To the casual observer, it may appear that mild-mannered singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran rose to stardom overnight — coming out of nowhere to top charts, duet with Elton John at the Grammys, and tour with bestie Taylor Swift. Truth is, he spent several years playing small pubs, clubs, and cafés in his native England, honing his chops, before anyone took notice.
This week, Sheeran, 23, releases his sophomore album, X, which was produced by some of the biggest names in the business, including Rick Rubin and Pharrell. To celebrate, he performed for 400 lucky fans at an iHeartRadio Album Release Party in Burbank, Calif. In addition to playing a satisfying mix of hits from his first album, +, and previewing a handful of new tracks, he shared some surprisingly juicy tidbits during an interview with host Mario Lopez.
Here are eight of the night's most amusing/interesting highlights:
Ed would call Gavin DeGraw in a pinch. When Lopez asked Sheeran who he'd call to bail him out of jail, his answer was surprising. He said he'd ring up Gavin DeGraw, a fellow crooner whom he barely knows. Why? One night, after Sheeran randomly ran into DeGraw at a bar in Nashville and they'd been singing each other's songs at karaoke, Sheeran accidentally sliced open his hand while playing drums with beer bottles. When DeGraw saw that Sheeran was bleeding badly ("My white shoes had turned brown," Sheeran said), DeGraw rushed him to the hospital. Not only that, but he took Sheeran out for a burger afterwards. What a guy!
Ed met Usher at Passover dinner. Sheeran told a great story about bonding with Usher at a Passover dinner, and how the R&B star ended up inviting him into his studio, where he found Diplo and Skrillex. Sheeran said they did a "very sexual song" together, but confessed that he didn't end up on the song. Still, we can't wait to hear it!
Ed is an unlikely heartthrob. Sheeran definitely has the everyman thing going on, dressing in flannels, T-shirts, rumpled jeans, and high-tops. He's a bit on the portly side and his flaming ginger mane usually looks like he just rolled out of bed. But when he took off his flannel at his iHeartRadio concert, the girls in the audience screamed at the top of their lungs. Many shouted, "I love you, Ed!" and swooned during his lengthy, rap-like monologues, devotedly singing along to every word.
Ed trusts his dad's opinion on his music above everyone else's. When Lopez asked Sheeran why he relies on his father's opinion on his music, he said, "Well, he's known me a while" — and the crowd cracked up. Sheeran explained that after working on several tracks with producer Rick Rubin, he asked his dad for his opinion on the songs. His father thought some of the demos actually sounded better than the highly produced tracks… and Sheeran took his dad's advice!
Ed mixed it up for the crowd. Sheeran played a satisfying combination of hits off of his first album, including "Lego House" and "The A Team," and a hearty sampling of new tunes from X, including "One," "Sing," "Don't," "I See Fire," and "Thinking Out Loud," which he said was his favorite song from the new album and its only really upbeat number. He also generously played a 35-minute "bonus" set for the crowd before the cameras started rolling.
Ed was stressed out about taking too long to finish X. Sheeran confessed that he was nervous about taking so much time to make his much-anticipated sophomore album. He said it was originally scheduled to come out in late 2012, but if it had been released then, it would have been terrible record. In the end, the process took him three years, and he's very satisfied with the end result.
Ed is a one-man band. Sheeran created full-sounding songs with just his voice, his guitar, and some effect pedals. He looped his instrumentation and his voice, harmonizing with himself, and banged on the body of his guitar as bass and percussion.
The crowd liked to "Sing" it loud. Sheeran closed the night with "Sing," the rousing lead single from X. He encouraged the crowd to sing along, and as he was saying goodnight, he added, "Don't stop singing… out of the venue, into your car… scream it out!" And the audience complied.