Sam Smith made headlines in 2014 when he came out as a gay man just as his exploding career was taking off. In what is still considered a surprising move for a new performer by some, Smith added little fanfare to his public declaration, mentioning his sexuality when discussing his breakout debut studio album In the Lonely Hour.
In a new cover story interview with Rolling Stone, however, the soulful crooner, 22, says he came out long before the album promotion. Smith told the mag that when he was just 13 years old he was asked point-blank by a classmate if he was gay.
"I turned 'round and I was just like, 'Yeah,'" the Brit spilled. "And everything's changed."
The "Stay With Me" singer had teenage and young adult years full of love and lust — some unrequited and some regrettable.
"I had a lot of one-night stands," Smith admitted. "I met a few dodgy friends, people I'm definitely not friends with now."
"I fell in love with a straight guy last year, and he didn't love me back," he added. "I got trapped in my own mind."
In his early years, Smith had a similar experience when he fell in love with a straight classmate, who was two years older and a popular student in the school. He wrote the boy a confessional love letter, and the object of his affection wrote back, explaining that he liked him as a friend but not romantically.
"It makes me emotional, actually," Smith told Rolling Stone, looking back on his one-sided crush. "He looked out for me for the rest of school. He just made sure that if anyone took the piss out of me, he would stick up for me. He could have made it hell for me."
While Smith's classmate was sweet to him, others have not been as kind. The "Money On My Mind" singer recalled a time when another student lent him an eraser, but he washed it off when Smith returned it to him. "He was like, 'I don't want to share my eraser with a gay man,'" Smith explained.
Another time, Smith was walking with his father in his town when someone hurled a gay slur at him.
"I was just embarrassed that my dad had to see that, because I could only imagine how you feel as a parent," he said. "You just want to kill them. I was always embarrassed for the people around me. It never actually deeply affected me. You just ignore it, you know?"
Smith's worst and most recent encounter took place after he moved to London and was kicking off his career. He was walking down the city streets while wearing makeup and was attacked. "I got punched in my neck, just out of nowhere," he said. "It wasn't the easiest."
Read more from Smith in the new issue of Rolling Stone on newsstands on Friday, Jan. 30.