, their breakout song. And it's been incredible to watch them evolve as a person and to grow in stature and popularity as a musician since then. I've been lucky enough to interview them loads, but this particular conversation delighted me. Just seeing how comfortable Sam is being completely themselves. And we covered everything, really. They talk about their career, their family, identity, heartbreak. It's a beautifully honest discussion and I am really excited for you to hear it. Enter the podcast, Sam Smith. Sam Smith, you absolute legend. Welcome to Changes!
Sam [00:02:29] Ahh, Thank you so much for having me. This is beautiful.
Annie [00:02:32] It's beautiful. Babe, how are you first and foremost? I haven't seen you or spoken to you in a couple of years. So how are ya?
Sam [00:02:38] I'm good. Yeah, I'm really, really good. Yeah, I feel very settled I think. For the first time I've ever seen you or spoke to you, I feel very settled. During COVID I moved out of London and it's like an hour outside of London, Buckinghamshire.
Annie [00:02:51] No way.
Sam [00:02:51] Yeah, it's lush. And I love the countryside, so it's so nice to get some space and be able to just walk. And I've got a dog, so I feel like I've got a child in a way.
Annie [00:03:01] I think I saw the dog in the background.
Sam [00:03:03] Yeah. Velma, she's amazing.
Annie [00:03:06] Velma, stop it!
Sam [00:03:08] *Laughs* she's beautiful. I'm very lucky. She's been trained really well as well. By me and my friend, so it's great.
Annie [00:03:14] Well, we have mutual friends in the Disclosure boys, and I know that Howard from Disclosure has moved out to the country a long time ago and is like well ensconced into like, planting trees and- has he had any influence over you and land?
Sam [00:03:26] He's been over here a bit. I still need to plant my tree at his house.
Annie [00:03:31] Yeah, me too.
Sam [00:03:32] *Laughing* we should go together.
Annie [00:03:35] Howard has a thing that he wants his friends to like, choose a tree. It's such a beautiful idea.
Sam [00:03:40] It's just beautiful.
Annie [00:03:40] He wants all of his friends to plant a tree in his land. And it's like, so every tree has a story and comes from someone.
Sam [00:03:47] Yeah. He is beautiful, isn't he? He's just a beautiful person.
Annie [00:03:50] Such a beautiful soul, yeah. So you're not planting any trees babe?
Sam [00:03:54] Not planting any trees. I started planting vegetables, though.
Annie [00:03:57] Wow.
Sam [00:03:57] Yeah. And I like, eat salad from my garden, which is crazy.
Annie [00:04:01] Oh my God. I mean, I haven't got there yet. I mean, I did grow a potato last year and it was a big moment but the whole garden thing is a real revelation. We're so old now. We're getting old. You've just turned 30. How is it being in your thirties?
Sam [00:04:13] D'you know what it was- I'm such a drama queen, like the two years leading up to it, I was bracing myself for impact. And then as soon as it happened, I realised that I'm still very young. And I also realised that when it comes to getting older, I think I'm quite lucky because I've always been surrounded by people who really enjoy getting older. And erm, I think life just gets better and better, honestly, from what I can see right now. It's liberating I guess to do that, to realise that our bodies I guess get older, but our souls stay how they are always. It's beautiful.
Annie [00:04:47] Yeah. And then the other thing is the idea of the older you get, the more you kind of come full circle to your childhood a lot of the time. Which you seem to be doing already moving back to the countryside.
Sam [00:04:57] Yeah, it's weird, right? Like we lived in the countryside and then we moved to London when I was 18 and it kind of- my family home disappeared. And I think that weirdly, I've tried to reclaim it and build that type of home for myself again, which is- I feel very lucky and fortunate to be able to do, you know. It's great.
Annie [00:05:15] Makes total sense.
Sam [00:05:16] Yeah, bit of healing *laughs*.
Annie [00:05:18] So tell us about that family home. When you were a kid, what are your memories of being a young child?
Sam [00:05:24] I had a very picturesque childhood. When I was about three years old we moved to this village and we lived in a house that was pink. It was called The Pink House which was stunning. And it was it was beautiful. It was a very old house, very small rooms and I just had beautiful memories of being a kid. I used to just go out all the time with all the neighbours kids, and we'd just run around the fields and it was insane. It was a beautiful childhood. And then as I got older, I guess my bubble got burst a little bit because the world felt so perfect until I was 11 and then, I think like everyone going to secondary school and everything, you start to see things and change and yeah, life happens.
Annie [00:06:09] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, this podcast is all about change. And so we normally try and ask our guests kind of three foundational questions. And the first one is always, what is the biggest change you went through as a child? Have you had a chance to think about it? Do you know what that would be?
Sam [00:06:22] Yeah, I was having a think about it. My brain immediately went to like divorce and stuff like that.
Annie [00:06:29] What age were you when they got divorced?
Sam [00:06:30] I was like 18, but when I was thinking about it I was like, that's not- It was a change but I think so many people go through it, especially nowadays. So I didn't necessarily feel alone in it, there were so many friends I had that had gone through that. And the divorce, my parents divorce was very amicable, so I was lucky. But I think my biggest change as a kid was leaving primary school at ten years old and going to secondary school. There was two things that happened. One negative was bullying began when I went to secondary school, and I think I first heard that, you know, being called gay and all this stuff. So that was a huge moment for me. But then at the same time, I feel like when all that bullying started, that was when I stepped into music and music became this this safe space for me at the age of like 11. And I would be listening to music, you know, it was almost like shelter. It became a peaceful place for me to go when things were hard. And I think that was the start of an amazing relationship.
Annie [00:07:30] Wow. And what kind of kid were you in school? Were you outgoing? Were you shy?
Sam [00:07:36] I think deep down I was shy. But I would attack the situation if I was shy. I would fake it. And I was loud. I was a clown, honestly. I just tried to make people laugh as much as I could.
Annie [00:07:53] Yeah. And that's a kind of defence mechanism. It's like, well, I'm going to get out and be loud first before someone else can draw attention to me, kind of thing.
Sam [00:07:59] Yeah. 100%. I always had, like, that fighter mentality. So if anyone, you know, was being unkind or nasty, I'd kind of give them ten times more than what I was getting.
Annie [00:08:09] Yeah. Did you get into physical fights?
Sam [00:08:13] No. Very closely. I would dart away from that. Like, I would just run. But there was a few times that I had to, like, physically stick up for myself. People don't realise that, even to this day when people meet me out and about, I'm six two. Like, I'm big. I've always been big. And I think in school people didn't really mess with me because I was large *laughs*.
Annie [00:08:35] They didn't fuck wid ya?
Sam [00:08:35] I was large and in charge *laughs*.
Annie [00:08:37] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And is it right Sam, that you came out when you were ten?
Sam [00:08:41] Yeah. Well, sometimes I see things. People think I came out when I was 21 in terms of music, but I don't think I was ever in.
Annie [00:08:49] You were always out.
Sam [00:08:49] Yeah, it was never- coming out was very disappointing. I wanted the dramatics and-
Annie [00:08:55] *Laughing* you wanted fireworks and things.
Sam [00:08:57] Yeah, I wanted the drama. But everyone was just like, we know *laughs*.
Annie [00:09:02] *Laughs* but there's always a point though, isn't there, when you come out to yourself.
Sam [00:09:06] Yes.
Annie [00:09:06] Like when you realise. So can you remember that point?
Sam [00:09:09] Yeah. I think that was about, mainly about words and language because I'd always felt, you know, I think I've always felt non-binary. You know, gay was one thing for me, but there was always something else. But I couldn't find the words. And as soon as I found the word gay and realised what that was, I was like, 100%, that's me. That's me. And that gives you a little bit of peace for sure. Which is nice. But I was very young. I was very young.
Annie [00:09:36] And it sounds like you had a very free existence, as you say, if you're always out, this idea of always being able to express yourself in a very free way at home.
Sam [00:09:45] Yeah.
Annie [00:09:46] Would that be right?
Sam [00:09:47] Oh, 100%, my parents were incredible. They let me just be who I was and they celebrated that every turn. And I think it was freeing but there was an issue with that because I was so out at such a young age that I was alone for all that time. You know, I didn't know any gay people. I worked hard as a kid in terms of music and all these shows I did every year. And so I felt quite isolated as a child because I knew who I was, but no one else around me knew that about themselves. There's loads of queer people in my school but I was the only one that was out, so that was a weird feeling.
Annie [00:10:31] Wow.
Sam [00:10:32] Yeah.
Annie [00:10:32] It must have felt lonely. But equally, the amount of kind of, self-awareness. Did it feel kind of powerful to know who you were at such a young age? I mean, I just know being Irish, there's so much fucking repression from the country of Ireland. So many people who aren't even able to admit that they are gay for such a long time. And are fighting it and fighting it. So I guess, I mean, the idea of not having to fight it.
Sam [00:10:54] Yeah, I think that home time with family was, and time with certain friends, I felt freedom as a kid that was just beautiful. It was really, really special. And I think that that's acknowledging the times and the history or the geography of where we live, right. It's all down to that. And I was definitely extremely free and lucky in that sense.
Annie [00:11:17] Yeah. Yeah. Where do you come in the chronology of your siblings?
Sam [00:11:21] I'm the eldest.
Annie [00:11:22] Are you? I never knew that babe!
Sam [00:11:24] Yeah I know, I'm the oldest. But to be honest, the middle sister Lily is the oldest.
Annie [00:11:31] What, as in, in mind?
Sam [00:11:32] In mind, yeah. She's held us all up for many years. She's wonderful.
Annie [00:11:35] Right. Okay. And can you tell me about your mam and dad?
Sam [00:11:39] Oh, yeah. So my dad was a househusband.
Annie [00:11:42] No way.
Sam [00:11:43] Yeah. So he was at home all day, every day.
Annie [00:11:45] Fabulous.
Sam [00:11:46] Which was wild. And my dad is incredibly open and sensitive and emotional and really played the motherly role in my life, to be honest. And then my mum worked. But was this- and is this force of a woman and was able to be mother and father at many times. It was crazy to watch. But she'd be away all week and then we'd see her in the weekends and stuff. But they were just, they were so in love and they still are in love. Even when they broke up, they still parent now to this day together which is beautiful.
Annie [00:12:25] Yeah. And I think it takes a strong man to be a house husband. It shouldn't, but it does with regards to the kind of clichés and perceptions of kind of masculinity and all that. Your dad sounds like an amazing guy.
Sam [00:12:39] He's actually an angel, man. Like, he's also worked with people with disabilities for 30 years.
Annie [00:12:44] Really?
Sam [00:12:45] Yeah, because my Uncle Terry has got brain damage and Parkinson's since he was born. And so my dad is just, I think he's just incredible with people.
Annie [00:12:55] He's a nurturer.
Sam [00:12:55] Yeah. And he's also seen so many different types of people that he's just very grounded in life in all areas. And he came from quite a masculine background I guess, where you know, the idea of a man staying at home with the woman working, within his family network would would have been extremely rare. So he really stepped up to it. I know he definitely felt isolation at times as well. I remember him talking about always being outside, waiting for us outside the school and all the mums would be there. And he never got, you know, invited to things or, or had a community of friends really. It was just him and us.
Annie [00:13:35] Well, it's very subversive. It's like, it's brave of him. It's brave. Wow. So that must have been, again, amateur psychology here. That must have been good for you to see how you know, typical, traditional gender roles don't have to play out in the way that you see in the books, in the films.
Sam [00:13:53] Yes, oh huge. I think that it was like reversal. It's like I grew up upside down in a way *laughs*.
Annie [00:13:58] Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then strong women make a big part of your life too, because I know that, you know, when you were starting out in music, it was the divas that you gravitated towards, right?
Sam [00:14:07] Oh my God, and still do. I think about this all the time because, I think it's about lyrics actually more than anything. It's people like Mariah *laughs*. Mariah and the Beyonce's and Whitney's and stuff. There's just a strength and a confidence in the lyrics and in the voices that just- it was like an armour for me. And I think for so many queer people, you know, you hear the music and it helps you get out of the front door as a kid.
Annie [00:14:36] A hero lies in you, babe.
Sam [00:14:38] I sang that at a Haven holiday camp in France. And I sang the whole song with no music.
Annie [00:14:47] No way.
Sam [00:14:47] Isn't that bad. I was like nine years old and I sang without music *laughs*.
Annie [00:14:50] And that song, too.
Sam [00:14:51] I won actually. it was the first thing I ever won. It was beautiful.
Annie [00:14:53] You couldn't make it up.
Sam [00:14:55] *Laughing* yeah, it's so funny.
[00:14:56] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:15:05] Sam Smith, how does singing make you feel?
Sam [00:15:08] Ooft. I think it depends on the year and what's happening. I think that singing makes me feel open and it makes me feel weirdly connected. It's not something I share a lot, weirdly. Like I, I actually find it the most vulnerable and personal thing to share about me. So to do it in front of people takes a lot of courage for me, weirdly.
Annie [00:15:36] So, when you're on stage in front of an audience and you're singing, how does that make you feel as opposed to you singing Hero in the shower?
Sam [00:15:47] *Laughs* erm, I think I've always sounded better in the shower. Sometimes I feel like people haven't actually heard my real singing voice because *laughs* when I'm actually singing in front of people, there's so much that's going on. But I think the magic moments is when the noise disappears and it's just you and you can feel the connection between you and the audience. It's like a healing. Like a mass healing. I don't know what it is. I feel like singing with someone and with people is just so good for you. It's so healthy for you. You release so much in those moments.
Annie [00:16:24] And how do you feel after a big show? Is it exhausting, kind of giving so much of yourself in that way?
Sam [00:16:30] You know what, it's like flying. It's like you're a superhero, honestly. But then you walk off the stage and I think every artist will know this, that there's a quick reminder that you're not a superhero. In your own mind, you know, just the natural grounding of being backstage and being around people who maybe aren't as enthusiastic as you or people who didn't do, you know, the same show that you did. There's just this immediate silence in a dressing room, I think, which is quite erm- I think if you don't deal with it correctly, can be quite more morbid and depressing.
Annie [00:17:05] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, it's really interesting you're saying about, you don't feel like sometimes that people have heard you sing. How do you get to the point where you're able to give all of yourself? Where you're able to bare your soul on stage? Is it even possible? And have you seen it happen? With other singers.
Sam [00:17:25] Yeah. You know what I've realised recently, what it is, it's like having some sort of faith that everything's going to be okay. Like there's something- for me, like with my mental health and everything it's all been about grounding. So when I go on stage now, I kind of imagine there's like a cord pulling me to the ground. And if I know that I'm on the ground and I'm safe, then I can just share and the only thing I've got to focus on is enjoying it. And that's a lovely feeling when you can just enjoy the motions of it. And a lot of that also comes down to technique, singing technique, because I think a lot of singers, when you stand on stage your voice and your muscles go. Like they go tight and everything goes tight.
Annie [00:18:08] Yeah, so you have to work against the restraint.
Sam [00:18:11] You have to stay calm because if your throat is calm and everything is down and your shoulders are down, then literally the sound just reverberates in a completely different way. And it's like you form a little chamber, an echo chamber in your body.
Annie [00:18:26] Wow. So the calmer you are, the better you sing. I suppose it's like anything. It's like sport, it's like skiing. It's like, you know, if you're not tense, then you're going to- everything's going to flow better.
Sam [00:18:36] Yeah, it's a muscle, right? But then there's also the added layer of emotion, so you've got to believe what you're saying. It's multitasking.
Annie [00:18:45] Do you ever feel like when you do the same songs, you know, if you're on a big, extensive tour and you have a song that's fucking really confessional and really like talking about a wound that exists or sadness or an experience of sadness. When you sing it night after night, is it not like fucking ripping a plaster off a wound again and again and again?
Sam [00:19:04] 100%? It's a fucking- it is absolutely exhausting. The last tour I did, The Thrill Of It All tour, I had In The Lonely Hour and The Thrill Of It All, and those two albums are, they're not the cheeriest at times.
Annie [00:19:19] There's a fuck load of sad songs. World class sad songs.
Sam [00:19:22] Oh, thank you. You know what, at the end of it I was not myself. I was a bit of a shell of myself because I had to go there every single night. I was also going through a break-up at the time, so I was singing these heartbreak songs, whilst going through a break-up, in these arenas. And it was a lot. And I think it's definitely had an impact on the music I've made ever since, The Thrill Of It All, because I want to have fun.
Annie [00:19:46] So there's a video. It's the How Do You Sleep video.
Sam [00:19:49] Oh yeah, yeah *laughs*.
Annie [00:19:50] And it's from the Love Goes album, which came out a couple of years ago now. It's incredibly life affirming to watch because it looks like it is you in your absolute happy space. Being all of you, giving all of you.
Sam [00:20:03] Yeah. I'm so happy you brought that up. I think that was one of the huge transitions for me in my career. I remember doing the dance rehearsals for it with Paris and I remember people within the team were uncomfortable a little bit, a few people.
Annie [00:20:24] So you're dancing with a group of dancers. It's fully choreographed. It's really sensual and sexual what you're doing. There's a lot of hip swinging and the choreography is incredible.
Sam [00:20:35] I know. The way I can explain it is, for the first seven years of my career I stuck to certain movements. Because I know that the way I move in a femme way, which I always have, with my hips and like when I'm out and about, I was just scared to show that. I felt like it was dangerous. I felt like I'd be unsafe if I showed that on stage. And I didn't want people to laugh at me. That's what I felt that would happen. And then when I did it in How Do You Sleep it was the opposite. I released that and it was like, oh wow, I'm allowed to share this side of myself with you now. And I felt like people gave me permission to do that. And that was huge. That was huge because I'd been stopping myself from doing that for so long.
Annie [00:21:19] I mean, it's not just a side of yourself, it's you. It's all of you. And when I was watching it, it felt so kind of full circle because I'd remembered you telling me one time in an interview at Radio 1, that you used to walk to school, like you used to go to school fully made up. Like fully make up'd. So you've always been femme.
Sam [00:21:39] Yes, I've always been non-binary.
Annie [00:21:43] Non-binary, yeah. It's something in the middle.
Sam [00:21:44] Yeah.
Annie [00:21:44] Just you.
Sam [00:21:45] Yeah, 100%. I've always felt that way and I've always existed that way. And that's why I think it was so hard when I came out with music for the first time because I was experimenting with mass clothing for the first time when I brought out Stay With Me. And I think people just thought that I'd always been like that, and then I was breaking through, but I hadn't. I'd always been how I am now.
Annie [00:22:08] And then that's kind of trapping in a way, isn't it? Because you were so mentally successful off the back of that first album from being, like identifying, you know, in the way you wear clothes and stuff as a man. So then it's like, scary because like, it's not just like you're worried that people are going to laugh at you it's because you're worried that your career is going to flop.
Sam [00:22:28] Oh, 100%. I think that is the hardest part of that for me is that, you know, I think we all have imposter syndrome a little bit when we get successful. But for me, it was like, oh wow, if I show this side of myself, I'm going to lose everything. And then I did show that side of myself and of course I haven't lost everything, but everything's shifted for me.
Annie [00:22:55] How?
Sam [00:22:57] Just in terms of music. I definitely feel there was some people that have turned away a little bit here and there, I think purely down to homophobia and transphobia a little bit. And that's a hard thing to take, to take on that people are digesting your music in a different way. Because my music has always been queer. Stay With Me was a queer song. In The Lonely Hour was a queer- it was all about being in love with a straight guy. It was completely queer. But I think it's just, it's fascinating how people, how people's politics sometimes can leak into their love of music, which is wild and something I've had to learn. But do you know what? There is nothing that beats the freedom I feel in my skin. And that's a really powerful place to be in now because I'm not looking at stats, I'm not looking at reviews or critique. I'm just trying to grow and bloom, I guess.
[00:23:57] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:24:06] There's a quote. Shortly after that video, you came out as non-binary. I don't know if that's- do you say you come out? You told the world that that's what you are. And in your Instagram, you said you were at no stage just yet to able to eloquently speak at length about what it means to be non-binary. And you're three years in now, you're three years into kind of having a lived experience of not having to conform to a gender. And I wanted to ask, how does it feel now?
Sam [00:24:34] Oh my God, incredible. Absolutely incredible. I change my mind a lot as a person, like in general. And this is one thing that as soon as I started to hear my mum change my pronouns, neutralise my pronouns.
Annie [00:24:49] Makes me so emotional.
Sam [00:24:50] It's an amazing feeling. And you feel seen. There's no, I think people think that there's a taking involved. Like we're trying to take something away from someone else in a conversation. But there's no taking going on. It's just about seeing people and confirming that you are seen. You are part of this world, honestly. Because I think with pronouns and with gender, I've always felt like I wasn't welcome or I wasn't included in conversation and I wasn't fully understood. So to be fully understood is kind of like a vital part of being a human, you know. Your self-worth just grows.
Annie [00:25:37] Is it like a permanent kind of gaslighting? I mean, before, you know, when you're having to be put in a certain place and act in a certain way or feel like you have to look a certain way, it's this idea of never being able to exist in your real self and constantly questioning yourself and doubting yourself for not feeling like, comfortable in that certain place.
Sam [00:25:59] Yeah, I think it's a lot of like hating yourself, honestly. That was just like I was unreasonably hard on myself and I would- I felt like there was an inner dialogue that I was ashamed to share. So as soon as I shared this thing that I felt trans, you know, I think the word trans is- you can be non-binary and trans. And some people identify completely separately as just non-binary or just trans. I think I'm someone who sees both those words as something that means something to me because I've just always felt this errr. I guess a sense of dysphoria since I was a child that physically, people weren't taking me as I am.
Annie [00:26:49] Mmmm. I'm so curious about the word gender in general and just how, as this movement happens, where people are less and less afraid to kind of break out of the kind of trappings of gender. Like, what will the world look like? It's so exciting. This idea of people not having to follow these rules.
Sam [00:27:07] I think it's so exciting. And when you said, like, what the world would look like, I think in many, many, many years time, who knows what it would look like? But I think right now for me, I don't think anyone- I'm definitely not trying to destroy gender in my views or my expression. Like right now, what's needed is just to acknowledge that there is that third box. That trans people do exist. And it's genuinely a human rights issue at the moment, that's how I feel. Everyone's life is as important as the others. And I think that there's just conversations with trans people that just haven't happened. If you sit down and just have a calm conversation, not even about transness, just get to know someone who's trans and learn the humour that you have in common and the stories you have in common. And it's all about us just being friends with each other, I think. And learning each other's ways.
Annie [00:28:07] And Sam, do you feel ever like a bit of pressure having to be this person that's not just incredibly famous through your music, but also have to speak for these communities who are marginalised and, as you say, suffering from human rights, you know, atrocities and things like that? Like it's a lot.
Sam [00:28:27] It is a lot. And when I was younger I remember feeling this- it sounds like a spoilt child I was like, this isn't fair. You know, you go into these interviews and all I want to talk about is music. And I never, ever got a chance to just talk about that. I always had to talk about my sex life and my body and all this stuff. But then in the middle of my twenties I just started to realise the power in that and I started to really get a scope and I started to realise how my community looks and realised that outside of these cities that I grew up in and these, these liberal areas, there are kids that are struggling. There are children and teenagers that are living in countries where it's illegal and where it's punishable by death. So the responsibility that I hold, I step up to that now because if I can live loudly and that can reach people, then beautiful. But my boundary is that it has to be through art and love. I'm not a politician. I'm not an activist. I'd say my music is activism and my existence maybe is activism.
Annie [00:29:35] Definitely.
Sam [00:29:37] But I find it hard to- I can sing a statement very easily, but public speaking is difficult for me, so I leave that to the people that are incredible at that and try to, you know, shout their names as much as I can.
Annie [00:29:51] And I think as well, what you're really good at is being fallible and saying, I'm only human, I make mistakes, I don't know everything, I'm learning. Which is so important because I think people feel a pressure to get things right and they feel scared to speak on things because they're worried they'll get things wrong, especially in this world of cancel culture and getting fucking jumped on on social media and stuff. So it's important for someone at your level to go, I'm not always right and I'm learning.
Sam [00:30:18] And that's not a nice feeling, right. It's horrible being wrong. It's the worst being wrong.
Annie [00:30:23] Horrible.
Sam [00:30:23] But the more we get used to it, the more you can deal with that in the middle of a conversation and be like, okay, I'm sorry, let's move on, you know?
[00:30:32] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:30:42] Sam, what would you say is the biggest change you've been through in your adult life? *Laughs* It's such a vast question.
Sam [00:30:50] I love it. No, I love it.
Annie [00:30:51] I'm sitting here talking to you.
Sam [00:30:51] Erm, I'd say my transition.
Annie [00:30:56] Right. Is that what you call it?
Sam [00:30:58] Yeah, I think I do now. I think there's a constant transition happening, but I do think that after the How Do You Sleep video and after the beginnings of Love Goes the record. That was me breaking out of something and that's taken a good three years to get to a place of peace with that where I feel like I can come out again and share music and share myself on stage. So I'd say that was the biggest part. And on top of that, something, probably my first proper relationship, that was just huge. And I think queer people's first relationships are so intense.
Annie [00:31:47] Why? Why? Why is that?
Sam [00:31:49] Just because I think you've- I'm speaking for many people here but for me personally, I didn't get to experience those small relationships in school. You had your boyfriends and it was light hearted and you all made mistakes. I didn't get to experience that. So when I went into that first relationship, that was longer than five months, six months. That's when I felt loved in a way that I'd never felt loved before. I felt touched in a way that I never felt touch before. I was sexually opened and and liberated. And then the heartbreak that comes from that, it's like a mourning of everything. It's just very dramatic and intense. But heavy learning.
Annie [00:32:33] Yeah, yeah. How did that change you, that heartbreak?
Sam [00:32:36] Oh, huge. Just huge. I think I just understood what love was. I didn't really realise that love was a giving. Like, I didn't realise that you had to, like water someone.
Annie [00:32:48] Owhh, yeah. Yeah.
Sam [00:32:49] You know what I mean? I felt like it was- I think I used to be obsessed with the kind of erm, the drama. Those romances where people blow each other up. I think I was obsessed with that and I thought that's what love was, was two people moulding into one. But now I'm realising that it's just two people coexisting and being good to each other.
Annie [00:33:09] Yes. Kind to each other. Yeah, yeah. Has there been any other times in your life when your heart has been broken? Such a sad fucking question *laughs*.
Sam [00:33:18] No, no. Yeah. I lost a friend to-
Annie [00:33:22] No way.
Sam [00:33:22] They didn't die. We just stopped talking and I knew them since I was eight.
Annie [00:33:30] Ahh that's really sad.
Sam [00:33:30] I know and it's a really- I don't know if you've felt it but it's a weird one where you still love them but you just know that, even now that we're just not- sometimes you're meant to say goodbye to certain people. And they're not meant to be in your life. And maybe we'll see each other again and stuff. But we just went our separate ways, and that was almost more heartbreaking than the boyfriend, I think.
Annie [00:33:53] Can I ask when in your life that you went your separate ways?
Sam [00:33:56] Like 26.
Annie [00:33:57] Right. So you were well into your career at this point?
Sam [00:34:00] Yeah, I always say to my- because my sisters have just turned 26, 27. And I think from 26 to 29, some crazy shit happens.
Annie [00:34:08] Oh, totally.
Sam [00:34:09] Like, it's weird. It's weird, right? It's like you're out of your twenties, but you're nervous about what's to come. You're being treated more like an adult. You know, you think about your past a lot.
Annie [00:34:21] Yeah.
Sam [00:34:22] And also, I started therapy at 27, so that was just like opening up a closet and just pulling out your clothes.
Annie [00:34:29] Yeah ooft. And then throwing them all on the ground *laughs*.
Sam [00:34:31] Yeah, it was nuts *laughs*.
Annie [00:34:34] Robyn was on this podcast, and she talked about therapy as being such a huge change. One of her big adult changes, actually, her childhood change was divorce, parents divorce, but and just how much it helped her. Is that something that you would cite as a healer?
Sam [00:34:48] Oh God, yeah. Changed my life.
Annie [00:34:50] Really babe?
Sam [00:34:50] Yeah, yeah. In every way. I heard someone say it's an assisted conversation with yourself.
Annie [00:34:56] Wow.
Sam [00:34:56] And that's what I love. When I'm in these tough periods in my head, which happened a lot. I now have this little toolbox in my brain that I can turn to and when things are feeling weird, I just know how to calm myself down. I know that when you're kicking yourself, the answer is not to kick yourself even more, to feel better. Positive affirmation is so hard to do and it takes practice. And I think I'll be in therapy forever, honestly. I don't see a time when I wouldn't.
Annie [00:35:31] How are you getting on with that first line in Love Me More? 'Every day I'm trying not to hate myself'. How are you doing with that?
Sam [00:35:38] Oh, great. *Annie laughs* absolutely great.
Annie [00:35:42] I love it.
Sam [00:35:43] With that song I think it can sound negative sometimes, but I think it's a positive.
Annie [00:35:49] Yeah. The physical act of trying is a positive thing.
Sam [00:35:52] Yeah, because self-love and self-acceptance is not a destination. Things are going to happen in your life all the time that are going to throw you off kilter. And it's just, it's constantly bringing yourself back and being kind to yourself.
Annie [00:36:07] Sam, just moving forwards, we're kind of in the middle of album cycles for you. How are you feeling in yourself about being an artist for the next decade, you know, moving forwards in your career?
Sam [00:36:21] Honestly, I'm in this weird place where I have all this work and this music. I just want people to hear it because when they hear the next single and the next few songs, I think people are going to really understand whats happened with me musically, because I have pushed this to a place of just madness. And it's about trying to relay that through videos and artwork now as well, because the music is so exciting. And I went into the danger zone and I'd set myself free musically and that album is my first cohesive piece of music where you can listen from start to finish and there's interludes, moments where it's like a proper journey, I guess. I hate the word journey, but it's a movie. It's a movie. And I just can't wait to show it. Love Me More was meant- it's meant to be an ode to the past. Even in the video, it's meant to. It's kind of my final opportunity, Love Me More, to kind of give my hand to the people that I may have lost along the way and say, come with me now. But it's the last opportunity because I'm going where I'm going and-
Annie [00:37:36] YESSS!
Sam [00:37:36] And I won't stop *laughs*.
Annie [00:37:37] This is the most exciting moment in an artist's career in my opinion, it's like when you're like, You know what, I don't care what I should do. I'm going to do what I need to do. What I have to do for me.
Sam [00:37:49] 100%. And that's where it is. The music is speaking louder than me, than anyone in the room. And the music is forcing direction, which is incredible.
[00:37:58] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:38:08] Okay, last question. What change would you still like to make for yourself moving forwards?
Sam [00:38:14] I think the change- I want to backpack around the world.
Annie [00:38:18] Love it. Do a George Ezra, get on a euro train.
Sam [00:38:21] Stunning. I mean I do that but in kaftans. *Both laugh* but I want to see the world. That's something that I really want. I want to see the world. And also, some things exciting me is about the broadness of queer music. I feel like people sometimes see queer music as something that they can't relate to, and queer music is universal, just like all music. And I'm so excited to see the broadening of genres, you know, when it comes to queer artists. I can't wait to hear queer folk music and queer country music and then queer house music and all this stuff.
Annie [00:38:58] Queer heavy metal. Let's go.
Sam [00:38:59] Yeah, I just think there's so many messages that queer artists are saying that that will help everyone. And I'm excited to see the change in that and see music connect and hopefully bring people together again in a huge way.
Annie [00:39:17] Listen, I'm so excited about this new album. I'm gassed to hear it whenever it comes. And I'm so grateful to you for today. Thank you.
Sam [00:39:24] Thank you for having me. It's always the greatest pleasure with you. Thank you.
Annie [00:39:28] Thanks, babe. Thank you ever so much to Sam Smith for that convo. Please rate, review and subscribe, and tell your friends and your family too. Anyone who you know is a Sam fan or anyone who you know who could be inspired and enlightened by what Sam had to talk about, I think as well, with regards to their sexuality and their evolution in terms of change in identity as well. Becoming nonbinary, incredibly courageous I think. Great to speak to them. We are going to be back next Monday with actress Anne-Marie Duff, who currently stars as Grace in Apple TV's Bad Sisters, alongside Sharon Horgan, Sarah Greene, Eva Birthistle and Eve Hewson. I don't know if you are as gripped by Bad Sisters as I am, but it's literally been the highlight of my last month or so, and I look forward every week to the new episode that drops on Friday nights. If you haven't started, get watching it, you will not regret it. So it's Bad Sisters on Apple TV. Anne-Marie Duff is incredible. She's got a huge career, obviously, before even Bad Sisters happened, but I thought it would be good to speak to her now with regards to her own life and some of the themes that Bad Sisters brings us. Themes of sisterhood, domestic abuse, and so much more. So that's Anne-Marie Duff on the Changes next week, and this episode was produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. Thanks so much for listening and see you next week.