Sam Smith is in a good place. And not just because the sun is beating down in Adelaide, Australia where they stopped briefly for a one-off performance at the d’Arenberg Cube winery, and for some introductions to national media.
Speaking with Billboard at the EOS by SkyCity hotel, overlooking the iconic Adelaide Oval, Smith appears as chilled as anyone enjoying a break from the grim British winter.
With Gloria, Smith’s fourth album, ready and set for its Jan. 27 release into the world, and a busy year of touring ahead, the British singer could be excused for feeling anxious.
“It doesn’t feel nerve-racking this time around,” Smith explains. “I made a very conscious decision with this record to not bring anything out until I just loved it, in and out, and didn’t want to be in a position where I was putting something out and was thinking, ‘are people going to like this’? I wanted to be in a position where I put something out and I felt I didn’t care if anyone else liked it, because it’s about whether I like it. Because it’s what I make.”
The early results are in, and there’s a lot of love for the new songs. Gloria release “Unholy” featuring Kim Petras is a stone-cold hit, blasting to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Smith’s first U.S. leader; and it logged multiple weeks atop the Official U.K. Singles Chart and Australia’s ARIA Chart.
More than a decade has passed since Smith’s career took flight, when they contributed those honey-dripped, other-worldly vocals to Disclosure’s 2012 breakthrough track “Latch”. A debut LP, In The Lonely Hour, arrived in 2014 and peaked at No. 1 in the U.K., and No. 2 in the U.S. Its followup from 2017, The Thrill of It All hit the summit on both sides of the Atlantic, confirming Smith’s ascent as a bonafide star.
Awards have rained from the heavens, and include four Grammys, three BRITs, an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
Gloria is the follow-up to 2020’s Love Goes, which peaked at No. 2 on the U.K. tally, and No. 5 in the U.S.
Part of the new album was shaped during the pandemic, with production work from longtime collaborators Jimmy Napes, Stargate and Max Martin stablemate ILYA. The collection “really came about expressing the liberation I’ve been feeling over the last few years, when it comes to my sexuality, my emotions, my spirit,” Smith notes.
From the introspective opening number, the previously-released “Love Me More,” the first song Smith wrote for the album, through to the hymnal title track, Gloria is a signal that its creator is “in a good place.”
With the benefit of multiple listens, and pulling back, there’s a lot of joy to be found in Gloria. One of the album’s belters is “I’m Not Here To Make friends,” a disco-pop number written with Stargate and Jessie Reyez, and produced by Calvin Harris in Los Angeles.
“I’d written so many heartbreak songs and confessional songs that weren’t just about my heartbreak, but other people’s,” Smith recounts. “I wanted to explore a more confident voice and a voice that was stronger, honestly.”
Ahead of the big day, Smith performed on SNL and visited The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon for a late-night chat. A major international tour in support of the album will kick off April 12 at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England, before winding its way across the U.K. and Ireland, Continental Europe and onto North America for dates in July through October, then return to Australia and New Zealand for a run of shows in the hotter, southern months.
The 2023 version of Smith is wiser, happier, self-assured.
“I really do feel like I’m in that place. Of course I want people to like (Gloria), but I’m on my fourth album now. I don’t feel like I have to prove so much, I just want to enjoy what I make and enjoy my job.”