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Sam Smith says chart-topping debut inspired by unrequited love

By Holly Rubenstein

LONDON (Reuters) - British singer Sam Smith, who is riding a tidal wave of chart success on both sides of the Atlantic with his debut album "In the Lonely Hour", said it was all inspired by his unrequited love for a man.

Having previously not commented on his sexuality, the 22-year-old Londoner recently revealed in an interview with The Fader online music website that his album was about a man whom he loved, but who did not love him in return.

Asked by Reuters if the man in question knew the album was about him, Smith said, "I told him before the album came out and it gave me a lot of closure actually.

The singer said he was "really happy" he had opened up about his sexuality in The Fader interview.

"I'm so happy I did it before the album as well because it actually made the whole album more about me," he said.

Smith said he was proud and pleased that there had hardly been a reaction to his coming out, and that this was "exactly what we wanted".

Music trade publication Billboard recently listed "In the Lonely Hour" among its top 10 albums of the year so far, and said Smith had a "magnetic vocal presence".

The album achieved record-breaking success in the United States, selling 166,000 copies in its opening week, more than any other debut album by a British male artist.

It charted at No. 2, pipped to the post by Lana Del Rey's 'Ultraviolence'. Smith's U.S. success has been propelled by a performance on "Saturday Night Live". His single "Stay With Me" sold more than 1 million copies.

Smith said his popularity in the United States did come as a surprise to him, even though he had been heavily influenced by American artists all his life.

"In my gut I was hoping that they would cling on to the album but I honestly didn't think it would be like this. When I go over there it is just insane."

Smith begins a sold out tour of North America in September before returning to tour Britain in October.

(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)