Sam Smith has released his highly anticipated sophomore album, The Thrill of it All, and says one track in particular was inspired by the classic gay novel Holding the Man.
Too Good at Goodbyes, the first single from the album, has already achieved global success, hitting number one on the ARIA singles chart.
In a track-by-track review of his album, Smith said many of the tracks were inspired by his own experiences as a gay man, particularly the track Him, which explores the coming out process.
“It’s one of my favourite songs on the album,” he said.
“I read this book called Holding the Man, which is a story about these two men that fell in love in Sydney during the AIDS epidemic.
“It was a really heavy but unbelievable book that I loved. Coming out is really difficult. Even if you’re in the most amazing situation with the most understanding parents, which I was lucky enough to have, it is so difficult coming out. Just saying the words out loud and having to do it is actually ridiculous and intense.
“I hope that song will maybe touch someone who needs it.”
It’s been over three years since Smith’s debut album was released, and since then he has become one of the biggest acts on the planet with over 12 million global album sales and an array of impressive awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, three Brit Awards and four Grammys.
See below for Smith’s track-by-track review of The Thrill of it All, in stores now.
Too Good at Goodbyes
Too Good at Goodbyes is for me the perfect opening for the record and the perfect first single for me because I just wanted it to be about my singing and my voice.
This song is one of four or five on the record which are about me and a relationship I went through. I was bad at one-night stands and all that stuff. I think during the relationship I was in last year I started to grow thick skin when it came to heartbreak and things like that. When things did go bad, I felt prepared.
I wrote this song about a week before I basically got dumped. I knew it was coming. When I wrote this song, it was kind of like a preparation for what was about to happen.
Say It First
Say It First is the only positive love song I’ve ever written in my life. This was the first song on the record which was like a breakthrough moment with me and all my team.
It was the first piece of magic that I think we all felt, really felt in our hearts.
One Last Song
One Last Song was done in Nashville with Jimmy Napes, and an amazing producer/writer called Tyler Jensen, who was a huge part of this record. He brought so much to it. He was an amazing energy to have in the studio. And I was really angry the day we wrote this.
I got into the studio and was really angry for some reason. I can’t remember what it was. I remember saying to Jimmy, “I just want to write an angry song.”
Midnight Train is a song that I wrote in Ireland. Just by chance, I’d decided to put on some Al Green. We were listening to Al Green’s Love and Happiness.
At the time, someone who was very close to me was going through something horrific, some heartbreaking stuff. I was really in it with this person because she’s so close to me. It just came out of me.
I can only ever really write about things other than myself if they’ve affected me emotionally intensely. I did the same with I’m Not The Only One and there was a similar feeling when I was writing this. I felt like I became the subject matter. The original vocal on that song is the demo of that day.
Burning is for me the most personal song I’ve ever written in my life. Came from I think all my issues and sad moments over the last four years all just came out in that one song for me. It’s a song that came after a little period where I couldn’t write.
Normally, when bad things happen for me relationship wise, I can put it straight into my music. But when it did last year, I couldn’t write. It was distressing but important for me to take five or six weeks, which is a long time for me.
I got into a little bit of a spiral. I started drinking a bit too much, going out too much. And I didn’t want to be in the studio. I just wanted to be with my friends. I’ve never put anything as bluntly as that before, in terms of how I was feeling. That song to me is about fame.
Him is one of my favourite songs on this album. I read this book called Holding The Man, which is a story about these two men that fell in love in Sydney during the AIDS epidemic.
It was a really heavy but unbelievable book that I loved. That rush, because coming out is really difficult. Even if you’re in the most amazing situation with the most understanding parents, which I was lucky enough to have, it is so difficult coming out. Just saying the words out loud and having to do it is actually ridiculous and intense. I hope that song will maybe touch someone who needs it.
Baby, You Make Me Crazy
Baby, You Make Me Crazy was written in Ireland as well. It was an amazing day.
The record was nearly finished, so we were just playing the album over and over, trying to figure out what was missing in the record. I think we had eight tracks, and we had three or four tunes missing. For me, the thing that was missing was a breath of fresh air.
It’s a heavy record. It’s intense. The lyrics are intense, and I just think it’s important to have a moment where people can breathe. But this song is about what you do immediately after something bad happens in terms of relationships.
For me, the day that everything ended in the relationship I was in, I almost put all my emotions to the side and just thought let’s just go out and have a fucking great night. That’s what I wanted to do, and me and my friends went out in London. I forgot about it for one night. It’s that concept of I’ll deal with that later. That’s what this song is about.
No Peace is the last song that we did for this record. My friend sent me a YouTube video to this girl called YEBBA. She came to London and immediately we hit it off. We basically had a sing off.
I was writing melodies, she was writing melodies, but we were just attacking each other with our voices. Then she got into the booth, I got into the booth, and we just recorded it all live together in a circle. It was incredible.
Palace is a song I wrote in Nashville. I wrote this with Tyler Jensen and a country singer, called Cam. She’s unbelievable. You can actually hear her voice on the song. I love this song so much. What you hear is the actual demo from the day.
Pray is conversational. When I was writing the melody, I was almost thinking of rap tunes I’d been listening to recently, so there’s a rhythm to the verses. It just felt like we weren’t in control of that song. I can’t explain what it was, it just came from somewhere else.
Love for You
Love for You is one of the first ones we wrote for the record. I’ve listened to this song so many times. Towards the end of the process I started to get a bit sick of it, but now I’ve fallen back in love with it. I love the vibe of it.
It’s probably the heaviest, manliest song I’ve ever done. I’m not very manly.
The Thrill of it All
The album is called The Thrill of It All because it is talking about the thrill of the last three years. It’s just been madness the last three or four years. It’s been insane. There’s so many stories in this record, so that’s what that means.
But the actual song The Thrill of It All was about a relationship I was in. I just went about it the wrong way. I shouldn’t have gotten in a relationship. I just got caught up in the materialistic side of life.
Scars is the most revealing lyric I think I’ve ever written. I wrote this song when I was on tour with my first record. I want this song to be a song for any kid who’s mum and dad are broken up. I feel like it is quite a positive song.
It sounds very sad when you listen to it, but this is me looking at my family and just saying how amazingly we’ve all dealt with my mum and dad breaking up basically.
One Day at a Time
I wrote One Day at a Time with my beautiful friend Simon Aldred, who I love so much. This is about me and my friends being on the Heath in London, having a cigarette, and just being okay.
I’ve had so many amazing nights this past year where I’ve connected to my friends and best friends in such an insane way. This is a love song, basically, to my best friends.