‘I’m A Bit More Unapologetic’: Sam Smith On Queerness, Finding Joy & Hopes Of A Rihanna Collab

Sam Smith credits Australia as being a "huge part" of their life since they were 20, but nothing quite compares to their most recent Aussie performance this week. With an orange-pink sunset overlooking South Australia's d’Arenberg Cube winery in McLaren Vale, the now-30-year-old sang some of their most popular tracks to a crowd of 300, as they announced their upcoming Gloria tour of Australia and New Zealand later this year.
The Gloria tour is named after the British musician's new 13-track album that will be released on January 27, and Smith says it's a collection of songs that represents a new chapter in their musical career.
"I wanted to make an album that was joyful," Smith tells Refinery29 Australia in Adelaide. "I felt like heartbreak had become such a safe place for me in terms of writing music, that it was quite scary to write something joyful."
While songs like Love Me More and Unholy have already been released, the public is yet to hear the dramatic sounds and unapologetic lyrics of tracks such as Gloria, I'm Not Here To Make Friends and No God.
Writing this album symbolised a rebirth of Smith in a way, where they shed the layers that have concealed elements of them for far too long. It became "this beautiful experience of expressing all these parts of myself, which I realised haven't been expressed before," they explain.
"So, this record really is about emotional, sexual and spiritual liberation, and [is] a coming of age record for me."
Whether it's social commentary since they came out as non-binary in 2019, comparisons being made to other musicians, or fashion critics scrutinising a sparkly jumpsuit, Smith has weathered a storm of judgment through their career, and during the past few years in particular. Being a public figure comes with its own set of challenges, but Smith tries their best to block out the noise.
"As I'm getting older, I know more and more of who I am, and I guess I'm a bit more unapologetic about that," says the singer. "I think this album definitely symbolises that. It's about my identity and feeling proud and brave, and able to dance, move and dress in the way that I've always wanted to."
While Smith openly shares snippets of their private life — like this week's snaps at an Aussie wildlife park or a candid video taken after ordering a room-service sandwich at an Adelaide hotel — the star knows when to draw the line on using social media, which can so often put pressure on musicians to overindulge their fans.
"I think that there were times in my late 20s when I found it really difficult and I had to step back," they reflect. "I think I just step back when I feel that pressure now."

This record really is about emotional, sexual and spiritual liberation, and [is] a coming of age record for me.

sam smith
Describing their relationship with social media as "fluid", Smith says it's a great tool to use when a new album or tour is on the cards so "that people can come along on the journey".
"But then when I write my music, that's when I step away from social media and I try to really just focus on real life and write my songs."
Whether it is on social media or through their music, they vow to share a message of self-acceptance and be a role model to young queer people. The music biz can be tough at the best of times, and Smith says it's an industry that's made them feel alone at times.
"I think the [music] industry is hard as it is, but I think life is hard too. Being yourself as a queer person in 2023 is still a radical thing," they say. "Walking down the street wearing what you want to wear, dancing the way you want to dance and being who you want to be is still a courageous act.
"So, it's just so important that I talk about that so that other kids who are like me feel like they can do it when they're younger too, because they're not alone.
"As a community, we've come so far, but being a queer person in the music industry is a wild experience," they explain. "In queer pop culture, there are not very many of us. So it was hard and isolating when I was younger. But as I've got older, it's got easier and I've been able to find my voice a bit more and speak up for myself."
When asked how far the industry has to go in truly embracing people from different walks of life, Smith notes that progress has been made gradually, even in the past 10 years they've been working as a musician. "I'm excited to see what's gonna happen in the next 10 years," they add.
In the meantime, the next 10 months are going to be rather eventful for the Stay With Me hitmaker.
After touring the US from July through to September, Smith will return to Australia to kick off their Gloria tour Down Under in Adelaide, before performing in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and then across the pond in Auckland. With collaborations with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Kim Petras and Jessie Reyez on this album, we had to ask who's next on the musician's collab wish list.
"To work with Rihanna would be my ultimate," was their simple response, and one that we could easily get on board with. So, here's hoping the next album and Aussie tour after Gloria brings the magic of a Sam Smith/Rihanna collab to life.
Sam Smith's new album Gloria releases on Friday, January 27 and can be pre-ordered here. Tickets for the Gloria tour will go on sale on Wednesday, January 18 via Ticketek.

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