Elton John's had a profound impact on Ed Sheeran's career that goes far beyond the icon's obvious musical influence.
Sheeran is one of John's clients signed to his Rocket Music artist management company and, according to a recent interview with Rolling Stone, he has offered the 26-year-old phenom plenty of words of wisdom.
"This is why I wanted to start a management company, to say to these kids, 'I've been here. You need to do this. I can help you because I am who I am,' and he's been forever grateful," John told Rolling Stone. "You know, I love him to death."
Here are four bits of advice that John recalled offering Sheeran.
What his first X single:
"When X came out, he sat down in the office and he played 'Sing' and I said, 'Well that's gotta be the first single.' And he said, 'No, because I think people may be a little Pharrell-ed out.' I said, 'Forget it. You've had two singles in the American charts. One's called "The A Team," one's called "Lego House." They're both ballads. If you want to go from A to B very quickly, this is the single to propel you. And don't put out "Don't." This will be what people don't expect you to do.' And he hemmed and hawed, but he agreed. And the single broke really, really quickly and it was the best thing to come out first. It was the least-big single of the whole [album] - 'Photograph,' 'Don't' and 'Thinking Out Loud' [were bigger] - but it was the right single at the right time.
On getting out of the limelight and watching his weight:
"He was so omnipresent [in 2015] I said, 'Ed, even I'm sick of you. Go away.' And he did. He just went to the Far East with his girlfriend, had a great time, put on a lot of weight, ate food and came back," said John. "One thing I said to him when he went, I said, 'Don't put on weight," because he's very prone to put on weight like I am. And he came back heavy, but he lost it all for the album. He just went away and had a great time."
On whether he should hit the studio after releasing his debut album, +, or tour with Taylor Swift:
"When the first album, +, came out, he phoned me up and said, 'Listen, the record company wants me to go and make another album straight away. But I've been offered an 88-date tour with Taylor Swift. What do I do?' And I said, 'Well, it's a no-brainer. You do the Taylor Swift Tour because, A) it's not particularly your audience, B) she's a friend of yours. You'll be playing to half-empty audiences coming in. But it'll be the most incredible experience for you. It'll give you everything you need when you make it further on really big.' And he listened to that, and it was the best thing he could have done. He sent me an email saying, 'Thanks, that was a really good decision.'"
On his musical direction:
"I've said, 'Ed, you can't keep doing this forever. Sooner or later I want you to come out and have a band to help you improve as a musician, as a songwriter, and to just move the show along a bit. How many times can you go out there with a loop pedal? You can do it for the next couple of years maybe, but then you've gotta think of what you're gonna do next.' And he realizes that. He's a big fan of Ray Lamontagne. He said, 'I'd love to do an album like Trouble.' He's got so many strengths. He's huge with the hip-hop and grime community in Britain. He hangs out with all those guys; he's so tied into that kind of music. There's nothing he can't do."