At just 22 years old, Sam Smith has already notched up two number one singles in the UK, a Brits Critics' Choice Award and named the BBC's Sound of 2014.
However, before all of the success, he was a heartbroken adolescent pining over unrequited love. It's a powerful theme that sits at the centre of his debut album In the Lonely Hour.
Digital Spy caught up with Sam to talk about his first full-length collection, the control he has over his image and the pressures of continuing to top the charts.
You've had this massive surge of success over the past year, so how are you feeling about it all?
"I dunno, I'm feeling weird at the moment, if I'm honest. The past few days I've been a bit freaked out. It's just a bit like life isn't the same as it was - in a good way, obviously. I shouldn't be moaning about anything but it is different; life's a bit different."
It seems that for a while you were releasing music and it was kind of there bubbling under, then all of a sudden you're number one. Have you adjusted to the increased attention and the fame?
"No. Do you know what, if I'm brutally honest with you, a few years back when I was working in a bar I would've done anything to just get out of that job, and as soon as I've got into the industry I've realised how important it is to keep in control of the music you're putting out and the way you're presented because it's quite vicious out there. Also I've realised I'm quite a recluse in the sense of being recognised is nice, but I also like to have my own time to spend with my friends. I'm really not getting it that much at the moment, but when I do get it sometimes, it weirds me out."
It's funny you mention the way you're presented because image is so tightly associated with music. Is that something you're conscious about when you're producing music or doing music videos?
"It's quite interesting because it's something that, in my head, I'm really conscious about every day, but as soon as I get in front of a camera in a music video or as soon as I do something image-wise, I just wanna be real and I want it to come across just like me, normal. I'm not afraid to put myself out there - in all senses of the word."
So when you have your team around you, they're obviously people you trust to style you and direct you, or do you have a very firm say?
"I have a very firm say but they're also looking for the best for me. They're experienced and have been through this a lot; we all know the type of artist I want to be, and I don't wanna be that guy who people care more about what I'm wearing to the coffee shop than my next single. I don't wanna be that guy."
Talking about the next single, 'Money On My Mind' and 'La La La' went to number one, so has it put extra pressure on 'Stay With Me'?
"I shouldn't say this - everyone thinks I'm crazy - I don't want it to go to number one. If it goes to number one that's great, obviously that's an amazing thing, but I also don't feel like - I don't want to keep having to do that, if you know what I mean? It's just too much. My main aim for this single is I want it to sell albums, and I want people to listen to this single and think, 'Wow, I wanna hear the rest of the record'. That's my main aim. Obviously if it goes to number one, it's amazing and I'll be over the moon but it's not something that I'm really yearning for with this record."
How would you describe your debut album?
"My debut album is just a diary from a lonely 21-year-old. That's what it is. It was my way of talking about the only real issue in my life. I don't have that many sad things going on in my life and it was the only thing that was really affecting me last year: I fell in love with someone who didn't love me back, and it made me get into this head space of, 'Will I find love? When will I find love?' This album is my 'f**k off' to everyone and basically say, 'No, I have been in love and, if anything, it was much more painful than your version', because I'm not getting what I want and it's so close. So, it's my way of defining what is love, and how unrequited love is just as painful, just as powerful, as what we call 'normal' love."
But you're much happier now, right?
"I am happy. The album is not a sad album - it's an empowering album. This album is supposed to be the soundtrack to those quiet moments in life, that's what it's supposed to be. I always say Disclosure's record is what you listen to when you go out and you go clubbing, and my record is what you listen to on the walk home, whether it's that night or the morning after.
"I'm saying s**t which artists would veer away from, and I think that's what's powerful about it. We're in this industry; everyone's so conscious of that. Even my A&R was like, 'We can't call it The Lonely Hour because it's too depressing; people will read that and think it's too depressing'. And, for me, that's how I feel. Newsflash: people get sad, people get lonely, and what are they gonna listen to in that moment? F**king 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams? No, because they're not happy, they're not happy. So why don't we listen to something that's hitting those issues so we can get over it?"
For people who discovered you through Disclosure or Naughty Boy, were you ever worried that they'll listen to your album - because it's quite ballad-heavy - and they would expect more electronic-type tracks?
"I did panic at first, but then I thought I'd rather bring out an album and five people like it than be making music that isn't me. The truth is, as well, I just make music that is me. I don't think about whether it's gonna be a dance record or a ballad or anything when I'm making music. I sit in the studio and I think, 'How am I feeling today?' and I write how I feel. It's really, really simple."
Let's talk about Taylor Swift; how was it performing with her back in February?
"She's amazing. Her team called me about three weeks previous to the show and said that she really liked the song. I thought it was the whole team's plan, but when I turned up she genuinely loved the song and we rehearsed together, and she was amazing.
Did she pick up the lyrics straight away?
"Yeah, she'd learned it; her whole band and her had learned it. She was just - she was amazing. She was really fun, really tall."
Did you talk about writing together in the future?
"I don't know. I didn't even think about that - I was more concerned with the fact that I was going up on one of those pop things on stage. I was more thinking, 'S**t, I'm gonna fall over'. No, I haven't spoken to her about that."
You've been getting a great reaction in the US.
"It's weird because I've watched, for the past six years of my life, I've intensely watched the industry and watched how it all works with English artists. I'm breaking at the same time - it's really odd. My numbers in America are higher than my numbers here. Obviously it's a bigger country, but it's really surreal for it to be happening in this order."
Sam Smith's debut album In the Lonely Hour will be released on May 26 and is available to pre-order now.