Chart-slaying singer-songwriter, Wembley-conquering solo artist and... Barbie doll owner? As Ed Sheeran releases new album '÷', we dig out a half century of nuggets about Britain's most surprising superstar
1. He names his guitars
They are: Lloyd, Felix, Cyril, Trevor, Keith, Nigel and the one that does battle re-creations at weekends, James The Second.
2. He took the swearing off ‘x’ because a cab driver told him to
‘X’ originally had the odd expletive dotted about, but ended up entirely cuss-free. “I took all of the explicit lyrics out after a taxi driver convinced me to do it for his daughter,” Sheeran revealed.
3. He has a cultured family
His dad John is an art historian, his mum Imogen designs jewellery and his brother Matthew is a classical composer. What went wrong, Ed?
4. Ed’s cat has more Twitter followers than you and all your friends put together
In 2014, Sheeran created a Twitter account for his kitten, Graham, who notched up 71,000 followers almost overnight by sitting on a guitar, demanding milk and proudly telling the world every time he shat the bed. Follow him @GrahamShizza.
5. His second album leaked – and no one noticed
When music from ‘x’ appeared online unexpectedly, Sheeran feared he’d blown his big comeback. Except no one could tell they were his songs and the leak went by virtually unnoticed.
6. He previewed new album ‘÷’ to half of Westeros
“I ended up going to a party where a lot of the Game Of Thrones lot were at,” he told Radio 1. “They all ended up back at my house. I’d never met some of them before and said: ‘Do you want to hear some of my songs?’”
7. He won’t be claiming the Iron Throne himself
For some years, Game Of Thrones producers have been trying to get Sheeran to make a cameo appearance, following in the footsteps of Coldplay drummer Will Champion and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody. But schedules were against him. “Every time they shoot I’m on tour,” he told The Sun.
8.Benedict Cumberbatch wouldn’t dance in his video
The Cumberbatch had agreed to do hip-hop dancing in the video for ‘Sing’ but his US agent vetoed it as, according to Sheeran,“It’s not right for him right now.”
9. Elton John made him release ‘Sing’
Initially the uncharacteristically upbeat R&B track, co-written with Pharrell Williams, wasn’t going to be on ‘x’ at all, until Elton John heard it at their joint management company’s office and told him: “That’s your first single.”
10. He dines with the stars
“I had Van Morrison take me for breakfast and tell me he loved me,” he told Radio X. “And I’ve had Eric Clapton come to my house for dinner – I’ve gone to his house for dinner and he tells me that he likes my music.”
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11. He missed the northern lights because he’d boiled his foot
We all know about the scar he received when Princess Beatrice was ‘knighting’ James Blunt, but Sheeran also managed to melt the skin off his foot when he stepped in a mountain geyser in Iceland on his 25th birthday. “They were like, ‘Don’t walk over there!’ Then I just slipped,” he told the Vodafone Big Top 40. “I couldn’t walk for a couple of months… It was disgusting when they put the skin graft on. The skin has to heal over it. It was bad.”
12. His music is a passion-killer for his cousin
“She’s not too keen,” Sheeran told Shoboy radio. “She gets brought back and wooed by guys, they put me on to set the mood and she goes: ‘I’m not gonna get off to my cousin.’”
13. Drum ’n’ bass icon Goldie is his financial advisor
“As soon as stuff started to go well,” Sheeran revealed, “Goldie rang me up and goes, ‘don’t be a c**t, buy a f**kin’ house!’”
14. He once received a hair cake from a fan
Pop star rule number one: never eat the edible gifts. As Sheeran found to his cost when he cut into a cake sent to himby a fan, only to find it was full of hair.
15. He has a plan to escape WWIII
Sheeran claims that he’s enquired about gaining New Zealand citizenship because, “If a world war breaks out… no one is going to be bothered to come that far to invade.”
16. He has colours for all of his songs
“All my songs have colours,” he’s said. “‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’, for example, is aubergine.”
17. He’s a second cousin of Gordon Burns, presenter of ’80s game show The Krypton Factor
“I only found out when I played Manchester Apollo,” he told the Guardian. “That’s when I met him. I’m second cousins with about 100 people.”
18. He almost changed his name to Redward
He considered a name change “for a fresh start”. His choice? “Redward. Edward with an ‘R’. As in Jedward, who came along afterwards.”
19. He doesn’t answer ‘unknown number’ phone calls
It’s because he received “quite a few death threats” when he first made waves in 2011.
20. He’s anti-smartphone
During his year away from music, travelling the world to visit countries he’d toured but never seen very much of, he ditched his iPhone and never wanted to go back to it. “I enjoy life without a phone – it’s a lot less hassle,” he said.
21. He once got a Barbie doll for his birthday
It was a gift from his brother. He definitely didn’t ask for it. Absolutely not.
22. He was born to soundtrack The Hobbit
When Sheeran was asked to write a song for Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, it was the culmination of a life-long fascination with Tolkien’s classic story. His grandfather’s first edition of the novel was the first book that Sheeran’s father ever read to him.
23. Peter Jackson strapped him to a plane
As soon as he got the call about The Hobbit from Jackson, Sheeran raced from a wedding in Ibiza to Wellington, New Zealand, where the director keeps his collection of WWI airplanes. “He strapped me to the front of one of them and flew me around,” Sheeran told Entertainment Tonight.
24. Nando’s made a sauce for him
After he posed for a photo holding what’s believed to be a mythical Nando’s black card, allowing him free food from their restaurants whenever he likes, the peri-peri chicken chain went one further and created a special ‘Ed’s Peri-Peri Sauce’ with his face on.
25. Pizza express made him a tribute pizza
For his 26th birthday, Pizza Express created the Ed-Abrese, a birthday pizza ‘cake’ made from Calabrese ingredients.
26. His video for ‘the A-Team’ cost £20
It paid for fishnet stockings and a crack pipe.
27. He’s tattoo bros with Harry Styles
They have matching Pingu tattoos. Hard-nut Sheeran went for the full portrait while soft-boy Styles just had the name done.
28. Harry Styles is blackmailing him
Styles has a video of a young Ed performing in a school production of Grease, and he’s threatened to publish if Sheeran upsets him.
29. He’s a Fresh Prince fanatic
When Sheeran occasionally drops the rap from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air into his songs onstage, it’s just a hint of his obsession with Will Smith’s ’90s show – he’s even had a tattoo in honour of it. Although, that said, Sheeran has had so many tattoos he’s probably got one about Celebs Go Dating on there somewhere.
30. He spent a week sleeping on the Circle Line…
For a week during his much talked-about homeless years in London, Sheeran would finish gigs, stay up drinking into the early hours, wait until 5am for the tube to open and then get four hours’ sleep on the Circle Line.
31. …and at Buckingham Palace
Well, in a stone archway outside, handily fitted with a heating vent. Three years later he’d made it inside the palace, playing for the Queen at her Diamond Jubilee party.
32. He obsessively tracks his sales
After every media appearance, Sheeran leaps online to check how the publicity has affected his sales. “It’s just because I’ve never been good at anything before,” he told The Big Issue. “I never won anything at sports, any academic award. This is the only thing in my life that I can win at. Unless Adele’s about, obviously.”
33. He was discovered by Jamie Foxx
The first of Sheeran’s numerous big breaks came when he landed a slot on Jamie Foxx’s radio show in LA. He ended up hanging out in Foxx’s Hollywood mansion as the major labels began circling.
34. He could nail Strictly
Ed took two ballroom dancing teachers on tour with him for three weeks and spent five hours a day practising for the ‘Thinking Out Loud’ video, which has racked up a staggering 1.5 billion YouTube views.
35. He’s considering making ‘-’, an acoustic record
If he continues with his mathematically themed album titles, the next will have to be ‘-’, which he’s thought about making a stripped-back affair on which he’ll “take away from the production”.
36. He can fit a lot of stuff in his mouth
A video of a teenage Sheeran online proves that he can stuff a grand total of 40 Maltesers in his mouth before gagging.
37. His teenage years were tough
He grew up with a perforated eardrum, a squint, a stutter and a port-wine birthmark (later lasered off) around one eye.
38. He’s a great date
He once flew halfway around the world to spend an afternoon with a girl he fancied.
39. Robbie Williams worries about him
Backstage at a German awards show, Robbie Williams bowled into his dressing room for an agony uncle session. “He chatted to me for two hours,” Sheeran told New Zealand’s FVM radio station. “Really intense chatting, like, ‘Are you OK? Are you doing any drugs? How’s the stress level? How are relationships?’”
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40. He wrote a song at a funeral
‘Afire Love’ from ‘x’ was dedicated to his Irish Catholic grandfather who suffered from Alzheimer’s for 20 years before his death in 2013. Sheeran finished writing the song at his funeral.
41. He’s been in two sitcoms and a soap
They are: New Zealand comedy Shortland Street, US sitcom Undateable and Aussie soap Home And Away.
42. His acting needed special help
In the film Bridget Jones’s Baby, actor Sarah Solemani wanted him to look more taken aback during their scene, so she surprised him by stripping off and dancing in her underwear.
43. He helps people have sex
“A cousin of mine went on a girls’ trip,” Sheeran’s said. “They were in a bar and a dude came up saying, ‘Do you wanna come back to mine? I’ve got a song on the radio – my name’s Ed Sheeran.’ Apparently it works for him. There’s loads of ginger people who are having a lot of fun. I’m not hating on it – we’re finally getting laid!”
44. He made a fantastic Gingerbread Man at Halloween
Before he named his record label Gingerbread, Sheeran had dressed as the Gingerbread Man from Shrek on Halloween in 2013.
45. He’s written a song about an A-list love triangle
‘Don’t’, from Sheeran’s second studio album ‘x’, is alleged to be about him, Ellie Goulding and One Direction’s Niall Horan. Ed himself told Fuse the song “opened up a door that I probably shouldn’t have opened up… I just won’t say who it’s about because… I mean everyone, everyone f**king knows anyway.”
46. He’s written for everyone and their dog
You’ll be aware of his writing credits for One Direction and Taylor Swift, but Sheeran has also penned songs for The Weeknd, Jessie Ware, Rudimental, Usher, Justin Bieber, Major Lazer, Hillary Duff, Robbie Williams, Olly Murs…
47. He bought Jordan from Rizzle Kicks a Rolex for his birthday
And Jordan lost it.
48. His body is a Memento of his career
Almost all of Sheeran’s many tattoos have some link to his career thus far. One inking marks his first single ‘The A-Team’, another his single ‘Bloodstream’. He even has a Lego head tattoo as a nod to ‘Lego House’, but sadly no full-face portrait of Rupert Grint on his arse.
49. He was GQ’s Worst Dressed Man in 2013
“I still wear skater hoodies, jeans and skater shoes,” he told the men’s style mag.
50. He’s working to a 15-album maximum profit plan
“The first five EPs, then the first album ‘+’, then ‘x’ and now ‘÷’. There’ll be two more in this series of five albums and then five more after that,” he’s explained. “My benchmark for the second album was Coldplay. This album [‘÷’], it’s Springsteen… I do have numerical targets. I did 14 million of ‘x’ and I want to do 20 million of ‘÷’… It’s the best album I could have made, so why not want to win? Why not want to sell 20 million?”