Sam Smith on their new album and the "courage" it took to come out as non-binary

Sam Smith's first two albums were multi-platinum hits, peaking at Number One and Two on the charts in the U.S. and the U.K. The singer's emotional and revealing music has earned four Grammys, an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Smith, who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, told "CBS This Morning" co-host Anthony Mason that their third record, "Love Goes," explores a whole new side of themself.

"First of all, Sam, how are you doing?" Mason asked.

"I'm good, I'm good," Smith said from their home in London. "It's been a hard few months. I can't lie. It's been a hard few months. We're in lockdown here again."

Sam Smith Extended Interview

In an extended interview, 4-time Grammy winner SAM SMITH opens up to Anthony Mason about finding a new sound for their album #LoveGoes, their mental health fight, heartbreak, and the journey to self-discovery. Smith explains how they’re embracing their non-binary gender identity, facing ridicule and bullies, and finding the courage to come out.

Posted by CBS This Morning on Thursday, November 19, 2020

Smith has performed just one live concert during the pandemic — at Abbey Road Studios last month to promote "Love Goes."

"How much do you miss performing?" Mason asked.

"I miss it a lot. I really do. It's been really hard to bring out a record and not sing these songs with my fans and in front of my fans," Smith said.

"It feels like in some ways like that you found new parts of your voice," Mason said. 

"Yeah, yeah, completely," Smith said. "I'm always having vocal lessons and trying to learn more and more as a singer. So hopefully I'm getting better."

"You're still taking vocal lessons, really?" Mason asked.

"Yeah, yeah. Stevie Wonder said that he still has voice lessons all the time. And when I read that, I was like, there's no excuse," Smith said.

The British artist broke out in 2014, behind the international smash, "Stay with Me."

"It's really hard to explain where I come from actually," Smith told Mason in a "CBS Sunday Morning" interview in 2014.

Smith was just 22 when they met with Mason that year, in their hometown of Great Chisell, about an hour from London.

"I have such lovely memories of that day. It was a wonderful day," Smith said. 

Smith and Mason walked the same country roads Smith wandered as a teenager, wearing headphones and listening to Beyonce.

"Plan was to move to London and become a famous singer," Smith said at the time.

Six years later, the singer says success has been a challenge.

"The hardest part has been the fame," Smith said. "You saw where I grew up... I grew up in a village with no access to queer people and queer spaces until I was 19, 20. So a lot of my growing up was as a gay person and as a queer person has happened in front of people."

It all came to head last year.

"2019 for me was a fight with my mental health. For the first time ever, I started to get panic attacks and, you know, feeling anxiety. And I think that's because I was facing it really for the first time," they said.

Smith was facing a realization and came out as non-binary.

"To people who are confused: how, in the simplest terms, would you explain what it means to be non-binary?" Mason asked. 

"Queer people all around the world, we don't identify within those two places," Smith said. "Gender, for me, has been nothing but traumatizing and challenging throughout my life, and I just don't feel like — it's so hard to explain. I just feel like myself. I don't feel like a man, basically."

In September 2019, Smith announced on Instagram: "I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am."

"Would you say it took courage to do this?" Mason asked.

"I honestly, I can't express to enough people how much courage it's taken," Smith said. "I wasn't prepared for the amount of ridicule. And bullying, really, that I've experienced." 

"I mean, honestly, the comments and the types of things that I have to answer and walk through every day is very, very intense," they said.

But in life, and in song, Smith says, they're fighting through it.

"How's that fight going?" Mason asked. 

"It's going better now, so much better," Smith said. "After being able to talk about my gender expression, I feel such a weight has been lifted."

"Do you regret at times being a public figure?" Mason asked.

"Sometimes. Yeah, for sure. But then when I do feel that type of regret, I always come back to music and how I feel at the basis of all this," Smith said. "People hopefully still want to hear me sing and I still love singing. So that's what gets me through all of it."

Listen to this episode on ART19