Ed Sheeran Chats About Brit Nominations and Chris Martin’s Advice to ‘Stay Boring’
In less than a year, 20-year-old Ed Sheeran has gone from a little-known singer-songwriter sleeping on friends’ couches to the most-nominated act at the 2012 Brit Awards, where his four nominations outpace Adele, Jessie J and Coldplay. Fans have responded to his music, which reveals a sensitive singer-songwriter style with a hint of soul.
Though Sheeran has extensive touring experience, he has only played a few shows in the U.S. In 2010, he went to Los Angeles on a whim and performed around town, where he was spotted by the woman who ran Jamie Foxx’s open mic night. One thing led to another, and Foxx ended up inviting Sheeran to record at his home studio, a level of generosity the young singer calls “shocking.”
In March, Sheeran returns for an extensive U.S. tour with Snow Patrol to promote his EP ‘The A Team,’ now available on iTunes. PopCrush connected with Sheeran via telephone the day after he received the news about his Brit Awards recognition.
Congratulations — you have four Brit Awards nominations this year, more than anybody else. Was that a surprise to you?
A big surprise, yeah. But I think the only reason Adele hasn’t got four is that she’s not a newcomer this year. I think that was the only other category she could have been nominated in. So it’s not like I’m doing better than her!
What do you think your chances are of winning something, and have you prepared a speech yet?
Kinda — I guess I’ll thank my fans, my manager, my family and my record label. But I’ll probably forget most of that. In an ideal world, I’d like to take home a couple of them, but Adele’s definitely going to get Best Album.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten so far?
Chris Martin from Coldplay told me that the first few years of my career, I need to be as boring as possible [laughs]. As in, focus on the music and stay boring in the public eye so you don’t get in all the gossip columns. That’s been a really good piece of advice for me, because it means I just make the albums and I tour. No one’s interested in which supermodel I’m dating at the moment, cause I’m just doing my thing.
You wrote the song ‘The A Team’ after a visit to a crisis center. What inspired you to visit there?
My friend asked me to come. They do this thing every year where they get all the homeless people off the streets and they house them over Christmas and give them health care and dental and food. He asked if I could come and be the entertainment for one of the days. So I went down and did it and met a lot of people. One in particular inspired that song. I was shocked that sort of stuff went on. I was young and naive at the time and hadn’t really seen that much of life.
How involved were you with the concept of ‘The A Team’ music video?
A hundred percent — that was done without a label and just with friends.
Watch Ed Sheeran’s ‘The A Team’ Video
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The way you met Jamie Foxx is pretty crazy. What was it like going to his home to record?
It was nuts. It was really humbling. He’s such a talented, humble guy, and for him to open up his home and his friends to me was a really nice thing to do. It definitely topped off a great trip.
Were the sessions at his studio productive?
Yeah, I actually got a song that I used on my album. A song called ‘U.N.I.’ and another song called ‘Wake Me Up’ were both started there and finished in England.
Who would you describe as your typical fan?
Someone that likes music. I know that sounds very vague, but my fan base is very vague. I have 12-year-old girls coming to gigs and 90-year-old dudes coming to gigs and 21-year-old students and 30-year-old single moms. It’s really varied, so anyone who’s a fan of music ends up coming to it.
When’s the last time you got nervous for a show?
Yesterday, actually, at the Brit nominations, because I wasn’t playing in front of people that paid to come and get entertained. I was playing in front of my peers that want to win.
You’ll be opening for Snow Patrol on your upcoming U.S. tour. Do you think that’s a good match?
I think it’s a great match. We make similar kind of music that’s more emotionally-driven, so I think it’s gonna work. And it also gives me an opportunity to visit every single city and go into the radio stations and start plugging my record.
You’ve been tweeting about how you want to keep the venues small for now. Why is that?
I’ve built myself up from the ground up — starting off playing to like three people, to 50 people, to 100 people, to 2,000 people — and I shouldn’t leap to big arenas before I can leap to them. On the second album, it will be a good time, but on the first album, I’d rather do multiple dates at one venue and do the same amount of tickets as an arena than actually go to a huge gig and sell fans short. I don’t want to ever cheat fans.
Watch Ed Sheeran Perform ‘Lego House’
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What kinds of advertising opportunities have you turned down?
I’m not going to name names or prices, but I don’t appear in my music videos because I don’t feel I need to. I want to focus on the song more than me being a product. If I’m not appearing in my music videos, why would I appear in an advert selling you something? That’s my argument with it. When I’ve got kids and mouths to feed, that’s when I’ll start doing stuff like that. But at the moment, my career is the main thing I’m focusing on, and anything that affects that in any way isn’t worth doing.
So in the future, anything you endorse would have to be something you feel strongly about?
Not even something I feel strongly about, just nothing that’s going to bring me down. Nothing that affects my position. We have this thing in England — I don’t think you have it in America, because I’ve tried finding it — called Robinsons Fruit Squash. You mix a little bit with water and drink it, and it’s wicked. I said on Twitter I’d do that advert for free dressed up as a giant peach. I think I’ll probably get away with that because I really like Robinsons’ peach drink. That’s the kind of advert I’d do, something that I’m actually into and it’s believable, rather than selling you some sort of female deodorant that I’d never use.
One of the more interesting parts of your story is that you’ve spent a lot of time sleeping on people’s couches. Are you still doing that?
Up until a month ago I was, but I just got a flat. I’m living with brother and my cousins now, which is cool. But I was sleeping on my manager’s sofa for a long time.
What has been your most memorable concert so far?
I did a show in Dublin, Ireland in November to around 100 people in a small room, and it was a secret show. No one knew what acts were playing. I played for two and a half hours of just nonstop, new material. I finished up standing on a table with one of my cousins singing lots of folk songs. It was a really fun show and unexpected.
A lot of popular U.K. artists have come to America over the past year, like Tinie Tempah, Jessie J, and Katy B, with kind of mixed results. What would you like to see happen for you over here?
Just that people get the music. Even if, in small amounts, people understand what I’m trying to do and the songs and the emotion that comes with it, and people can take something from it and like the songs rather than just have a bit of a dance one day and then forget about it the next day. I want to actually affect people with my music.