Last week, pop star Ed Sheeran made a different kind of appearance, defending himself in court against accusations of plagiarism. “Obviously, I’m very pleased with the outcome of the case,” he said Thursday in New York, “and it looks like I won’t have to leave my day job after all.”
The lawsuit alleged that he copied parts of Marvin Gaye’s 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On” from his Grammy Award-winning song “Thinking Out Loud.”
When Sunday Morning spoke to Sheeran outside the court outside his home in England, his representatives did not want him to talk about the case.
Doan asked Sheeran, “What’s it like as an artist, as a creator?”
“I just think it comes with the territory,” he replied, then referred to a publicist off-screen. “Glenn is getting nervous! But the four chords used in pop songs…Glenn, honestly, it’s fine!”
“There are four chords that are used in pop songs,” Sheeran continued. “And if you think about it mathematically, the probability that this song will have chords like this song? There are several, several songs. It’s still the same four chords – some of them look like A, B, C…” Then Sheeran turned his attention off camera again. “Dude, I’m a musician. I can talk about it.
“You’re going to get that with every single pop song from now on,” Sheeran declared, “unless it just stops, and I don’t think it’s going to, because of the big-money lawsuits.” But, for example, you can only be caught if you have done something wrong. And I’m not. I didn’t do anything wrong. I used four chords that are very common.”
Doan asked, “Are you cool?”
“Yeah. Yeah. It just pisses me off, man.”
The verdict wasn’t the only good news for Sheeran last week. His new album, Subtract, released on Friday, has been praised by critics.
You can stream Ed Sheeran’s Subtract playlist on YouTube by clicking the embed button below.
Interestingly, it was not the record that the 32-year-old planned to release. “I had to scrap ten years of work to replace them with a month’s work,” he said.
Doan asked, “Explain this: You’ve written all these songs, you’re planning a completely different album, and then life happens and you change course?”
He describes the process in a new documentary series on Disney+ called Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All.
Sheeran said: “My wife went for a scan and they found a tumor and she was six months pregnant. And I wrote a bunch of songs about it…”
Emotions are running high in the waiting room now
I worry about my lover, and I worry about the child
A part of me has always been in denial
It will take some time
In our story, loving, loved
We are glorious
Sycamore by Ed Sheeran
“Then, about a week later, my best friend died. And so I wrote a bunch of songs about what…”
I envisioned this month a little differently, no one is ever ready
And when it unfolds, you fall into a hole, oh, how can it be so hard?
Everything changes, nothing was the same, only the truth is that now you are gone
And life just goes on
“Eyes Closed” by Ed Sheeran
At the same time, he was at the center of an earlier copyright case, which he also won. “And then I got into this really, really public, high-profile court case where you get yelled at every day and called a liar and a thief and so on. So I was writing about, fear, or depression, or anxiety, or all of those things that were wrapped up at the time, and that’s what the songs ended up being about.”
The result was an abbreviated return to singer-songwriter Sheeran’s roots. It’s a departure from the string of polished pop hits that made him one of the world’s best-selling artists.
At the Kings Theater in Brooklyn, New York, about an hour before taking the stage for the sold-out debut of his new album, Sheeran looked visibly relaxed. “I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin,” he said. “I know who I am and what I do.”
“The lyrics in some of these songs seem to paint a different picture no so comfortable in your skin?” Doan asked.
“Yes. But it’s human; you’re talking to an artist now. An artist who can stand on stage in front of 110,000 people in Melbourne is not the same person who has anxiety, insecurity and depression. And yes, it’s not the same same man. You put on a cape, I think, and go i can entertain you and that’s good. But what if I was offstage all the time? It’s terrible. You’re just this selfish maniac going around!”
The British musician has been selling out stadiums during his “Mathematics” tour, which just started in the US. Part of what makes Ed Sheeran such a successful performer is his willingness to reveal that human side.
Doan asked, “Draw you as a child?”
“Really small,” he said. “I had red hair. I had big rose colored glasses. I stammered. This was before I was in music, so I didn’t have anything spectacular to offer and I was just weird.’
“You’re thinking about that kid, are you?”
“All the time. Yes. I think it’s crazy.”
Sheeran opened up about his weight issues: “I keep my weight under control now because I do a lot of exercise, but I’ve always been a fat guy,” he said.
– You are not fat!
“Well, I know, because I keep it under control. This morning I practiced for, like, an hour and a half. And I’m going to be on stage for another two hours today. Like, I make sure I eat a lot, exercise, and try not to overeat “.
He is open about this struggle, to some extent. “I just don’t want it to turn into a poster boy, you know?” he said. “I think it’s important to talk about it so people know it’s not just a gender issue.”
By “it,” he means bulimia. Showing that kind of vulnerability can take a certain level of confidence, which is evident when Sheeran takes the stage.
Doan said: “That ego that a performer has to have – where did it come from in your case?”
“Surprisingly, nobody cares,” Sheeran replied. “I guess I developed it from the age of 15, playing in rooms where I was mostly ignored. I don’t know if you walked into a bar and there was a kid like that hey guys this song is good listen to it would you be like Good.”
His songs are good, if we talk about 150 million albums. A single from his new album about the death of his friend topped the charts, giving Sheeran his third UK No.1 hit, behind Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
“It’s a really personal song for you,” Doan said.
“Yeah, all my albums are super personal,” Sheeran said. “They all reflect where I am at the time, and it’s more uncomfortable, I think.”
Sheeran refers to this “awkward” period lyrically as “The End of Youth.”
We spend our youth with arms and hearts wide open
and then darkness comes, and that is the end of youth
I’ve been lost since I was a teenager, but I pretended everything was fine
All my highs led to lows that led to suicide attempts
Just a boy in the beginning, they borrowed like men
You should have been my friend, not take what you can.
The End of Youth by Ed Sheeran
Doan asked, “Is this an autobiography?”
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” he said. “But then again, it’s like it’s uncomfortable to talk about these things in an interview because you don’t necessarily want the whole world to know everything that’s going on in your head all the time. But then when you write songs about things and you then release songs, you have to give them context.”
Music helps him work, and at home, on the English coast, he finds perspective.
Doan asked, “How concerned are you with what is written and what is said about your work, about the album?”
“I mean, I used to care a lot,” Sheeran replied, “because I’ve been trying to be successful all my life. But you won’t always be everything to everyone. Like, I’ve never been like that, But I don’t know. I think it’s more difficult to write pop music than any other kind of music.”
Critics’ opinions may change, but Sheeran is steadfast when it comes to the value of a good pop song. “Songwriting doesn’t always have to be really introspective and emotional,” he said. “Sometimes something, for example, can just be fun. For example, ‘Shape of You’ is just a fun song. Nobody listens to ‘Shape of You’ and thinks about their life. They’re just like, ‘Oh, I’m just like, I really like this song. I really like to dance to her.
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The plot was prepared by Michael Buffon. Editor: Stephen Tyler.