You might not know Jimmy Napes' name just yet, but he already counts the Kardashian clan among his biggest fans. As a songwriter and producer, 27-year-old Napes—real name James Napier—has been behind some of the biggest crossover dance hits to come out of the UK in the past couple of years, including being Sam Smith's collaborator on "Stay With Me," which the Jenner sisters were all over at the 2014 VMAs. Boiling the kettle to make us both a cup of tea in his quiet basement studio, Napes' eyes widen as he recounts how surreal it's been to see Smith become a superstar over in the States. "Over there, it's like he's not even a human being," he tells me. "He can't walk the streets. [At his Atlanta show] they were singing deluxe songs, like track 14 of the album, and they knew every word from every verse. I had goosebumps the whole show."
By contrast, Sam Smith fans "don't have a bloody clue who I am," Napes laughs. Until now, his success has been as private and as closely felt as the goosebumps under his shirt sleeves, while the artists he's lent his Midas touch to have been rocketed to an incredibly visible realm.