With a hit as big as Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You, it’s inevitable that you’ll get a little sick of hearing it everywhere you go, and almost all the time. Even if you’re Ed Sheeran himself.
“First time you hear it on the radio, it’s wonderful. But, Shape Of You… I have to turn it down, because I’ve heard it so many times now!” the 26-year-old British musician said during a group interview just before his concert at the Axiata Arena, Bukit Jalil, on Tuesday night.
But don’t expect him to stop making massively popular pop songs like Shape Of You, Thinking Out Loud, The A-Team, Photograph or Sing though. Sheeran is a pop musician, and proud of it.
“I’m not a music snob, I don’t really care what people think about me. I like pop music so I make pop music. I don’t think I’ll ever make one of those cool alternative records that only five people listen to. I like big pop songs, so I think I’m going to carry on doing that,” he said.
Sheeran nearly did not make it to KL after he broke both arms in a cycling accident last month. “The arm aches after the show, but then it’s fine. I came back to play concerts a little bit early, so it’s not properly healed yet,” he said.
The concert is part of his ÷ (pronounced Divide) Tour to promote his latest album. Released earlier this year, ÷ has proven to be his most successful yet, topping the album charts in 14 countries, including Britain and the United States. When it was released, every single one of its songs, including Shape Of You, Castle On The Hill, Perfect, Galway Gal, How Would You Feel (Paean), Eraser, and Happier, were in the Top 20 UK singles chart at the same time, a phenomenon that forced the authority handling the chart to change the way the chart was being compiled.
Sheeran cites Perfect as his favourite song on ÷, saying that with that song, he wanted a more “crooner” style in the vein of Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé. “I wanted to write a song that sounded like Buble could be singing it,” he said.
In 2016, Sheeran took a year-long hiatus from music and social media to “travel the world and see everything I missed”. While he reckons the break didn’t really change his approach to music, it did change him somewhat as a person though.
“Music-wise, I was writing the same sort of songs, so I don’t think it helped the songs,” he said. “It had a more profound effect on me as a person, and made me excited about working again.”
Sheeran has been credited with inspiring a whole new wave of popular singer-songwriters, and actually had a hand in making one of them popular – Jamie Lawson, whom Sheeran signed to Gingerbread Man Records, which he set up in 2015.
Don’t expect Sheeran to become a music mogul anytime soon though. “I don’t know the first thing about breaking acts! I don’t know anything about getting people on radio or TV or whatever!” he said. “The only thing I can offer to anyone on my label is artistic freedom – you can make the album you want to make, and then we can talk.
“Jamie was already working anyway, so I basically just funded the album and took him on tour. That’s the main thing I can offer. The record label we’re part of though, Atlantic, they know how to do everything else.”
With the likes of Shawn Mendes and Lawson riding the singer-songwriter wave, Sheeran doesn’t feel threatened enough to keep looking over his shoulder. “I think I have a fan base now, so I won’t be losing fans just because someone else is doing it. I’ve hung out with Shawn Mendes and he’s super, super talented and really nice. His success doesn’t make me think I need to be doing better. I just think, ‘Oh, he’s doing really well, that’s cool’.
“I think that’s something I learnt over the years – competition doesn’t really exist. You just do your own thing and make what you’re proud of, and then the competition element comes in with making sure you work harder than people rather than try to make a better album. Because the best album you can make is the best that you can do.”