Former boss of BBC Sound of 2014 winner says the Cambridgeshire singer ‘was never going to cut it in retail’

Sam Smith has been named the BBC Sound of 2014 Sam Smith has been named the BBC Sound of 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014
1:52 PM

A former boss of BBC Sound of 2014 winner Sam Smith isn’t surprised he chose a career in music rather than retail.

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Sam, 21, who grew up in Great Chishill, topped a list compiled by 170 DJs, critics and bloggers asked to name their three favourite new acts for the year ahead.

As a teenager, Sam worked part-time at Barley Stores, and owner Dave Bray said: “He worked for us about five or six years ago, serving at the till and stacking shelves, and I don’t think he was ever going to be cut out for life in retail. He was a jolly guy though, and engaged well with the customers.

“He was 16 or 17 then, and we knew he was a bit of a singer and had aspirations to take it further, but to be honest I didn’t really think too much more about it at the time. I think he was at a crossroads in his life – I remember him saying he wanted to move to London because he thought it would be difficult for him to get noticed in this area.”

Sam follows in the footsteps of big names like Adele and Ellie Goulding in taking the BBC prize.

Mr Bray said: “It’s brilliant for him. A couple of the staff who were here at the time still work in the shop so they have been following his progress closely. He always knew what he wanted to do, even back then, and I hope he can go on now and follow his dreams.”

Following the announcement on Friday, Sam told the BBC: “I’m completely speechless. It’s a huge compliment to be recognised by the industry and the BBC in this way. I really didn’t expect it.”

Sam’s family still live in Great Chishill, and the singer featured in the Crow in 2007, when, aged 14, he reached the regional final of a talent contest.

At the time he said: “I want to be known for starring in musicals and be a singer and songwriter.”

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