Sam Smith

Sam Smith



Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Mel Ottenberg

CHAKA KHAN I feel like I’ve known you for some time.

SAM SMITH No! Me too.

CK We must have known each other some long time ago. I think at least the first Earth age.

SS Yes.

CK Do you realize how lucky you are?

SS Yes, I do.

CK To make money at something you love to do? You know, I think about people who get up every morning and go to their job that they absolutely hate. That’s like being in hell.

SS And I was there. I had some awful jobs before I did anything else.

CK I’m so happy that you got to where you are and that you’re here.

SS Getting here is one thing, but staying here, that’s hard. And you must know that.

CK Yes it is. To stay viable and keep people interested. I haven’t tried really hard to do that, but I’ve been very diligent about sticking to my stuff. Certain parts of me just aren’t up for discussion.

SS I’m trying to get used to that, because I give so much of myself away.

CK That’s okay. I do too. Music is to give, share.

SS That’s so true.

CK Do you sing any jazz?

SS My first singing lessons were “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra. I’m going to a jazz concert tonight, actually.

CK Wonderful. Jazz is like the highest form of music, to me, besides opera. You can’t fake jazz if you don’t get the notes. I’m told I do a good job at it, but I don’t think so yet.

SS Jazz scares me. I’ve witnessed so many incredible singers and jazz musicians. Pop and soul music have always been the things that I felt like I could do.

CK You should do “Goldfinger.”

SS I’m doing “My Funny Valentine” at Madison Square Garden.

CK Fabulous. That’s a song I’ve covered as well. Do you still like Frank Sinatra?

SS Frank Sinatra, I love. I love Amy Winehouse. I was 11 when her first album came out.

CK I love her. That girl, she was an angel.

SS Did you get to meet her?

CK Yes, I did. She sat on my lap. She ran up to me and sat on my lap like a little girl. Just the sweetest thing.

SS That’s amazing.

CK Yes, adorable. I told her bodyguard, Okay, take her home now. It’s time to go home. [laughs]

SS [laughs] I grew up listening to Amy, Whitney, and you.

CK All the right people.

SS Joni Mitchell, too.

CK Joni! I’m her biggest, biggest fan. I want to do a Joni Mitchell tribute album. Would you like to get on a couple of cuts of that with me?

SS Yes. Yes. One thousand million percent. My whole record, In the Lonely Hour, was inspired by the artwork for Both Sides Now.

CK She’s no joke. I want to grow up to be just like her.

SS Me too. And I listened to Etta James a lot. What I loved about her, which I try to do more of, is the rawness. She didn’t care if her voice went a bit fucked up here and there.

CK She didn’t care. She didn’t care.

SS Yeah, and people are so bothered at the moment about everything sounding perfect.

CK Especially in this age, everything is a machine. You can tune a person.

SS Even when you meet them. I won’t name names, but some of these pop stars are just awful. And they have not even had half the success that you’ve had and yet you’re so humble and kind.

CK Well, it’s people skills. Talking to a screen all day long takes the human experience out. Luckily I grew up in a time when we only had a telephone at home. You’re not home? Oh, well. God, I can’t wait until we do something together. You know what’d be cute? We could do “I Know You, I Live You.” You know Rufus and I also did a Bobby Womack song, “Stop On By.”

SS Yeah, oh my gosh, that would be incredible. We did “Love Me Still.”

CK I wrote that.

SS That’s my favorite song of yours ever.

CK We are definitely going to write a song together.

SS Hundred percent, I’m in. I was actually thinking me, you, and Mary [J. Blige] would do something.

CK That’d be hot. She’s a good writer.

SS My mom always used to joke around with her friends, when I was, like, 12 years old—“It’s all good. Sam’s just got to get Chaka Khan to sing with him when I’m in my 50s.” I rang her this morning and she was like, “I can’t believe you.”

CK We might have to call her.

SS Call my mum. That’d be amazing.

CK A couple years ago, you were playing your first show in New York at the Mercury Lounge and now you’re coming back to play a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden. Do you feel like you’re the same person you were then?

SS I’m just more aware than I was back then. My eyes are wider open, but I’m enjoying myself. I’m happier, much happier. That’s the big thing.

CK Absolutely. You stay right there.

In The Lonely Hour is available now from Capitol Records

Credits: Hair Didier Malige Grooming Dick Page for Shiseido (Jed Root)   Creative movement director Stephen Galloway (theCollectiveShift) Lighting director Jodokus Driessen  Digital technician Brian Anderson Studio manager Marc Kroop  Photo assistant Joseph Hume  VLM producer Jeff Lepine Stylist assistants Alexa Lanza, David Casavant, Charlotte Fetridge Hair assistant Takashi Yusa Tailor Alberta Roc Production Stephanie Bargas, Lauren Pistoia, Disco Meisch (theCollectiveShift) Production assistants Tucker Birbilis, Daniel Alexandre, Eva Frances Harte Retouching Stereohorse  Locations Pier 59 Studios and ROOT Studios


The Music Issue