The English singer-songwriter is one of the highest-paid artists in the UK, has appeared on TV and film and worked with the biggest stars in the business, but what’s the secret to Ed Sheeran’s success?
Like many musicians, it took time to build momentum and get famous. Ed Sheeran was discovered after years of writing and releasing his own tracks. Eventually, he was signed to a label and recorded countless hit songs.
But there’s so much more to his fascinating climb from obscurity to become an international household name. Read on to find out all about Ed Sheeran’s career, family and exactly how he made it big.
How did Ed Sheeran get discovered?
He’s one of the most popular singer-songwriters in the UK. Known for his acoustic ballads, unique sound and great looping, Ed has collaborated with stars including Khalid, Chance the Rapper, CeeLo Green, Andrea Bocelli, Pharell Williams, Harry Styles and Justin Bieber.
He’s appeared in films playing himself in Yesterday, on the soap Home and Away and even had a cameo in the epic blockbuster TV series Game of Thrones. His biggest hit Thinking Out Loud, released in 2014, has been streamed 764 million times, while his videos have been watched 3.5 billion times on YouTube. He’s also won multiple awards including coveted Brits. But how did this all happen?
How did Ed Sheeran get famous?
Ed’s journey to stardom wasn’t an overnight success story. He paid his dues and spent a great deal of time gigging in small venues and busking on the streets of London. A self-starter, he began releasing his own work, eventually leading to his discovery. However, his journey as a musician began at a very young age.
Ed Sheeran’s childhood
Born in 1991 in Halifax, West Yorkshire, Ed grew up in Suffolk, following the family’s move there when he was young. Although English, his paternal grandparents were Irish and he has often expressed his affinity to the country – even sporting some Gaelic tattoos.
Ed certainly comes from an artistic family. His older brother Matthew is a classical composer, his father John was an art lecturer and his mother Imogen a jewellery designer with some famous clients – she once created a piece for the Duchess of Cambridge. His dad was very keen for Ed to find his calling, encouraging him at school and taking him to gigs. He says of his formative years:
“I was a typical teenager. Angry at life but with no reason to be. I had regular angst. But I look back and think it was a good time. As a teenager, my first dream was to make enough money from music to pay the rent and sell 100 CDs.”
Ed Sheeran’s schools
At the tender age of four, Sheeran started singing in a local church choir and took up the guitar in early childhood, while attending a private primary school. He then went on to the Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, a state school, where he began writing his own tunes. Ed started recording his music and independently released his first collection, Spinning Man in 2004. In 2005, he released The Orange Room, a four-track EP. It was at school he met and befriended Passenger, later gigging with him.
But Sheeran suffered from bullying because of his stutter – it was something he feared would hold him back (of course, it did nothing of the sort). He also struggled academically, something Ed has suggested may have been caused by ADHD. While he has never been diagnosed as having the condition, both Ed and his parents believe this to be the case. As a result, he left school in his mid-teens, moving to London in 2008.
Ed Sheeran’s influences
The artists he listened to during his childhood and teens had a lot of influence on the tracks he began writing. He cites fellow Brit artist Damien Rice as a huge inspiration when he heard and met him at an impressionable age. He told heat magazine:
“I was only about 11 or 12 years old when I saw Damien play at Whelan’s, and that night literally changed my life. The time he spent talking with me after the show made all the difference. It inspired me in a way that I only hope to do for someone else.”
As a youngster, he often listened to Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. And of course, friendships with leading, trailblazing artists like Stormzy have since impacted the evolution of his sound.
How did Ed Sheeran get started in music?
Once he arrived in the big smoke, he began playing small venues and busking.
In 2009 he released an EP, gaining some traction and enrolled on a music course at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. Yet, as Sheeran was never a fan of study environments he didn’t get on well there and wanted to leave after three weeks. While he did end up staying, he failed the course. He had a better experience when he enrolled at Access Creative College (where he is now a patron), on an Artist Development Course.
This period was far from easy. While he came from affluent family background, he was homeless for his first two and a half years in the city and slept rough outside Buckingham Palace before becoming famous, something he’s talked about in his autobiography. He’s also spoken and sung about some of the people he met on the streets during this period of his life.
The rise of Ed Sheeran
Sheeran says that he was far from a naturally talented vocalist, as you can hear in his conversations with chat show host Jonathan Ross.
But, after moving to London and spending time honing his skill, he became a regular on the local music circuits. As well as studying, he played over 300 gigs in just one year. Ed worked hard to produce two self-released albums including the EP, No. 5 Collaborations Project. In this time he started working with many up and coming grime artists such as Wiley, Ghetts, Wretch, Sketcha and Jme. All the time, he was building a fan base through streaming platforms and gaining followers on YouTube.
It was a gradual build, slow burn and involved a lot of groundwork, rather than being suddenly discovered by a label. It would take three more years of gigging and recording before Ed finally got his big break as a household name.
How did Ed Sheeran get so popular?
As he got better known on the gig circuit, Ed was asked to open for more established acts, like Nizlopi, the Noisettes and Jay Sean. As Sheeran was always good at combining his music with great videos – he eventually caught the attention of Example and he was asked to join him on the road.
After several years of hard work, and creating a buzz around his work, Ed finally became a household name around the world with his hit single, The A-Team. He landed a big break when he performed it on Later… with Jools Holland (a national TV show famous for showcasing exciting new up and coming talent, scouted from the gig circuits). The song sold 58,000 copies in a week, making the top ten in eight countries. Having a lot of celebrity fans helped spread his fame, in a culture where social media influencing plays a big part in marketing.
When did Ed Sheeran get signed?
He hit No. 1 on the iTunes chart before he ever signed with a record label. Sheeran was later snapped up by Asylum/Atlantic Records and released his album + (plus) in 2011 – seven years after he released his first piece of musical work. But he was well on his way to musical success by that point and has always been a self-made, self-driven musician.
In 2015 he set up his very own label, Gingerbread Man Records, in collaboration with Warner Music Group.
How did Ed Sheeran break into America?
Once he’d found success in the UK, Ed travelled to the US. The American actor, singer, comedian, presenter, and producer Jamie Foxx claims to have had a big input into Sheeran’s success over the pond. He was hosting a radio show in Los Angeles when Sheeran came to the station to promote his music to Foxx his music. He liked it so much, he offered for the musician to stay at his home for 6 weeks, so he could ‘break into’ America.
Ed Sheeran’s musical style
There have been some controversies in Sheeran’s writing though. He settled out of court when his song Photograph was found to have strong similarities to Matt Cardle’s Amazing. The Shape of You was also found to have elements of TLC’s No Scrubs. It’s hard to be completely original all the time when songwriting, as there’s so much out there already and influences can be subconscious, but writers should always be aware of plagiarism.
Ed’s guitar playing and looping is as renowned as his vocals. His original pedal was The Boss RC-30, but he’s since designed a custom setup that’s unique to him, enabling more complex effects and the creation of musical panoramas. His image is casual and suits his laid-back musical style – Sheeran frequently wears hoodies, jeans, t-shirts and skater trainers.
Ed Sheeran’s albums – past and future
Since being signed, he’s released three studio albums, one video album, and twenty music videos. He’s also notched up 97 music awards, including an American Music Award and Grammy. Ed’s a man with a plan and we can expect plenty more great music from him. His albums have been part of a larger design, as he told GQ Magazine:
“It’s a 15-record plan. The first five EPs then the first album + [Plus], then x [Multiply] and now ÷ [Divide]. There’ll be two more in this series of five albums and then five more after that”.
How does Ed Sheeran make his money?
Ed Sheeran’s daily pay in 2018 was around £47,000. What makes that even more remarkable, is that was a year in which he only released one song. So how is he generating such a high resting income?
He sells a lot of records. His + album is 6x Platinum and has sold over one million copies, and he regularly hits the top streamed artists of Spotify and iTunes. With this kind of success comes endorsement deals, appearances and tours, all of which are very lucrative. Check out the hint of his earnings in this interview.
Ed Sheeran’s net worth
He made the number 1 spot on Heat’s Rich List in 2019, with an estimated worth of £170 million, having sold over 150,000,000 records (and counting).
Ed Sheeran’s house
As you might expect from a star who’s loaded, Ed has a seriously impressive crib, he’s been gradually expanding it, by buying up a selection of neighbouring properties. He owns an entire estate named Wynneys Hall, in his home county of Suffolk. It has its own treehouse with country views, a hot tub, indoor swimming pool, garden pod, cinema and music studio connected to his main house via an underground tunnel. But when you’re this famous, privacy and seclusion is not only important but necessary.
In 2018 Ed famously married childhood sweetheart Cherry Seaborn, who was reportedly his muse for the hit song, Shape of You. Ed also has friends in high places. He parties with royals and even sports a scar he sustained after Princess Beatrice pretended to knight him while partying into the wee small hours at Windsor Castle. He’s also good mates with Taylor Swift, James Blunt, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston.
Ed Sheeran tour 2020
Fans are eagerly anticipating another tour after Ed took some time off from the road. There have been rumours of a few dates appearing on his schedule, but as yet nothing is planned. Keep an eye on his website and social media channels for updates, as any tickets will sell lightning fast.
Ed Sheeran social media
Ed has always been a canny social media user and it had much to do with his rise to fame. But he has been known to ditch it, along with his smartphone, for periods of time, in favour of a simpler, more connected life. As he has a management and marketing machine behind him, he doesn’t need to be plugging his work himself on these platforms. But it’s sometimes worth taking a leaf out of his book and reducing your time online, or taking breaks from social. You can pre-schedule posts on Hootsuite or a similar social media management tool, so you can stay active while having an online rest.
If you’re a huge Ed Sheeran fan (and let’s face it, who isn’t), you can read more about the finer details of this global megastar’s life, challenges and high points, in his enlightening autobiography, A Visual Journey.
- What charities does Ed Sheeran support?
A strong voice for charities, Ed likes to give back by supporting Centrepoint, the youth homeless organization, the Teenage Cancer Trust for which he played a benefit at Royal Albert Hall, East Anglia Children’s Hospices and regularly donates large amounts of personal items and clothing to local charity shops.
- How many instruments can Ed Sheeran play?
In addition to his vocals and writing prowess, Ed plays piano, bass, drums and cello, as well as guitar (his favourite guitars are named Lloyd, Felix, Cyril, and Nigel.) Playing a variety of instruments helps in the music creation process and makes you more versatile as an artist.
- What makes Ed Sheeran special?
Ed’s personality shines through his music. His use of loop pedals makes for a very interesting sound and he writes catchy, accessible tunes. But he’s also great at conveying emotion, communicating and speaking to people through his lyrics and performances.
Would you like to get famous like Ed Sheeran? Have you self-released tracks on iTunes or Spotify? Post links to them in the comments below.