On the Cover
The global superstar talks to BRINK on touring, Taylor Swift and being yourself.
by Sofia Puente-Lay
A few months ago, Ed Sheeran was merely a name on the lips of music aficionados and industry folk. Fast-forward, and the English singer/songwriter is no longer the UK’s best-kept secret but is busy making waves on our side of the pond. Recently headlining VH1’s You Oughta Know Tour, Sheeran also boasts a number one selling US digital album (+), a duet with Taylor Swift on her upcoming album, and a stunning performance of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here on the international stage at this year’s Summer Olympic Games’ Closing Ceremony in London. Sheeran’s music is moving him forward like a force of nature, and we at BRINK were lucky to chat with him about the inspirations and motivations behind his accelerating career.
It wasn’t always stars and spotlights – take a look at any one of Sheeran’s bios, and you’ll see the deep-set roots of his blossoming fame. His rhythmic, folk melodies and soul-wrought lyrics have been honed by countless solo gigs; sometimes performed before no more than five people. He also released multiple EPs – each showcasing a diverse range of musical styles and each outselling its predecessor. These humble beginnings built Sheeran his dedicated and enduring UK fanbase – many of whom have been following him since the days when he sold CDs out of his backpack. When Sheeran walked away from the 2011 BRIT Awards with “Best Solo Male Artist” and “Best Breakthrough Artist,” as well as nods toward his single and album, he promptly replied, “first and foremost I have to thank the fans ‘cause they voted for this.”
It was his stripped down performance of Lego House at the BRIT awards that caught the eye of American network giant VH1. Drawn to the simplicity of his t-shirt and jeans combo coupled with raw acoustic artistry, they dubbed him an originator of the “realwave” style and introduced him to the US as May’s You Oughta Know artist. Sheeran’s first stateside tour kicked off Sept. 19 at Boston’s House of Blues and will finish up Oct. 6 in Seattle. Each show on the cross-country circuit has sold out with some venues needing an upgrade to accommodate a steadily growing fanbase. As his tour bus shuttles from one stage to another, Sheeran continues to captivate US audiences with the same candid performances that earned him VH1’s distinction.
This tour life is nothing new to Sheeran, and, indeed, live performances are what he does best. Above all, he’s an artist dedicated to his craft – both on the road and in the studio. He’s not one to shy away from challenges, and this hard-earned fame has only better prepared him for the balancing act between performing and songwriting. Studio time becomes much more precious when on tour, but he relishes every minute to craft songs with all the poignant poetics that catapulted + to number five on America’s Billboard charts. Drawing inspiration from artists such as Damien Rice and Jay-Z, Sheeran’s songcraft wows critics and fans alike. This positive atmosphere makes him “very happy” to be working in the States and on tour.
Speaking of songwriting, Sheeran gave us a little inside look on his collaboration with performer Taylor Swift. The American singer posted on Twitter that + was “her favorite album right now,” and wore the lyrics for Lego House on her arms during her Speak Now tour. According to Sheeran, it was Swift who reached out with the idea of a duet. Also known for her honest lyrics and penchant for storytelling, Swift met with Sheeran for a musical tête-à-tête over cheeseburgers. “She’s a great person,” Sheeran reminisced.
Read the complete interview here in the current issue of BRINK.