With his thick crop of ginger hair Ed Sheeran looks more like he’s stepped straight out of early 90s Grange Hill, than the super-talented singer he is; only the guitar strapped to his back gives the secret away.
Truth is, Ed has been writing music since he was fourteen years old. He moved to London two years ago and in that time he has done a couple of gigs (312 in 2009 alone), met a few people and won the East Anglia Next Big Thing competition. After recently releasing his 5th solo project, the Loose Change EP (an eclectic fusion of R&B and Folk), I caught up with him to talk about song-writing, moving to The City and being a bit of a musical misfit…
Soulside Funk: The Loose Change EP was recently released, what were you trying to go for or say with it?
Ed Sheeran: Song-writing wise I was trying to write something different, without being love songs. There’s two love songs on there but I think they’re quite a different theme of love, not ‘I love you’ but ‘you buy me chips and cheese.’ I tried to go for different themes, like The A Team, which is about a woman from a homeless shelter and Homeless which is about a time when I was outside Buckingham Palace just sleeping because I had no where to stay so I thought fuck it I’ll write some songs.
I also wanted to do something completely different production wise to the last EP. The last EP (You Need Me) was full band and not a lot of people were keen on that, they were sort of like “oh I don’t know what you were trying to go for there because you should be a loop pedal person.” So with this EP I was just sort of saying I’m going to do something different as well this time, I’m not going to do what they want me to do so I did something with a Hip-Hop producer and made a different sound. It’s worked and people like it.
SSF: So is that something you are always trying to do, to go against the grain and do things people don’t really expect you to?
ES: Not really, I’m not trying to go against the grain, I just want to do what I want to do and I want achieve certain things and do certain sounds just to make sure that I’ve done them. The next EP is going to be a folk one and the one after that is going to be a collaboration with a lot of MCs so I just want to make different sounds but that’s not for me trying to be different it’s just what I want to do.
SSF: Thinking about you and your song writting, your only 19 where do you draw your experiences from?
ES: I moved out of home two and a bit years ago and I’ve done quite a lot in that short space of time. Living on my own, gigging every night, meeting so many different people… in two years you can, well two years in London that is, have quite a good outlook on life.
But also I have been song-writing from sort of day one and its all evolved with time and how to gain experience and inspiration from random things. I mean I could go home and write song about us eating pasta and it might work.
SSF: What is it that drew you to song-writing in the 1st instance?
ES: I could say something clichéd like it was the only way to express my feelings but it wasn’t. I really really really like music and I love listening to good music and I just wanted to create some to share with other people. At first it didn’t really work and most of my songs were pretty awful and then it sort of evolved and it’s a nice way to live and make a living. It’s fun. It’s good
SSF: Do you still feel your getting better with each record you’re putting out now?
ES: Not really I mean I wouldn’t say I’ve written my best song yet and every time I think I’ve written a good song afterwards I’ll probably write three shit ones and another good one. It’s gradually getting there; I mean the songs are improving but it’s not like it goes from shit song to good song easily there’s a lot of things that are chucked out in between.
SSF: Do you think you could have achieved what you achieved now from Ipswich or do you think you had to be in London?
ES: I think I had to be in London which is why I dropped out of school. If I had stayed for the two years of A Level I would have been coming out at age 18 thinking, “now I’m going to move to London.” Because I moved out earlier and started it earlier it gave me more of a head start. The scene is here and this is where everyone makes it and everyone is. It is important they see you and I think it’s good
SSF: Talking about the school thing, in a few of your songs you mention that you did not go to Uni and you still managed to achieve what you wanted. Is that something you feel personal to you?
ES: It’s definitely personal to me and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else because there is quite a struggle involved. You do have to be quite hard working and be focused on what you want to do. I think university is good for some people but a lot of people go to Uni not knowing what they want to do when they come out of University and I think if you know what you want to do before you go to Uni then why go to University, you can just make it…
If I was a photographer I wouldn’t go to photography school. I would become someone’s helper at age 16 and work my way up. If I wanted to be involved in film I’d drop out of school 16 go and work on a film set and work my way up as a runner. There’s a guy I know in a record label who was a tea guy then worked up to junior A&R, then to Senior A&R and now he’s become the MD of the whole label. He didn’t need Uni to get where he wanted to go, it’s just experience
SSF: When you moved to London and all the experiences you had when you got here, what were the key turnings points for you?
ES: I think doing so many shows. It might have hindered me in some ways, because I did so many of them, [but] I’ve honed in the show and now I’m comfortable playing in front of any sort of audience. I think the main thing about being here is just the people you meet, the main steps in my career have been down to just random people that I either gig with or played for. Like the Just Jack tour wouldn’t have come about if I didn’t move above a pub where the guy that ran the night was friends with Just Jack ya know it was it all fitted together.
SSF: Talking of the Just Jack tour, you did over gigs 300 last year, which was your favourite?
ES: Shepherds Bush Empire… easily [on the Just Jack tour]
SSF: Which is the second favourite?
ES: I did a headline slot at Norwich Arts Centre which was pretty much sold capacity, about 260 people who all knew my music so that was really really nice. Cool gig actually, really really cool
SSF: Is there anything you still want to do with your live show, develop it any further?
ES: I’ve just put a band together. I’ve got a seven piece band that are going to be playing for me and we’re going to be practicing very soon. So that’s the next step but I want to get the loop-pedal in with the band so you can play with both. The next step is obviously gigging with a band and I’d like to see how people react because there might be some strong disagreeing…
SSF: What disagreeing reaction do you think you may get?
ES: ‘Oh you don’t need a live band…’ ‘You need to carry on doing it yourself…’ ‘Why are you doing this?…’ blah blah blah. I mean it’s happened to some of my friends who’ve got bands and everyone’s complained but in the end evolving with your music is the main thing and I can’t stay on the loop pedal forever. I think it’s the best thing to do
SSF: I’ve noticed you have been getting a lot of attention from urban scene even though you’re coming from more of a folk background, does that feel weird for you?
ES: I didn’t expect it at all but I think the reason I am getting so much attention is because I am from the folk-ish background. The urban scene haven’t really been in that [the folk scene] I haven’t really been in the urban scene so it’s a definitive fish out of water but it’s really fitting well and people seem to get what I do a bit more than the folk scene so it’s nice
SSF: So what is it within the folk scene that they don’t seem to get about you?
ES: I think they’ve seen it all before. I think what I do is original and it is different but if I was put in front of 400 folk fans and 400 Hip-Hop fans I’d be interested to see what the reaction would be.
SSF: Me too actually… so to finish up, what’s next on the agenda for Ed Sheeran?
ES: I’ve got another EP coming out with a singer/song writer called Leddra Chapman. It’s just a folk EP. Then I’m going to LA to do some song-writing with some people. Then I’m off to Toronto. Then I’m back and I’ve got a single coming out May 17th on Island. It’s all good.
The Loose Change EP is available now on iTunes