”Those are the real numbers, right?” Twenty-two-year-old Sam Smith has just received a phone call from his record label telling him that his breakout single ”Stay With Me” has cracked the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and he doesn’t quite believe it.
He should. It’s 11 a.m. on a sunny June Wednesday, and EW is with the London native in New York City as he prepares for a day of promoting his debut album, In the Lonely Hour (out now). ”Stay With Me” has already gone platinum Stateside, thanks in part to Smith’s arresting performance on SNL in March, but things like the size of his hotel suite still thrill him (”Show yourself around. There are five beds! I don’t want to leave”), and a mission to track down a green smoothie (”As foul as I can find — I just hope it makes me skinny”) is still carried out by the singer himself, rather than by a string of beleaguered assistants.
”I’m very aware of the kind of order and the kind of rules in place with people who come from the U.K.,” he says. ”What we were doing on SNL defied all of that. No one knew who I was. It was the scariest moment of my life so far.” But the gambit paid off: Smith could be the first British male solo artist ever to debut at No. 1, meaning his mix of excruciatingly tender ballads and electro-tinged torch songs may just drown out the bubblegum pop of this summer’s pool-party playlists.
We spent 12 hours with Smith (who eventually did find a suitably disgusting smoothie) and watched as his transformation from English upstart to bona fide pop star went into overdrive.
Sam Smith: A Day in the Life of a Star on the Verge
11:00 AM While prepping for interviews in his hotel room, Smith gets word that ”Stay With Me” has just broken into Billboard’s top 10. ”Unbelievable! This is the big one, right?” he asks.
11:30 AM Just before camera crews for a local radio station show up, he turns to his stylist: ”Are glasses okay? I’m worried people won’t recognize me.”
12:10 PM Lana Del Rey, whose new album drops the same day as Smith’s, has been playing on his laptop all morning. ”Should we maybe stop with the Lana now?” a manager half-jokes. ”But I love her!” Smith protests, before switching his playlist over to Grimes.
12:30 PM Strolling out to find a smoothie before heading uptown for more press, Smith spies street art promoting the British band Disclosure, with whom he collaborated on ”Latch,” the club hit that first caught the attention of his label. ”That’s the song that changed all of our lives,” he says.