Entertainment & Arts

Ed Sheeran: 'People still think Elton John's my manager'

Image copyright Ben Watts
Image caption Sheeran sold more than 1.5 million copies of his debut album + in the UK

In the two and a half years since Ed Sheeran released his debut album + (pronounced 'plus'), he has won two Brit awards and an Ivor Novello. He is about to release his follow up album X (multiply).

"All the facts hold some truth, some of them are embellished, a lot of people still think Elton John is my manager."

Three years ago, Ed Sheeran was playing his first ever Glastonbury festival. The singer drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend to the BBC's Introducing stage.

In the years since, Sheeran has played all over the world, speaking to hundreds of journalists along the way. But some 'facts' just continue to follow him around.

"I have to explain that he [Sir Elton] owns a management company that manages a lot of acts," the flame-haired troubadour offers by way of clarification. "My manager is one of many who works for it and from time to time Elton shows a bit of interest and helps out,"

"Can you imagine him standing outside now on his Blackberry... little headset on..."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sheeran performs entire gigs solo, with no backing musicians

Managerial issues aside, there was also Sheeran's oft-quoted living status, sofa-surfing at friends' houses whilst continually playing live shows.

"Actually, I'm back sofa-surfing but that's not a financial thing, I've got a flat and I'm doing it up and I can't live in it until August so I'm back to sofas."

His living circumstances may have remained the same but his career has gone into orbit since the early days. Sheeran's debut album + was certified quintuple platinum in the UK and, in 2012, he won two Brit Awards for best British male and British breakthrough act.

He toured the US, supporting Taylor Swift and Snow Patrol and performed his Ivor Novello-winning single The A Team at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

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Media captionEd Sheeran on making 'that' puppet video with Pharrell

Sheeran was one of the highlights of the recent BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend in Glasgow, where, aside from the 30,000 or so fans there to see him on the main stage, a singer from one of the headline acts also popped by to check out his act.

"I didn't have a clue and I remember halfway through thinking, 'I bet Coldplay will arrive later because they're in the headline slot and I would have really liked for Chris Martin to have seen my show, just because it's nice to have someone who you have admiration for see you.

"As soon as I got off stage, my promotions guy said, 'Did you see? Chris watched the whole show'.

"I got back to my dressing room and I said, 'I can't believe Chris saw the whole thing,' and then he popped in and said, 'Hey, I saw the whole thing.' I've met him a few times before, he's really nice."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Chris Martin from Coldplay watched Sheeran play in Glasgow alongside a seemingly less-interested Lily Allen

His new album sees Sheeran work with the likes of Rihanna producer Benny Blanco and the legendary Rick Rubin - who has produced records for the likes of Eminem, Jay Z and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

The style of production may change throughout the record but Sheeran and his acoustic guitar remain very much at the centre of the album's sound.

It has also given Sheeran his first UK number one single, the infectiously catchy Sing, produced by man-of-the-moment Pharrell Williams.

The video shows a puppet version of Sheeran drinking and carousing the night away before hooking up with his real life counterpart.

Sheeran was kept updated during the puppet design.

"They took pictures of all my tattoos and what I was wearing and it was very much a process to get that done.

"I wanted to case him up and have him in my house but we might keep him for future stuff because he was an expensive puppet.

"That puppet cost more than all the videos on my last album, bar one, for Give Me Love."

Role model

Is the video a clever reference to the downside of Sheeran's fame?

After all, as one of the most famous singers in the country, it must be difficult for him to be able to relax in public places due to the fact that everyone has a phone on their camera.

"Honestly, I don't know how many people would care," he explains. "The whole of my first album is about drink and drugs and people picked up on that very fast, so I think if anyone saw me do anything, they'd be like, 'It's what he sings about,' not that I get up to it a lot now, I've calmed down."

To illustrate his point, Sheeran points to a recent video, leaked online of two members of One Direction appearing to smoke cannabis during the Peru leg of their world tour.

Image copyright Ben Watts
Image caption Sheeran is playing Glastonbury and is touring the UK in October.

"I feel like, because that's never been talked about with that lot, it shocked people - although it not a very shocking thing, it's legal in that country. I think because I've broached everything I do, no-one would be too surprised."

He points out, however, that "I like to be a role model," adding "so I never want to be too much of an advocate. I speak about the experiences and those experiences are never positive so I don't think it promotes it, but it is freeing as an artist."

Such openness about his life allows much speculation about his song lyrics, in particular a new song called Don't from the new album.

It is a song about being the victim of a straying partner and includes lyrics like, "I never saw him as a threat / Until you disappeared with him to have sex of course/ It's not like we were both on tour /We were staying on the same hotel floor" and have sparked rumours about who the song is about.

Sheeran, who is rumoured to have dated singers Taylor Swift and Ellie Goulding, is keeping his mouth shut about the identity of the cheating ex.

"I can't tell you who it's about because I think the song is enough," he continues. "I don't want to be that guy. It's a good song at the end of the day, I like it and it works on the record and I'm not putting it out for any other reason than that."

Sheeran will be taking his new album out on the road across the UK soon, starting with Glastonbury and taking in dates in October at the O2 in London and cities including Leeds and Manchester, before ending up back in Glasgow, where he played to the Radio 1 audience.

Sheeran insists he's ready for it: "The UK is a very unforgiving audience, like, if you mess up, people here will say, '£50 to go and see him? We probably shouldn't do that again.' So I want to come correct."

Ed Sheeran's X is released in the UK on 23 June.

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