How Did Sam Smith Make It?

Sam Smith
Stage fright is common and should not stop you from performing. Some of the most talented people in the world have suffered from it - says Lisa Popeil.

Twenty-two year old Samuel Frederick “Sam” Smith, was born in England in the historic market town of Bishop’s Stortford outside of London. One of three children (he has two sisters), Sam began performing at age six. After his parents heard him singing Whitney Houston’s song “My Love is Your Love” at the age of 8, he began voice and songwriting lessons with jazz vocal coach and pianist Joanna Eden. He was a member of Bishop’s Stortford Musical Theatre Society and Cantate Youth Choir, and later joined the Youth Music Theatre UK thereby spending much of his youth and adolescence in musical theatre.

Powerful Influences

Sam’s mother, Katie Cassidy was a force in her son’s artistic ambitions; she was a high-powered London banker, making up to $750,000 (£500,000) a year.

Katie Cassidy was a force in her son’s artistic ambitions

By the time Sam was 12 years old, his career was being handled by six different managers. When Sam was 16, his mother was fired from her job after supposedly spending company time and resources promoting her son’s budding singing career. Since Sam was raised by a powerful, working mother and a stay-at-home father, he became a self-professed feminist. This shows in his musical influences: Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Etta James. Sam suffers from OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and has struggled with stage fright in the past.

First Big Breaks

In 2012, Sam began bartending in London, even cleaning toilets, but began meeting people including songwriter Jimmy Napes, with whom he wrote the song “Latch”. That connection led to an introduction to Guy and Howard Lawrence, known as the group Disclosure, who featured Sam Smith on their recording of “Latch”. Naughty Boy liked that song which led to the co-writing of “La La La” with Smith. His success singing on these two songs led to a series of sold-out shows in the US and an appearance on Saturday Night Live, all prior to the release of his first album, “In the Lonely Hour”. 

In December 2014, Smith was nominated for six Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist. In addition, his song “Stay with Me” was nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance. Smith’s album “In the Lonely Hour” has been nominated for Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album.

What This Means To You:

  1. Overnight success can take years of trial, error, and timing.
  2. Having someone, like a family member, who believes in you can help to keep you on track, research opportunities and make connections.
  3. Finding musical influences that make you feel music in a deep emotional way is important.
  4. You may be only one person away from a completely different life.
  5. Stage fright is common and should not stop you from performing. Some of the most talented people in the world have stage fright. It gets better over time.
  6. Do what you do. If you sing sweetly, that’s your thing. Own it.

-Lisa Popeil

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