Sam Smith has opened up about becoming confident enough to let their “freakiness out” and how this channelled itself into the making of Unholy.
The 30-year-old’s latest single, which features Kim Petras, has become an instant smash hit and is currently pacing for a top five debut in both the UK and US.
“I was holding it back until I knew I had it,” they told Zane Lowe in-studio on Apple Music 1. “Well, with Unholy, I just loved that song so much and I wanted to ease into this record because it’s quite a lot for the brain. It’s time to get freaky. But we were just having fun. Yeah, Unholy just came from pure creativity. It was one of the most purest songs ever for me in terms of making it.”
The Too Good at Goodbyes singer shared that it was made in Jamaica, a country Sam had wanted to visit after seeing Harry Styles there in a documentary several years ago.
“I left one night, I had one night out, which is rare for me, and I was in the studio the whole time,” they continued. “I didn’t leave the studio, I was up until three, 4:00 AM every day. I normally work a nine to five when it comes to studio time, but I just disappeared. I went to a hole of freakiness.”
Sam further explained that having time off during the COVID-19 pandemic gave them the chance to “ask myself what type of artist I want to be”.
They added: “I was 21 when everything started. I was really young, and I was just not comfortable. I didn’t feel safe, it didn’t feel safe to show my full self.
“It took a few years, it took seven years for me to really build the confidence to get my freakiness out. It’s unbelievable that in 2022 it still takes a lot of bravery to express ourselves in this way.”
This is something that Sam told Zane is linked to their LGBTQ+ identity: “We live in a world where it is hard to be ourselves, and illegal in many, many places still.
“There’s so much to learn, there’s so much to be educated about queer history and queer life, and it’s such a beautiful, beautiful history and such a beautiful life.
“It’s just time for us all to share it with each other, which is lovely.”
They shared that their goal is “to create a safe space for everyone” and that “mistakes happen” when it comes to pronouns.
“Even me, I make mistakes quite a lot, and it’s an uncomfortable feeling making a mistake,” they explained on Apple Music 1. “I personally think that… Because I’m now working, doing this a lot in terms of people changing their language. Editing yourself is great, but I think it’s really good for people to see you mess up… … and then correct yourself. Because that’s what we got to get used to, because changes in language, they take time to change. We need to lean into the uncomfortable feeling of being wrong sometimes, because it’s okay.”
View this post on Instagram
Referencing a famous quote from Laverne Cox in which the Orange Is the New Black star said their identity is “life or death” for them but a “cultural war” to others, Sam added: “But it’s not a culture war. This is life and death for people, and I think that we all just need to remember that.
“But my job is just to spread the love with it. If I lived a life where I was just getting upset every time someone used the wrong pronoun, I would be very sad, and I’m done with being sad.”
Looking to the future, Sam said that “joy is radical” to them now.
“I need to push it,” they concluded. “I was a drama queen as well, so I really rinsed the whole sad thing. No, it was gorge. I loved it. There’s always time to be sad. No, yeah. I tried to be happy so many times, but it wasn’t authentic. It had to happen naturally.”
You can listen to Unholy below or by clicking here.