You sing a lot about love and relationships. What’s been your experience with love?

I’ve never been in a relationship before. I’ve only been in unrequited relationships where people haven’t loved me back. I guess I’m a little bit attracted to that in a bad way. In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before. I’ve felt the bad things. And what’s a more powerful emotion: pain or happiness?

Does he know he largely inspired the album?

He does. I told him about it recently, and obviously it was never going to go the way I wanted it to go, because he doesn’t love me. But it was good as a form of closure, to get it off my chest and tell him. I feel better for it. I feel almost like I signed off this part of my life where I keep giving myself to guys who are never going to love me back. It feels good to have interviews like this, to chat about it and put stuff to bed. It’s all there now, and I can move on and hopefully find a guy who can love me the way I love him.

This is the first time you’re speaking publicly about him. How comfortable are you to be open in this way now?

I am comfortable with myself, and my life is amazing in that respect. I’m very comfortable and happy with everything. I just wanted to talk about him and have it out there. It’s about a guy and that’s what I wanted people to know—I want to be clear that that’s what it’s about. I’ve been treated as normal as anyone in my life; I’ve had no issues. I do know that some people have issues in life, but I haven’t, and it’s as normal as my right arm. I want to make it a normality because this is a non-issue. People wouldn’t ask a straight person these questions. I’ve tried to be clever with this album, because it’s also important to me that my music reaches everybody. I’ve made my music so that it could be about anything and everybody— whether it’s a guy, a female or a goat—and everybody can relate to that. I’m not in this industry to talk about my personal life unless it’s in a musical form.

Why do you think people are so curious about your sexuality?

In the short time I’ve lived on this Earth, all I’ve seen are boxes. People put things in boxes; it makes it easier to digest information. People say I’m the new Adele. Why is [gender] a talking point? I’m singing, I’m making music, I’m performing my music—that’s what should be the talking point. If I come on record and start speaking about it in an interview, then mark my words, that’s your time to chip in; I’ve given you the passcode to my business and to my personal life. But I am an artist, and in interviews, speaking like this, it’s not my idea of art; it’s just my idea of exchange, talking human to human. It shouldn’t be an issue, but it will be an issue. It’s always an issue.

Sam Smith for FADER