Crooner Sam Smith has received his first Oscar nomination for “Writing’s on the Wall,” the theme he co-wrote with Jimmy Napes for the James Bond film “Spectre.” Smith spoke with Variety about the requirements of writing a Bond song, performing at the Oscars, and why he loves the movie “Spotlight.”
Did you ever see yourself going into film music?
I absolutely love film. If I wasn’t a singer, it would have been something I would have gone into. Not acting, actually. I would have loved to have been a part of making films. That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. Definitely in the back of my mind it was always something that I wanted to attack. I’d never thought that my first song would be a Bond song, my first time doing anything for film. I’ve been chucked in at the deep end, but in an amazing way.
Were you a Bond fan growing up?
Yeah. I feel like when you’re from the UK, it’s in your blood when you’re born. I have definitely been a fan and always wanted to do it and always known those iconic songs.
Do you have a favorite Bond song?
It’s always going to be Shirley Bassey (“Moonraker,” “Diamonds Are Forever,” “Goldfinger”) for me. To me that’s what a Bond song is.
What elements go into making a good Bond theme?
It has to be classic, it has to feel timeless, it has to feel grand as well. When you’re writing a song like this, you really get to go for it and be more dramatic than you ever have been, which is what I did. I got to be a drama queen.
The one thing I’m really proud of with this song is the fact that it works so well with the film, and lyrically it’s really linked to the film. When you see it with the film, it all makes sense.
How did they approach you to write this song?
I got the call from Barbara Broccoli and Sam Mendes to come to Pinewood Studios, and they gave me the script and said, “Have a crack at it. Let’s see what you do.” I read the script, and then me and Jimmy Mapes got in the studio together, and we wrote the song together. And then we sent it to them, and (the response) was really positive.
How are you feeling about performing at the Oscars?
I’m excited. It’s going to be great. I’m trying not to think about it too much. On the day, I really want to enjoy it and soak it all in, because it may never happen again.
Did you grow up watching them?
Yes, yes, oh my gosh, of course. I watch it every year.
What have been your favorite past musical performances on the Oscars?
I mean Gaga’s “Sound of Music” thing last year was incredible. I always think about Whitney (Houston)’s and Mariah (Carey)’s performances, they were amazing. There’s loads. I mainly watch it for the speeches. I mainly watch it for Meryl Streep, to be honest. She’s the only reason I watch it.
Have you given any thought to your possible acceptance speech?
No. I don’t like doing that. I don’t like preparing things like that. I think it should be natural if it ever got to that point.
What can we expect from your performance?
With me, it’s just what it is. I just stand on stage and sing. I’m never going to do anything that’s not that. We’ve been working with some people on the visuals with what’s going to happen on stage, and I just want to capture the atmosphere and the air of the song, you know? There’s a haunting darkness to the song, which I want to capture in the performance. That’s my aim.
Which of this year’s nominees are you rooting for?
One hundred million percent my favorite film, and I just think it should win everything, was “Spotlight.” I’ve never, ever in my life been in a cinema and felt so uncomfortable and affected by a film like that. I’ve never had that experience before in my life. I really, really hope that goes home with some awards. I thought it was absolutely incredible.
Do you have any thoughts about the state of diversity in the entertainment industry?
The whole world is not where it should be, coming from me. I’ve spent my whole life as a gay man facing so many issues when it comes to equality. The whole world is not where it should be, so I think it’s fantastic that it’s coming to light, coming to people’s minds and being pushed in their face. Sometimes with these things, it’s almost like the fight disappears. It’s good to see people fighting for equality and standing up for what’s right. So I think it’s great.
Any celebs you’re looking forward to meeting?
I met Leonardo [DiCaprio] the other day, and I freaked out. He’s so nice. He’s great. I really want to meet Cate Blanchett. Someone told me her skin’s really great, so I want to check that out.
Will Meryl Streep even be there? I f—in’ hope so. It’ll be fun. I can’t wait. My mum and dad and my sisters are coming over. I can’t wait to see them and have a nice night.
Do you aspire to be an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner?
If I’m honest, it’s never crossed my mind, really. It would be incredible, but it hasn’t been something… I would want it, actually. It would be amazing.
My aim as a singer, as a musician, as an artist, is just to stick around. That’s all I want. I want to be able to do this job and continue to express myself and continue to travel the world and sing to people. That’s my aim. If that included an EGOT, that would be great. That would be a beautiful gold lining to the whole thing, wouldn’t it?