Monday, June 24, 2024

Pop Singer on TikTok, Tour & Hot 100 Hit

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When Myles Smith initially posted a teaser of what would become the soaring folk-pop hit “Stargazing” to his TikTok in early April, he had no idea what would become of it — both in terms of its overwhelming fan response, but more pressingly, how the then-still-unfinished preview would sound when it ultimately became a completed product.

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“As the song was gaining momentum, I was like, ‘Oh snap, I’m gonna have to finish this thing,’ ” Smith tells Billboard. A week after making that initial post, which featured him singing a stripped-down rendition of the song’s captivating hook over a simple acoustic guitar, Smith unveiled a studio demo of “Stargazing,” which he continued to use as a teaser — generating 80 million views across several videos — until its official release on May 10.

Soulful melodies, heartfelt lyrics and an online following of fans hungry for more made the perfect recipe for the 26-year-old Luton, England native’s debut on the Billboard charts. With 6.7 million official U.S. streams in its opening week, according to Luminate, the track became Smith’s first-ever Billboard Hot 100 entry at No. 77 on the chart dated May 26. And the song is continuing to heat up as summer rolls in — it reaches a new No. 51 high on this week’s list, boosting Smith into the top five on Billboard‘s Emerging Artists chart for the first time as well.

As “Stargazing” continues to shine, Smith is taking it all in, without abandoning his go-to strategy: sharing glimpses of unfinished projects with fans along the way. In the past few weeks alone, Smith has already posted demos of the pop-infused folk ballad “Whispers” and the charming love song “Be Mine” to his TikTok. “It could be a ‘Stargazing’ part two,” he teases of the latter track. “You never know with these things. I was itching to get it out.”

Below, Smith opens up about the cosmic growth of “Stargazing,” balancing social media with mental health, his experience being on tour, his dream collaboration list and more.

Where did you get the idea for “Stargazing,” and how did it come together?

It was something that was birthed out of being with the people that I loved in a space that I loved. I was out in Malibu in L.A. [in January], my first time ever there, and distinctly different from where I grew up. I was with songwriter Jesse Fink and a songwriter-producer Peter Fenn, who I’ve collaborated with before. I just signed with my label [RCA Records], and I was like, “I want to write something that’s really warm, fun and happy.” I came up with the hook pretty instantaneously.

It was just us jumping around, about day five into writing — looking at each other with guitars and having the time of our lives. It came from the idea of the people that you love, the things that you love, always being present in your life, maybe in a way you don’t recognize or see. And then that coming into light later in the day, and that euphoric moment of realizing that. The whole song wasn’t finished on that day, but the embers of it definitely were. From the very moment that that melody was found, the warmth in the room was infectious.

Where did the “Stargazing” metaphor come from?

It jumped out of nowhere. It was getting late in Malibu, and we’re looking over at the ocean and the sun setting, and in that beautiful moment, I stood there and it was quite cathartic. I was like, “Damn, I’m doing the thing that I’ve really wanted to be doing while looking at this beautiful night sky setting.” We were like, “Oh snap, is this what it’s called?” We threw the word in and it found its life there.

How much did the initial recording change from the final product?

At the time, it was just really the hook and the bare bones of the verse and melody. I think that’s the exciting part of where we are now in music. Not everything has to be done, and not everything has to be perfect. In fact, the process of getting there was very much a reciprocal relationship between me and my fans. Watching them react to it, I was even more inspired to finish the song. We kept the bones of the demo in there, and we embellished it to bring it to studio standard. We wanted to not step too far away from the magic that had been created.

So when you posted that initial snippet on TikTok, you didn’t have the whole song done yet?

No, the whole song was not done by that point but it was something that we knew was special. “Solo” and “My Home” — my two songs before that — were a similar process. I just fell in love with the bare bones of the song. I’ve got this really itchy finger in which I can’t wait to put something out. I know for a lot of artists, it’s about putting out what’s perfect. But for me, there’s so much beauty in imperfection.

A big part of why I love the audience that I have is that they bear with me as I get through things and as I explore what something should sound like. Them being part of my creative process is integral to the music being what it is and to it connecting the way that it connects. I’m forever thankful to the feedback online. It really matters in that final mastering and finishing of any song that I make.

Has there been any reaction to its chart success from friends or family that stands out?

My mum was exactly like me, and was like, “Is this real? Are you being scammed?” [Laughs.] We got on FaceTime and I got about 50 texts from friends and family because my mum had gone mental on all the group chats. Especially here in the U.K., the reality of a U.K. artist being on the Billboard [charts] isn’t very big, so when you hear it, it does sound a little bit like a dream. Then it happened, and we were like, “Oh my word. We’re making waves across the pond.”

It’s so fulfilling and so inspiring, the fact that I’m able to do this, and follow so many great British artists. To have support across the water and feel like I have a home away from home has just been so humbling, and such a privilege of an experience. Charting on the Hot 100 has such a profound impact on an artist’s journey, to really gain confidence and validity in how they think and feel about their art and their music.

Do you have a favorite interaction or use of the song on TikTok?

The ones that really get me are the wedding ones. This is someone’s biggest day of their life to this point, potentially. And they’ve chosen my voice, a kid from a million miles away who grew up in a town that no one’s ever heard of, as their soundtrack. It stops me in my tracks every time that I see it, and it reminds me that the thing that we do as artists really does have an impact on people’s lives.

Sometimes on the internet, you can be so distracted by the things that don’t matter. When you’re pulled back into reality by those moments, it really amplifies the role of an artist — but also the beauty of the music industry and moving towards social media in a global perspective. I’m so lucky to be a part of a generation of artists who are doing that.

What is your current relationship with social media like?

My relationship is healthier than what it was. We naturally compare ourselves to people so much and look at people doing amazing things. For a long time, I took that as a reflection of what I wasn’t doing. That wasn’t great for me. But I started to use social media, for lack of a better word, in a more selfish way — like, “Hey, I want to use this as a tool to find my community, build relationships and network.” I started focusing on what was important to me, and it became such an incredible part of my artist journey.

Now I have a community that thinks, feels and expresses themselves in such similar ways and teaches me things about myself and the world that I didn’t know. I see it now as an opportunity to connect with people across the world.

You’re currently on tour in Europe. What’s that experience been like?

I did a mini-run of shows at the start of this year, and that was my first moment of bridging the gap between online and real life. It was such a surreal moment. Being on stage and being in cities I’ve never been and people singing lyrics back to me, it stopped me in my tracks every single night. This tour is that, just a little bit bigger. It’s still the exact same feeling. It feels like I’m living a dream. People ask me, “Is this normal yet?” For me, it’s not. I don’t ever want it to be normal.

The magic of living your dream and seeing it every night is what I think what music’s all about. To see people in real life, hear their stories and hardships and sing, laugh, cry in a room together is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve loved every moment of this tour. I can’t wait to go to the States and run it back.

What’s next for you after tour?

After tour I will be taking… I’m lying. I’m not gonna be taking a break. I don’t have time to take a break! I’m going to be straight back in the studio, writing and recording more music. The part I love about what I do, and the part about working with the people I work with and the label that I now call home at RCA, is that they really support my vision of being able to put out music, and not always having to wait.

Who are some of your dream collaborators?

I’m a huge Mumford & Sons stan. I love Noah Kahan — I think what he does is just unbelievable. I can’t think of someone who’s a better songwriter at this current stage. Hozier is a GOAT of GOATs. But if I had to pick an all-time dream, it’d be Chris Martin. I will forever be a Coldplay stan.

A version of this story originally appeared in the June 1, 2024, issue of Billboard.





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