Shutting off proving hard for Sam Smith

British singer-songwriter Sam Smith has cancelled several performances due to a bad cold.
British singer-songwriter Sam Smith has cancelled several performances due to a bad cold.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • British soul singer sensation Sam Smith desperately wants to take a year off, but he just cannot stop working on his new album.

The 23-year-old Londoner, who pocketed four Grammy Awards for his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, has had a year filled with performances and promotional tours around the world.

However, the astounding breakout success came at a cost and, in May, Smith had to have surgery on his vocal cords.

Now, Smith wants to take a breather, except that shutting off is proving harder than expected.

"I have a year off of being on the scene and releasing, but I'm forever working in my head. I'm always going to write music. I can't sit still when it comes to that thing," he told journalists in Beverly Hills on Sunday.

He joked that, come February, he would be tweeting his fans that he is ready to release something new. "I'll refrain because people will get sick of me and my family needs me to be home," he added.

He said he has already written four songs for his second album, describing them as "quite sad". "They're about different things, my relationship with my family, for example," he said.

Reflecting on his surgery, Smith joked: "I learnt that I talked a lot because I had to be quiet for three weeks." Smith is battling a bad cold, forcing him to cancel several performances.

He acknowledged it is the price he is paying for the runaway success of hits I'm Not The Only One and Stay With Me.

"It's a good problem to have, but people pull you everywhere and flying is a killer," he said.

His fate is similar to that of Adele, another British singer-songwriter who became an international sensation following her first album, which, like Smith's, was inspired by a break-up.

Adele also had to have surgery on her vocal cords and - again, like Smith - wrote the official theme song for a James Bond movie.

The 007 movie theme song, Skyfall, won her the best original song Oscar in 2013 in a first such honour for the famous spy saga.

Smith's The Writing's On the Wall is the theme song for the latest film in the Bond franchise, Spectre, which overcame lukewarm reviews to triumph at the North American box office on its debut weekend, earning US$73 million (S$103.8 million), according to industry estimates.

The theme song is the first in the history of the spy thriller to top the British charts.

Last week, Smith premiered a previously unreleased song, Drowning Shadows, describing it as "the saddest song I've ever written".

Asked on Sunday whether he can write while he is happy, Smith was quick to say no.

"Part of me wants to be the artist people turn to when they're sad and they just want a good cry and a glass of wine," he said.

"But also, I have a melancholiness inside of me that I've had since a very young age."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Shutting off proving hard for Sam Smith'. Print Edition | Subscribe