A few years after breaking into the international music scene with his debut single “A Team,” Ed Sheeran became one of the most recognizable singers of the decade—his hit “Shape of You” was possibly the favorite song of the first half of 2017. It’s easy to think that a guy like Sheeran has it all together, but the British songwriter is far from perfect—even revealing that becoming one of the world’s most famous pop stars brought him very close to losing everything.
After months of a non-stop touring schedule, Sheeran’s charm and charisma widely adored in his performances couldn’t make their way off the stage; he was an emotional mess, physically exhausted and searching for a way out. Sheeran turned to alcohol, began to loathe the nightly shows, and even remembers wanting to get off the stage the minute he reached it.
This dissonant lifestyle forced Sheeran to find respite from the craziness of being an international hitmaker. In 2016, the overworked Brit took a year off, focusing on the Ed that somehow fell through the cracks of fame.
During this much-needed break, Sheeran traveled all over the world—from Iceland to Italy, Japan, Fiji, and New Zealand—discovering the places around him that he had not known, the places that knew him and his music very well. After experiencing different atmospheres through this exotic exploration, Sheeran discovered the ability to appreciate what he does through a well-formulated perspective, developing a necessary balance to life as a star.
It was shortly after this year of adventure that Sheeran released his latest album, Divide, which has reached number one in 95 countries—several of which Sheeran visited on his journey.Divide became the fastest-selling album by a male artist in the United Kingdom, with ever track on the album reaching the top 20 of the UK Singles Chart during the album’s release week.
Divide depicts a vulnerable Sheeran, contemplating life through a more meaningful view. The singer recounts his years of youth in the song “Castle on the Hill,” and shares firsthand scenes from his hometown of Framlingham. One of the more personal moments on the album is found in the song “Nancy Mulligan,” in which Sheeran tells the story of how his grandparents fell in love in Ireland during World War II.
Even after hitting rock bottom, Sheeran steadfastly remains one of the biggest selling artists of our time, and his hit songs continue to climb the charts and are constantly in demand on streaming services and digital music platforms. It seems that he’s not going anywhere, especially when Sheeran’s most memorable song, “Thinking out Loud,” has become a standard song for weddings, often used for the first dance. He considers this song an illustration of how his downfall of imperfection is nothing that can’t be overcome.
“It’s nice because it kind of immortalizes the song in terms of like… even if I fall out of grace and no one listens to me anymore, there are couples everywhere that share that song, and that song will always exist in their life, even if it doesn’t exist in the public life.”