Sam Smith is continuing to share their journey to living truthfully nearly four years after going public about their nonbinary identity.
A four-time Grammy winner, Smith spoke at length with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe this week ahead of the Friday release of their fourth studio album, “Gloria.” In the interview, the singer-songwriter said changing their pronouns to they/them in 2019 “felt like a coming home.” But Smith acknowledged they felt the sting of anti-LGBTQ sentiment directed at them immediately afterward, even by some former fans.
“In my personal life, there’s not one negative,” Smith said. “My family, they can communicate with me. ... My love life has become better from it. I feel lovable. I feel comfortable in my skin [and] I wear what I want to wear.”
“The only negatives in the struggle have been in my public life and my job,” they continued. “I’m being abused in the street verbally more than I ever have. Someone spat at me in the street. If that’s happening to me and I’m famous, I’m a pop star ― can you imagine what other kids, like queer kids, are feeling? It’s just so sad that we’re in 2023 and it’s still happening.”
Smith was able to channel much of their pain and frustration into “Gloria.” The 13-track set includes the No. 1 single “Unholy” with Kim Petras and features Smith exploring a more danceable sound. “Who We Love,” Smith’s new collaboration with Ed Sheeran, is another highlight.
Released last fall, “Unholy” was Smith’s highest-charting single since 2014’s “Stay With Me.” The achievement made Smith the first nonbinary artist to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which measures the 100 most popular songs in the U.S. Petras became the first openly transgender artist to do so.
Interestingly, Smith told Lowe they had to push back against a number of record executives who were opposed to releasing “Unholy” as a single and music video.
“People that I trusted my whole life in my music didn’t even want that song on the album,” they said. “I also had people telling me that what I was doing, the way I was living my life, was affecting my record sales and that I was trash. It’s homophobia and transphobia that’s structural and it’s in people. Even the people that are very loving and liberal and love me, they say things they don’t realize [are] hurtful.”
Ultimately, Smith is determined to make “Gloria” and their forthcoming tour a theatrical celebration of LGBTQ identity.
“I’m putting on a proper theater pop performance,” they said of the tour, which kicks off April 12 in England. “It’s going to be wild. Freddie Mercury, opera ... even a lot of Bob Fosse has come into it. It’s like camp, Liberace, theater, theater, theater. That’s what I want to go for.”
Watch the full Apple Music interview with Sam Smith: