Ed Sheeran’s album + has sold more than 2m copies around the world, but he hasn’t forgotten what helped him in the early stages, as he tells Andy Welch
Ed Sheeran’s story is an endearingly old-fashioned one. To the casual observer, the 21-year-old’s ‘journey’ from bedroom obscurity to 100,000 first-week sales of his debut album ‘+’ was something of an overnight sensation.
In reality, Sheeran started seriously planning his rise to stardom when he was just 16.
Having first picked up a guitar when he was 10 or 11, by the age of 16 Sheeran had released his first EP, the Orange Room. He followed this with four more self-released EPs, two albums (2006’s Ed Sheeran and Want Some? in 2007) and, in 2008, a move to London to concentrate on playing live shows. He performed 312 shows in 2009, and the rest is history.
This year might see him win his first Grammy (his song The A Team is up for Best Song) and he’s currently on an extensive tour which is taking him across America.
However, he hasn’t forgotten his roots and, when the Youth Music Theatre (YMT) invited him to be an ambassador, he didn’t hesitate for a moment.
The organisation was founded in 2003 and offers training and development for up to 1,000 11- to 21-year-olds each year. It aims to offer talented young people a bridge between school or local music theatre and formal training at drama school.
Were you involved in youth music theatre when you were younger?
Yes, I did it for one summer when I was 16.
What attracted you to it?
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I’d done quite a lot of acting at school, more acting than I had music. It seemed like an opportunity to choose which I was more serious about.
And when did you decide?
After I’d been in the play, actually. I was in a production of Frankenstein, and afterwards, I just thought to myself that it was time to get serious about music.
What did you think when you were asked to be a patron?
I was asked about two months ago, and I didn’t need to think about saying yes. I probably don’t know a great deal about theatre, but it’s always important to help inspire young kids if you can. When I was involved myself, I found that even more important than the actual acting was the relationships that I formed. YMT brings out people’s talents, and confidence, and if you’re an artistic person you might not end up going to university. One of the main things of uni is meeting people and getting confidence, so here’s a chance to do help with that.
Is that the best thing about YMT?
I’d say it’s even more important than the theatre part. I made great friends when I joined, and I still keep in touch with them. I learned a lot, it’s really important.
What advice would you give to someone going to an audition?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the part. Plus, you can try again. And let’s be honest: being tense isn’t going to help deliver the best audition.
You’re touring the US at the moment. What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
We’re touring till September, so going right through.
And you’ve got Rizzle Kicks supporting you in the states?
Yes, they’re great. They’re coming back out on the road with us in a couple of weeks. I love touring with them.
Are you having much time to write your second album?
I’ve done a fair bit. I’ve written 26 songs for the next album. It’ll be released in early 2014, at the earliest. I want to have a couple of months off at the end of the year at least. This tour is so long.