Ed Sheeran has had an amazing year. The 21 year-old Brit’s major label debut + became a hit internationally, and earned him an Ivor Novello Award for his inescapable and catchy single “The A Team.” He also co-wrote songs with his biggest fan, Taylor Swift, for her album Red, and performed in the Olympics closing ceremonies, singing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” while backed by original Floyd drummer Nick Mason.
Sheeran will open for Swift on her undoubtedly massive Red Tour in 2013. We talked to the ginger-headed wunderkind, who performed over 300 gigs in 2009, about his adventures in the music industry.
How would you describe your music, for the uninitiated?
Acoustic soul, I think. It’s a mixture of lots of things.
You’ve been doing this since you were pretty young. Were your parents supportive of you leaving school and busking?
Yeah. No parent is gonna be over the moon about their son dropping out at 16 to play shows for 5 people at a time, but they were happy I was doing something that I loved.
You used to work as a guitar tech. What was that like?
Very fun. I learned everything I needed to about performing, crowd participation and entertaining on those tours.
What are your impressions of the United States, now that you’ve toured here?
I love it, it’s so huge and diverse. The reaction of fans surprised me. I haven’t had a hit here yet and it’s mental, I love it here.
Do fans in different countries respond to different things when you play live?
Some do, it’s usually the same songs people react well too though.
Tell us a bit about your big single is “The A Team,” which has nothing to do with The A-Team. Did you grow up watching the show?
I’ve never seen the TV show, the movie was cool though. The song came after an experience working at a homeless shelter, I played a show there and met a lot of people.
Tell us about how you got connected with Taylor Swift.
She was a fan, got in touch, and we wrote some cool songs. She’s such an awesome person all around.
What was the nature of your collaboration?
Just writing songs from the heart, they all came out really well.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as a co-writer?
I am a bit stubborn, but it’s great to meet someone like Taylor because she’s the same, so we have good discussions on what works best in the song.
You performed “Wish You Were Here” at the Olympics, with Nick Mason backing you up. How’d that come about?
The organizer just came round for a cup of tea at my flat and asked if I wanted to do it. I was like, hell yes.
Did Mason say anything to you about your performance or offer you any advice?
He was just a really nice guy, really friendly and open, and said I did it justice, which is huge coming from him. It was an honor playing with him.
On a scale of 1 to ten, how nervous were you to perform that song at the Olympics?
11, playing to 3.8 billion people is something I won’t experience again, it was nuts.
What’s the most time you’ve ever spent on writing a song?
About 5 years and counting, this one song I have keeps evolving and I keep adding bits to it.
What’s a song on + you’re especially proud of that’s not a single?
A song called “Kiss Me.” I recorded it with [producer] No I.D. It’s my attempt at doing one of those classic wedding songs and I love how I came out.
Do you typically write lyrics off the top of your head?
A large amount of the time, yeah, I’ll record all the guitars and go in the booth and just write it line by line off the top.
Who would you like to collaborate with next?
I like ASAP Rocky at the moment, his mix tape is great.
What do you consider the perfect song?
“American Pie” by Don McLean, it’s so clever man. There’s a YouTube video that explains all the lines and it’s just such a well told story with hidden messages. So clever.
Are there any particular words you love, or hate?
Rhymes like “baby girl, be in my world.” And that’s about it.
What album have you probably listened to the most this year?
Passenger’s All The Little Lights.