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How Did Sam Smith Get Signed?

Photograph of the blog post author, Annika Hope

Annika Hope


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You may be wondering how the biggest stars of today became famous and landed their record deals. From cleaning toilets in a bar to singing the Bond theme tune, we track Sam Smith’s amazing rise to fame.

How did Sam Smith get discovered? With over 41 million monthly Spotify listeners and worldwide recognition, how did Sam Smith become such a phenomenal success? 

Are you a fan of Sam Smith or an aspiring singer-songwriter looking to follow his career path? In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the artist.

In September 2019, Sam Smith asked fans to use the pronouns ‘they/them’, not ‘he/him’, after coming out as non-binary. So, in this article, we’ve respected this identity and use those pronouns to refer to Sam.  

Who is Sam Smith? 

Known for tracks including Stay With Me, Lay Me Down and Too Good At Goodbyes, Sam has achieved more than most artists could ever dream of, including being asked to perform and compose the theme tune ‘Writing’s on The Wall’ for the James Bond film Spectre in 2015.

The single became the first Bond theme to reach number one in the UK Singles Chart and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 88th Academy Awards.

Where is Sam Smith from?

Sam Smith was born in London on 19 May 1992 to parents Frederick and Kate.  Smith started singing at 8 years old and had vocal lessons with local jazz singer Joanna Eden from a young age.  It took a long time for Sam Smith be taken seriously in the industry and a combination of luck, hard work and talent lead them to fame. 

Smith was in several jazz bands during their early teens, singing as a back-up singer for their vocal coach at small London gigs. Their passion for music didn’t stop there, and they became a member of Bishop’s Stortford Junior Operatics and the Cantate Youth Choir. 

With a passion for musical theatre, Smith was also a part of the British Music Youth Theatre and appeared in their 2007 production of Oh! Carol.  

Their dad was a fruit and veg market salesman, and their mum worked her way up from being a Barclays bank clerk to a city trader earning £500,000 a year. Family life transformed from the 2-bed house they’d been sharing to their Cambridgeshire pad complete with swimming pool and saw Smith’s dad quit his job to focus on his child’s music career.

“My dad, bless him, would drive me to Kilburn every day after school where I’d be recording in studios,” says Smith.  

How did Sam Smith became famous?

Sam’s parents discovered their talent after hearing them sing Whitney Houstons’s ‘My Love Is Your Love’ in the car on the way to school. They often encouraged Smith to sing in front of friends and family when they had guests over. 

They played a big role in their path to fame, with their constant support shaping Sam’s career from day dot. They took Sam’s talent incredibly seriously and were prepared to invest time and money in their child’s future potential.   

How did Sam Smith make it? 

An evident trait in Sam’s personality and path to success is determination. They went through a rough few years before finally making it, showing that even the biggest pop stars don’t get everything handed to them on a plate.  

By the age of 18, Sam saw their parents’ divorce and decided to move to east London in the hope of fame. Sam ended up working in a bar cleaning toilets Monday through Sunday, to get by and pay rent.

They felt discouraged and had just fallen out with their sixth manager. Sam wrote a song called Little Sailor describing someone getting nowhere with the dream of a career in music. They then decided to keep working on music for just one more year. 

“Remember I started when I was 13, I was 19 now and all my friends were at university and travelling and I was stuck in London cleaning toilets”, they said in a 2014 interview with the Guardian, “I was like, no if it doesn’t happen next year I’m going to leave and open up a flower shop in Italy.”  

Who is Sam Smith’s Manager?

Elvin Smith was the key person who launched Sam’s career, after a string of six managers (who promised them fame and fortune but didn’t deliver) Elvin was the one who gave Sam their big break.  

Elvin was a singer himself, performing under the name Elviin. He was the support act at an Adele concert and Sam heckled him from the front row. It was a nice heckle, but a bit embarrassing and Sam apologised to him later that evening on MySpace.  

They had no contact for the next three years, but luck was on Sam’s side and they bumped into each other again years later at a gig in King’s Cross. Elvin remembered Sam and told him that he was now a music manager.

In Sam’s words from an interview with the Guardian, “Something in my head told me, you’ve just got to go for this, and I ran down the street and said, ‘What’s your email? I want to send you a song.’”

How did Sam Smith get discovered?

Elvin loved what he heard and introduced Smith to songwriter Jimmy Napes, who ended up co-writing Smith’s album. Elvin’s managerial role opened up Smith’s book of contacts and led them to record ‘Latch’ with the electronic music duo Disclosure.   

By late 2012, ‘Latch’ hit the charts. Smith was in demand at age 21 and famous even before they’d released their own music.  

How did Sam Smith get signed? 

Smith’s collaboration with house duo Disclosure was the first big break that landed them a record deal. Smith’s debut album ‘Money on My Mind’ was released through Capitol Records an American record label owned by the Universal group and they have stayed with this label ever since.  

How old was Sam Smith when they got signed? 

Sam Smith was originally signed to Flipbook Music in their teens. The star recorded two albums with them that never got released.  Smith left the label in 2008 on bad terms, claiming they had no artistic control over what was being written and refusing to let tracks be released.  

Smith is allegedly suing the record label, as they claim to be planning on releasing the first of those two records without Sam’s permission. Sam has massively developed as an artist since originally writing and recording those tracks, and fear of embarrassment over ‘cheesy’ lyrics has led them to carry out a legal dispute.

What was Sam Smith’s first song? 

Making many a strategic feature on other artists’ tracks before the release of Sam’s own music, there was an eager audience waiting for their first record to drop. With a voice we were all familiar with, Smith released their first single Lay Me Down in 2013.

Smith was still working in a bar when the first single was put out on streaming platforms and they struggled with nerves. “‘Lay Me Down’ was when I was really scared, I’d say. It’s the very beginning of my career and I was still working in a bar when we were working on this. That was the only time when I was quite scared”. 

Sam was often scared to perform live, telling Interview Magazine: “‘A few years ago I had a weird relationship with performing live, I didn’t enjoy it as much because the nerves took over”.  A few years ago I had a weird relationship with performing live. I didn’t enjoy it as much because the nerves took over”.  

How did Sam Smith get noticed by the public? 

After releasing their first single Lay Me Down, singles ‘Money On My Mind’ and ‘Stay With Me’ both reached No.1 in the charts.

These were on Sam’s debut album ‘In the Lonely Hour’, which was awarded four Grammys including Song and Record of the Year.   

Despite Sam’s heartbreak, they left their dark place with a plethora of love songs that hit the charts like a storm, leading them to bigger and better things.   

This opportunity gave Sam Smith even more public recognition than they originally had and is just one of the many achievements they have made.   

During the same month of ‘In the Lonely Hour’ was released, Smith came out to the world announcing they were gay. They revealed that the songs on the album were inspired by a man who broke their heart. 

Who was Sam Smith influenced by?  

Sam has always had powerful female influences in their life, with third cousin Lily Allen taking on the music industry like a pro. Being raised by their stay-at-home father and city banker mother, Sam has always had a great deal of respect for women and regards themselves as a feminist.   

Smith is influenced by many strong female figures. The singer lists Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Adele and Amy Winehouse as primary influences.

They found inspiration in soulful artists Arethra Franklin and Stevie Wonder growing up. Sam was even given detention for skipping school to go and see major inspiration Lady Gaga in concert.


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