Q&A: Sam Smith on touring, therapy, smoking and lip syncing
In this Nov. 2, 2017 file photo, musician Sam Smith poses for a portrait in New York to promote his album, "The Thrill of It All." (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP, File)
Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, June 21, 2018 11:13AM EDT
NEW YORK - Sam Smith knows his music is melancholy and emotional, but he's hoping his live shows will be uplifting and feel “like a fistful of love,” as he put it.
The singer, known for down-tempo hits like “Stay With Me” and “Too Good at Goodbyes,” is launching “The Thrill of It All Tour” in the United States on Friday in Detroit.
Smith will perform at some of the arenas he played three years ago when his 2014 debut album, “In the Lonely Hour,” dominated the charts. But he said now he's able to do more when it comes to the show - from the lighting to the set list.
“We didn't really know what to do actually because everything became very big before we actually had the money to actually afford to put on anything that was a spectacle,” he said of his 2015 tour.
“With this tour, I got to choose songs. I got to really decide what type of show and tour this is,” said Smith, who released this sophomore album, “The Thrill of It All,” last November. “I really think you can see, within the show, (the) growth of me as an artist, I hope.”
Smith talked to The Associated Press about the tour, cutting out alcohol and smoking, and going to therapy for the first time.
AP: How have you been prepping to get ready for this tour?
Smith: It's very, very tough. I'm trying to really discover other joys in life instead of going out drinking and going clubbing. I've completely stopped drinking. I'm working out. I have my trainer on the road with me, which is amazing. I work out every day. I've just had four weeks off so I've been eating a lot of really bad food, so I'm trying to work that off before I get to New York. I'm just being super, super, super healthy. Making sure I go to bed after the shows and rest my voice. It's really looking after myself as much as I can. The time that I'm onstage is my time to have fun and that's my time to express and let go.
AP: Have you cut out smoking?
Smith: Yes. The last year or so, I'm embarrassed to say that I did - I fell into the pit of smoking cigarettes. I'm battling it. I'm not smoking at all at the moment. When I have my time off in between shows I find it really difficult. But I'm pretty certain and sure that I've kicked it now. I have to. It's so bad for you. It's just affecting my voice. It affects my mood as well, smoking. I feel like I'm hurting myself in a way when I do it. So, I've stopped that.
AP: You sing live every night. How does it feel when you see others lip sync?
Smith: In general, I find it sad. It's different with the different artists, I feel. ...I don't know for certain, but I'm pretty sure some people sing a bit here and there and mime a bit during the show because they're dancing so hard. Then I understand that because I'm not a dancer and I don't know how it feels. If you're singing for a bit of it live, then I get it. I've got to admit, it's something that I find annoying, especially within pop music, because I'm someone who has never mimed. I've never ever mimed my entire life.
Whenever people around you are miming, you're kind of expected to do the same amount of work and promo and stuff as all the other artists. But, it's hard. I can't do as much promo. I can't sing flat out every day, all day because my songs are very, very high and demanding for me as a male singer. I sing in a place in my voice, even when I'm singing high, I'm belting. It's quite exhausting for my vocal chords. It's just a strain because sometimes I feel like I can't work as hard as everyone else because I'm not miming. Other than that, what other people do isn't my business. If they can sleep at night and they mime, then that's fine. It works for them, it doesn't work for me.
AP: Do you get to go to concerts? If so, who have you seen recently?
Smith: Yeah, I go to shows quite a lot. I try to see all the big pop shows. I saw Beyonce's “Lemonade” stadium tour. I'm watching all of her “On the (Run Tour)” stuff online. I'm just obsessed. It's just incredible to watch. My dream person to see that I haven't seen is Robyn. I just really want to see her live. I think I'd just cry the whole time.
AP: How's it been performing songs from your latest album now that it's been out several months?
Smith: I look back at this album and sometimes, when I'm singing these songs, I worry because I know they are very dark. If you listen to the album it's got quite a dark tone to it.
“In the Lonely Hour” - I felt that it was melancholy but there was hopefulness to the songs, because I was hoping the man I loved loved me back. And I think during the period of “The Thrill of It All,” I really was a bit stuck and I was in a place where I just felt very confused about fame and felt that love was nowhere to be seen. I look back on that time and sometimes I'm almost upset with how dark it was and wish I could have written a happier record. But it was honest and it was me.
I've already started writing quite a lot for my third record. Just wrote something today, actually, in the dressing room. It's just feeling a little more up. Never too happy. But I'm feeling a lot more confident as a songwriter, which is really, really nice.
AP: Is what you're writing now a reflection of how you feel now? Because it seems like you're happier.
Smith: Oh, yeah, completely. I'm a lot happier now then I was. I still have my down days. After releasing the record, I got into a really happy place and it was great, and then had a massive low a few months afterward. I started therapy recently and I'm starting to truly understand that you can't be happy all the time. And life is like a sea, isn't it? Sometimes it's calm and then sometimes it's crazy and stormy. And you've just got to ride it, I guess. I still find parts of my life really, really challenging and difficult and I get very, very sad sometimes, but I have the tools now. And I'm trying to work out the tools, how to stay happy, which is good. The not drinking thing is a big thing for me. Not smoking. Yeah, just seeking help around me. And remembering that I'm good by myself as well. I think alone time is really important.
AP: Was this the first time you tried therapy?
Smith: Yeah, yeah, first time ever in my life recently. It's only been recently, but it's been great.