Myles Smith: "You can make pop music as a black guy from England and still be accepted"

Luton-raised singer-songwriter Myles Smith talks his biggest inspirations, overcoming imposter syndrome and the importance of perseverance
Myles Smith

Luton-born singer-songwriter Myles Smith is on the cusp of his first-ever Official Top 40 single, as Stargazing looks to make its debut this week. But this isn't a tale of overnight success. Instead, it's one of patience and perseverance.

On paper, Myles's meteoric rise might seem like a success story contained to 2024, with him having delivered debut EP You Promised A Lifetime and sold out a headline tour of the UK, Europe and North America. In reality, he's been grafting since his mum bought him his first guitar as a kid.

Today, we catch up with Myles to talk his biggest inspirations, his indie band beginnings and overcoming imposter syndrome.

Myles Smith

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"When I was first listening to Green Day and Ed Sheeran, something resonated with me. I thought ‘oh snap, I’m really feeling an affinity to this beyond anything else,'" Myles tells us. "That mixed with my love for singing around the house, watching my older brother sing, I thought 'maybe I’ll give this a whirl!'"

But, conscious of the insecurities that can come with being an artist, Myles's mum took some convincing.

"When I’d exhausted every other avenue and told my mum ‘I want to do this’ she said ‘alright, I’ll get you a guitar but I’m not going to get you lessons. You’ll have to teach yourself a little bit to prove you’re going to stick with this thing," he says.

"Before you know it, I’d taught myself guitar and piano. She was like 'oh snap, you really enjoy music!' Throughout the whole of high school, I didn’t go out for lunch or breaks. I just stayed in the music room and was obsessed with music. I started writing songs, which were terrible, but I was watching Chris Martin thinking 'I want to be like him one day,' just trying and trying."

And try he did; undeterred by any obstacles encountered along the way.

“Then it was pub gigs," he reminisces. "Really empty pub gigs. Really empty bars and anywhere they’d let me perform. I did that up until I was 16, then I joined an indie band. We thought we were great. We were playing to absolutely nobody, and no one was listening to our music, but we were having the time of our life.

"Then I went to university, went off into the real world, got a real degree [in Sociology and Social Policy] and a real job. I was renting a place, I was doing well for myself, my mum had the picture of me smiling with the degree; but I wasn't fulfilled.

"I dropped it all and really dug into music again two years ago. When I told myself I wanted to do music, it was never as a side hustle. I just wanted to put myself out there and do it, and it went off."

To drop it all was a decision that'd certainly pay off, with 2024 already proving hugely successful for Myles.

"It’s been a wild year," he grins. "I had my first headline tour in the UK, Europe and North America. It was a pretty wild start to the year to play these songs that I’ve been writing for the last year to fans for the first time. 

"To have such support from everywhere has been super overwhelming."

And it's evident that, beyond the impressive numbers he's accumulating, Myles is most appreciative that his music's resonating with audiences.

"Streaming numbers have always been an add-on, rather than something I focus on," he explains. "It’s super nice to see it growing, but it’s those moments in person with fans, being able to talk to people and see how your music’s impacted them that gives you ten times the feeling that seeing a million streams does.

"Sometimes when you’re doing music it’s super hard to see where your music’s going, where it’s being listened to, who by and how it translates. 

"To hear so many people’s stories, their journeys, how they’re overcoming things, their hardships and how my music’s soundtracked that for them. It’s just, like, wow."

Myles Smith

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It's those stories, and candid conversations with fans, that provide the merit behind Myles's music.

"A few people have said songs like River particularly have helped them through a mental health crisis at some point," he says. "They've told me it’s really pulled them out of a place where they weren’t able to release emotions.

"I wrote that song from my own journey of not being able to express things and feeling I was trapped. That was my way of letting go of it; and for that to be echoed and reflected in other people is so surreal."

So, who were those artists that served a similarly-safe space for Myles growing up?

"Growing up I listened to a lot of Green Day. Weirdly, they were one of the first artists who made me feel liberated in liking music that was different; sitting on the periphery and being comfortable outside of the mainstream and what was expected.  

"Then there’s Adele, who really taught me not only how to write gut punches, but to be able to explore the depths of my emotions when it came to love.

"Labrinth was another person I idolised, as a young British black guy doing something so different at the time. That was a real nod to say 'hey, you don’t have to go down the route of grime, trap, rap or hip-hop.' You can make pop music as a black guy from England and still be accepted.

"It’s definitely something I’m conscious and aware of. That’s not to diminish anything that’s happening outside of pop music. Grime’s a great example of how a culture’s been brought to the forefront and messages have been able to be communicated. It’s the same with hip-hop and rap; I’m just doing it in a way that’s authentic to me. It’s great to be able to add to that conversation from a different angle.

"Then there’s Mumford & Sons, Tom Odell and these British singer-songwriters who make me think 'damn, I’m reading my own journal in their music!'"

Myles Smith

Embracing the thought of being an inspirational figure to a new wave of artists, as Labrinth was to him, is something Myles is still getting used to.

"It’s still mad to me that people care enough to put me in their AirPods for three minutes a day. That these songs I write in my bedroom, or staring at a wall in LA or a shoddy Airbnb or stinky Sprinter, become people’s soundtracks. It’s so surreal. 

"Even when I walk out on stage I still think ‘are they cheering for someone more important behind me?’, but I’m getting into the swing of it. I think we all suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome. 

"It’s only now I’m starting to recognise ‘oh snap, people actually like me for what I’m doing!’ It’s an everyday task, it’s a journey in itself. I’ll probably write a song about it one day."

Myles Smith

And 2024's showing no sign of slowing down for Myles.

"I’m on the road relentlessly this year," he says. "I’m on tour through May and June, then I’ve got a few festivals booked for summer. I’m back over in the United States for two months. There’s a lot of touring this year! 

"I’m writing non-stop, too! My writing schedule is perfectly interwoven with being on stage. Even on the road, I’ll play a gig, come off stage and write a song. 

"I’m not trying to compare myself to Ed Sheeran, I’ve got a long way to go, but if you’ve ever watched his documentary where he comes off stage and writes a song; that’s how we do it! We’re straight into, not quite backstage at The O2, but our rundown little Airbnb writing the next set of songs ready to tour!"

Myles Smith's Stargazing is out now via Sony Music.

LISTEN to Myles Smith's Stargazing below:

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