21-year-old singer Sam Smith is on a surefire path to stardom. Raised in Great Chishill, Cambridgeshire in England, he grew up a student of music, performing with the Youth Music Theatre UK during his earlier years. It was there that Smith honed his talents, which gave him the confidence to step out and pursue a career in 2012.

Sam Smith’s breakthrough moment oddly didn’t come as a result of a solo release, but rather as a guest artist. The singer made his way on “Latch,” the first single Disclosure released from their debut album, Settle. Backed by a pulsing synth melody from the electronic brother duo, Smith delivered a soulful performance that highlighted his vocal range. He later would also be featured on “La La La” from Naughty Boy, which surpassed the commercial achievements of “Latch” by reaching No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart.

Coming off the success of “Latch” and “La La La,” Smith turned the focus on his solo endeavors with the October release of Nirvana, a four-song EP that allowed Smith to experiment with his sound. The title-track of the project added depth to Smith’s already impressive songwriting. He also included an acoustic version of “Latch,” which sounds like a totally different song compared to the original, yet it’s just as captivating. With Nirvana, Smith received the acclaim that was there with his guest features, but this time he got to be the artist in the spotlight.

The new year has produced even more buzz around Sam Smith and his musical exploits. He was recently the recipient of the Critic’s Choice Award from the 2014 BRIT Awards. He was also named the Sound of 2014 by BBC, both high honors that have earned him a lot of notoriety.

This all before Smith releases his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, which comes out May 26 through Capitol Records. Smith says the title, and music, for his upcoming project is focused on sharing a narrative of someone who hasn’t yet loved yet. It’s something Smith says he can relate to in life. “I wanted to write an album for people who have never been in love,” he told The Guardian last November. “I want to be a voice for lonely people.”

Thus far he’s released two singles from In the Lonely Hour, “Lay Me Down” and “Money on My Mind.” Both records exhibit Smith’s powerful vocals, as well as his ability to connect with his listeners on a genuine level. His music has also connected with other artists, including Taylor Swift, who brought Smith out to perform a duet version of “Money on My Mind” while she was touring London in February. Once In the Lonely Hour is released later this year, Swift won’t be the only pop star wanting to rub shoulders with Sam Smith.