Laid back and habitually dressed in a solid hoodie, you wouldn’t have guessed that Ed Sheeran can command a legion of loyal fans from adolescent girls to university crowds around the world. Sheeran’s not exactly the shiny boy band-type pop star that has tweens swooning while camped outside a venue hoping to score an autograph, yet that’s exactly the attention he’s been getting. Topping charts and more recently snagging a set of Brit Awards, the ginger haired Sheeran has unexpectedly become the new image of idolization.
What’s the journey been like writing your new album + and getting to tour it now?
It was quite a short journey recording the album. It took less than a month to do, but touring it has been amazing. I’ve been visiting places I’ve never been to before, seeing new cultures and new people and the way that people work. It’s been a great journey so far.
There’s a rap like quality to some of your songs. How did you develop that style of delivery?
I listen to a lot of hip-hop music. That’s influenced me.
What are some influences, past and present?
Past would be Eminem and Jay-Z. Present would be, I love Yelawolf. I think he’s great. Most of the UK guys – a guy called Devlin.
You did a few tracks with Yelawolf, right?
Yeah, I did four. I did an EP with him. It was good.
Do you notice that the audience can rap “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” back to you now?
Yeah, it can get quite off-putting when they get the lyrics wrong because if you’re looking at someone rapping and they get the lyrics wrong, then you get the lyrics wrong. I tend to just close my eyes and concentrate on getting it all out.
Is there a story behind the song “Drunk”?
I was on tour with a guy called Example and I discovered in England a drink that’s like a squash drink. Do you have that over here? It’s like Sunny D or something like that. If you put vodka in that, you don’t really taste the vodka. I discovered that and was drinking quite a bit of that in a Glasgow gig and the night kind of disappeared along with it. I woke up on the right side of the wrong bed and missed the tour bus.
The video for Lego House brilliantly depicts frightening obsession in a humorous way. Where did the idea come from?
Originally Rupert [Grint] was supposed to play me. The whole point of the video was supposed to confuse people thinking that Rupert had started his own music career and changed his name. So he was meant to be on the tour bus and the venue, writing lyrics and stuff, but just at the end, the director was like, why don’t you turn up at the end and it actually turns out that he’s just a freaky stalker? It came from that.
Do you get mistaken for Rupert Grint now?
No, and I didn’t before. I have friends who have friends with ginger hair that pretend to be me and get stuff for it. They get into clubs and VIP and girls and stuff like that. So, I think I’m helping the ginger community.
What’s your song-writing process like?
Any songwriter who says there’s a process is not a proper songwriter. You get people that structure music for it to be chart hit and I can do that all day long for you and write you pop hit after pop hit, but it wouldn’t have any substance and it wouldn’t be any good.
Songwriting, Gary [Lightbody] from Snow Patrol described it quite well the other day. He said people don’t have genius. They’re kind of given it and it can go away at any point. Songs are just weirdly enough, floating in the ether and sometimes when we’re sitting down, it’ll just come to us. You can go six months, seven months or a year without writing a song and sometimes it’ll just come to you at the most random times. You could be driving car or anything. Songs just come randomly. If you plan it too much, you’re not a songwriter. You’re just manufacturing music.
From when you first started performing up to now, has the way you prepare for a gig changed in any way?
No. I actually don’t do anything. I just do whatever then go on stage. There’s no preparation.
Does the energy of the audiences affect you?
Yeah. Artists will say that it doesn’t, but it does. My best shows have been when the crowds have been the best. You can put on a good show, but to put on an amazing show, you have to get something back.
Like that show where you decided to perform the whole set on top of a table.
Yeah, like that. That was a cool thing. And like, for instance, when I did Reading Festival, the tent was so packed, there was a security warning, but everyone was there happy and drunk and just up for it. By the time I came on stage, it just gives you extra energy. If you were to come out to just a couple of claps, it wouldn’t have been the same. It’s a weird thing.
Have you enjoyed the way the web has opened up communications between artist and fans?
I think it’s strong. If it didn’t exist I think we’d sell less records. Everyone downloads records illegally nowadays because they can and the only reason they are not going to is if they like you. So Internet is a way to show people that you’re actually a cool guy or that you’re a prick – either way. It’s good. You can keep in touch with them, answer their questions, give them free music.
Is there one site you’ve really embraced?
I guess Twitter. I didn’t even want Twitter to begin with. My producer set it up for me back in 2009 and then started tweeting for me and then I took over when I went on tour. I had like 100 followers for a year and then it started going up. Now I’ve got 2 million. I got Gary [Lightbody] of Snow Patrol to start it. He’d never tweeted before and he didn’t see a point to it. I got him to start doing it and now he’s addicted.
What do you have planned for the next few months down the road?