Flame-haired singer/songwriter, beatboxer, and guitarist Ed Sheeran’s eclectic blend of acoustic pop, folk, and hip-hop has been championed by everyone from the underground grime scene to American Oscar winners. Born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England in 1991, Sheeran released his first EP, The Orange Room, while still at school, and his first two albums — his self-titled debut and Want Some — by the age of 16. After moving to London to gain more live experience, his performance of the self-penned “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You” on YouTube channel SB.tv gained half-a-million viewers and attracted the attention of actor/R&B star Jamie Foxx, who invited him to appear on his Los Angeles Sirius radio show.
Securing a deal with Elton John’s management company, he supported Example on his U.K. tour and, after signing with Atlantic, became just the third artist to score a Top 75 album purely on download sales, when his No. 5 Collaborations project, a star-studded seven-track EP featuring Wiley, JME, and Devlin, charted at number 47 in 2011. That same year he released the Loose Change EP (which featured the smash hit single “The A Team”) and his major-label debut studio album + (“Plus”). + was a massive hit, selling over a million copies in the U.K. alone in just six months, and charting high in many other countries, including the U.S., where it peaked at number five. Sheeran then went about boosting his profile, co-writing songs for One Direction and Taylor Swift. He toured the U.S. with Swift on her massive 2013 arena tour, and saw his song, “I See Fire,” featured in the closing credits of the hit movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
By the end of 2013, Sheeran had shifted his focus from performing to recording his sophomore album, with Rick Rubin and Pharrell producing. In keeping with the mathematical theme, the album was titled X (“Multiply”). Appearing in June 2014, X encompassed his acoustic/hip-hop hybrid sound, but it also had an R&B feel in places, along with straight-ahead pop. The record debuted at number one on both the U.K. and U.S. charts, reached gold or platinum status in 15 countries, and the singles for “Sing” and “Thinking Out Loud” both topped the British charts. The following year, X won British Album of the Year at the 2015 Brit Awards, with Sheeran winning British Male Solo Artist. The year was a huge success for his live performances, too: he landed an opening slot for the Rolling Stones at one of their U.S. arena concerts, and went on to completely sell-out three dates at London’s Wembley Stadium, which was documented for an exclusive NBC special. He continued to win awards while promoting X, most notably at the 2015 MTV Europe Music Awards, where he was awarded Best Live Act, and the 2016 Grammy Awards Ceremony, where he won Song of the Year and Best Solo Pop Performance. Later that year, X was declared the second internationally best-selling album of 2015. After a year-long hiatus, Sheeran posted a cryptic tweet in December of 2016, hinting that new music was around the corner. Early in 2017, he released two singles, “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You,” and their parent album ÷ (“Divide”) appeared that March. It topped the pop charts in over 20 territories, including the U.K. and U.S. ~ Jon O’Brien