Billboard Cover: Sam Smith on 'Stay With Me,' 'SNL' Jitters and 'Striving to Be a Career Artist'
When Capitol chairman Steve Barnett (pictured above) first went to England to check out Sam Smith, 22, he not only imagined Smith could break in America, but that he'd be a freshman flagship artist for a revamped label group. Achieving the highest-charting first-week from a U.K. male ever was just the start for In the Lonely Hour, an album that has scanned more than 900,000 copies, according to Nielsen Music, led by a 3 million-selling debut single, "Stay With Me."
Sam Smith: Saturday Night Live is the thing that broke me in America, but I was very scared, and I actually begged my team and my label to not do it when we got the call. I thought it would have more impact if I had a song out and on the radio. But I was so wrong. I had a story all of a sudden, and I was on people's iPods in the space of a week.
Steve Barnett: SNL was a brave booking, because it was 11 weeks before the album. There was also a lot of belief from iTunes. We had their support on an unusual plan for a new artist, where there were great tracks and each had video content. If you had one without the other, it wouldn't have been as dramatic. We're just at the beginning of our second single. This album is going to live into the next holiday season.
Smith: I'm striving to be a career artist. I want to look back and pat myself on the back after four albums, not one.
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