Music

Chartbreaker: ‘Stargazing’ Is a Radio Hit for Myles Smith, But His Sights Are Set Higher: ‘I Want To Be an Album Artist’

Years before Myles Smith broke through with his anthemic single “Stargazing,” he followed his mother’s advice by focusing on his education — graduating from the University of Nottingham in 2019, launching his own company at 19 and making it profitable by 23.

“I [was] earning good money, but I [wasn’t] fulfilled within my heart,” Smith explains. “That, for me, was a moment of [realizing] that I can’t dedicate years of my life to doing something that I know I’m truly not completely invested in.” So he quit — and already, just two years later, the returns have trumped any apprehension.

As he speaks with Billboard from his Brighton home in late June, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter’s runaway hit “Stargazing” has reached a No. 41 high on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 7 on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart, earning 61.2 million official on-demand U.S. streams through June 27, according to Luminate. He has also been announced as a supporting act for select dates on Imagine Dragons’ upcoming fall tour, and will jet to Australia and New Zealand in November for his own headlining trek, which has sold out shows across Europe and North America.

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Myles Smith photographed June 19, 2024 in Brighton, U.K.
Myles Smith photographed June 19, 2024 in Brighton, U.K.

As a kid born to a Jamaican family in Luton, England, Smith consumed a wide-ranging selection of genres: Reggae was a mainstay, but between his mother’s love for Whitney Houston’s “Million Dollar Bill” and his siblings’ indoctrination of Destiny’s Child, Ne-Yo and Justin Timberlake, he listened to plenty of R&B. His vibrant working-class neighborhood also exposed him to hip-hop and grime, but it was the music of the 2010s that truly honed his songwriting skills. He credits the heartbreaking lyricism of Adele’s 21, Ed Sheeran’s +, Bryson Tiller’s Trapsoul and Mumford & Sons’ Babel as four foundational albums.

While he crafted his sound, he began uploading unfinished song snippets to TikTok, one of which caught the attention of Extended Play Group’s Eric Parker as he was scrolling through his For You page in fall 2022. “It was a very sad song [that] hit me in a place I don’t normally get hit on TikTok,” Parker says. He promptly reached out and started managing Smith that November.

The two worked to build his following by joining his originals with evocative covers of songs that mined Gen Z’s penchant for nostalgia, including The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather.” “Covers [were] an opportunity to find an audience that I thought would match with the music I would eventually create,” he explains.

With a growing online fan base by 2023, Smith was independently releasing his own singles through Ditto Music, including early tracks like the thumping “My Home” and the witty wordplay fest “Solo” (his first U.K. chart hit). Once he surpassed four million monthly listeners on Spotify, Smith and Parker agreed it was time to look for a label deal. After meeting with scores of potential partners, Smith signed with RCA U.K. last January, in partnership with the U.S. label.

“[My] incredible A&R Jaryn [Valdry] made me cry my eyes out in a meeting because she saw me for who I was,” Smith says. “[RCA’s] whole philosophy being growth over a long period rather than a flash in the pan really aligned with me.”

Myles Smith photographed June 19, 2024 in Brighton, U.K.
Myles Smith photographed June 19, 2024 in Brighton, U.K.

Two months later, Smith dropped his debut EP, You Promised a Lifetime. “Stargazing” — written in Malibu, Calif. shortly after signing his deal — wouldn’t arrive until May. Fueled by Fireball shots, nachos and tacos, he and co-writers Peter Fenn and Jesse Fink were “eight or nine songs in,” before Smith came up with a chorus melody so arresting that it sparked an immediate search for complementary chords. Most of the song was written in 15 minutes, with verse details finalized in the following weeks. And when the rest of his team heard it, they solidified his confidence in the looming hit.

“I get back to West Hollywood at two or three in the morning, and I play the day-of demo on the speakers in the [ceiling],” he recalls. “I remember my manager waking up on the sofa like, ‘What is this?’ Everyone in the house is running and jumping around. For my team — my harshest critics, after my mum — to give me that genuine reaction, I knew I was on to something.”

They soon launched a month-long rollout for the song, culminating in its release on May 10 to coincide with the start of his next touring leg. The first snippet he posted to TikTok on April 8 doubled down on the intimacy of his guitar-backed singer-songwriter style, and each subsequent teaser featured more members of his team lip-syncing and dancing along to the track.

“Being able to draw people into the context of the song really works,” Smith says. “I’m Myles Smith, but I’ve got a team, and they’re my best friends. There’s a strange culture of everything revolving around the artist. You think I could do this without everyone around me? No way.”

The song’s radio campaign began across the pond, but Parker mentions that RCA wanted to make a stateside push immediately. “They were very proactive, [which] was a good sign that they believed in the song as much as we did.” Their hunch was right: “Stargazing” continues to build at radio, debuting on the Adult Alternative Airplay chart dated July 6 and reaching new peaks at Alternative Airplay and Rock & Alternative Airplay.

Amid his breakthrough, Smith sees himself as someone known for his full bodies of work. “I want to be an album artist,” he stresses. “There’s only so much you can say in an EP or single.” But even more importantly, he’s focused on setting an example for how the music industry intersects with the world’s larger systems of oppression.

“I don’t want to be used as a means of saying, ‘We’ve done enough,’” he says of his success in the singer-songwriter space as a Black man. “If anything, I want to be used as a question for why aren’t there more Myleses breaking through.”

Myles Smith photographed June 19, 2024 in Brighton, U.K.
Myles Smith photographed June 19, 2024 in Brighton, U.K.

A version of this story will appear in the July 20, 2024, issue of Billboard.

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