Sam Smith has shared more details about the creative process of making their hit single, Unholy, with Kim Petras.
Speaking on the ‘Michelle Visage’s Rulebreakers‘ podcast, the singer first opened up about how they discovered the term ‘non-binary’, immediately feeling a connection to the word.
“I always felt that way… And when I found the words, I can’t believe how late I found the words, like 25/26, someone told me about this thing called non-binary and I thought, this is a place where I can exist. And it was magical” they told Drag Race UK judge Michelle Visage.
“My inner peace was just still for the first time in years. It was incredible.”
Smith also recalled that they found the gender binary confusing and unnecessary even as a child.
“I remember going to where the changing rooms are and suddenly, your life splits into these two rooms; the male and female changing room,” they explained. “And I remember that moment, even though I was so young, I remember feeling this is just not right… And that I wasn’t a man.”
They also challenged controversy around they/them pronouns: “[It] upsets me is we all learn supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, come on we can learn they/them!”
The Love Me More singer went on to talk about the difficulty of how common gendered language is.
"The staring was tiring… I got physically hurt one time."
— BBC Sounds (@BBCSounds) November 22, 2022
“Words like ‘bro’ and ‘man’, stuff like that, they were even worse,” Smith continued. “Because it’s not just he/him, it’s so many other words that come with that.”
Responding to this, Michelle agreed and added: “How you prefer to be addressed that is your call. And I think people are just afraid of the unknown. They just don’t understand that you being able to identify as they/them gives you the ok in life to be who you are. I don’t need it, you need it! It’s yours.”
Smith also offered advice to young people thinking about their gender identity, focussing on the importance of self-acceptance.
“I feel like self-acceptance is actually a bit more where I come from,” they said. “Which is just accepting that day, that feeling, that mood. And accepting that it will change and it will shift. There’s a fighter voice in all of us and you’ve just got to look after that.
“My album Gloria, I’ve called it Gloria because I’ve called that voice inside me Gloria. It’s like a voice in my head that just says ‘you can do it’. And kids have just got to access that voice and feed it.”
The star has recently been nominated for a Grammy for their collaboration with Kim Petras in the best pop duo or group, the first openly non-binary person and trans woman, respectively, to do so.
Smith credits this success with taking creative control: “It was a room full of some of the biggest pop writers in the world. All straight guys. And me and Kim were there and her part of the song was starting to go down this road that felt a bit… it just didn’t feel right? It honestly didn’t feel queer.”
They added that, after a chat with Petras, the original song being worked on was scrapped and re-written.
“She basically wrote the entire melody in one take and then we came in and we worked on the lyrics for her verse,” Smith revealed. “And it was just so fun.”
Michelle Visage’s Rule Breakers series two is available weekly from 8 November on BBC Sounds and broadcast on Radio 2 weekly from Sunday 13 November.