By Jenna Wos, Staff Writer
Under an arch outside London’s Buckingham Palace, a red-headed teenager makes his home for the night. Keeping warm by sitting under a heating duct, he scribbles the words “It’s not a homeless life for me, it’s just I’m home less than I’d like to be.”
With hair matted on the side of his head from lack of showering, he grabs his bottle of alcohol and his guitar and moves on to his next stop underground. He sleeps on the train, goes to a session, sweats on stage, drinks and sleeps on the train.
Years later he is back at Buckingham Palace, but in a situation that couldn’t be further removed from his days of sleeping outside. At the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert in 2012, Ed Sheeran performs in front of thousands of fans.
“At 16 years old, yeah, I moved out of my home. I was Macy Gray, I tried to say goodbye and I choked. Went from sleeping at a subway station to sleeping with a movie star and adding to the population.”
In his song, “Take it Back,” Sheeran raps about his life before stardom and how it shaped him and his attitude. This and many other songs, all strung together with clever lyrics, allow his listeners to learn about his history and habits.
Growing up in Framlingham, Suffolk, England, Sheeran comes from a background in art. His father, John Sheeran, is an art curator, his mother, Imogen Lock, a jewelry designer, and his older brother, Matthew Sheeran, a post-graduate music student and classical composer.
Sheeran began playing guitar at a young age and writing and recording music in 2005, when he released his first independent EP. In 2008, he moved to London and began playing shows in small venues and making connections.
“I didn’t have anywhere to live for much of 2008 and the whole of 2009 and 2010, but somehow I made it work… I’d go out and play a gig, wait until 5 a.m., when the underground opened, sleep on the Circle Line until 12, go to a session, and then repeat. It wasn’t that bad. It’s not like I was sleeping rough on the cold streets,” he said in his new book, “Ed Sheeran: A Visual Journey.”
In 2010, Sheeran flew to Los Angeles to play a poetry night. He continued playing open mic nights around the city and was eventually spotted by Jamie Foxx at his club, the Foxxhole. Foxx offered Sheeran his recording studio and a bed at his home for the rest of his stay.
Sheeran released two more independent EP’s that year, and his fan-base grew thanks to YouTube.
In 2011, Sheeran signed with Asylum/Atlantic Records. Today, at age 23, he is headlining his own tour across North America and Europe.
“See the flames inside my eyes, they burn so bright…” Standing solo at center stage in the heart of the arena, he belts out the lyrics to his opening song, “I’m a Mess,” and strums powerfully on his acoustic guitar. As fiery as his red hair, passion blazes from Sheeran as he performs.
Wearing a hoodie, jeans and sneakers, he is surrounded by two standing microphones, two acoustic guitars, one electric guitar and a loop pedal- a device that allows him to record sounds and play them on a loop, whether it be a guitar riff or vocals. Recording harmonies with his voice, melodies, and beats by playing or drumming on his guitar, he is an astounding one-man show.
“For four years I never had a place to stay, but it’s safe to say that it kept me grounded like a paperweight,” he sings in “Take it Back.”
Lyrics like this show Sheeran’s feelings towards his life and career and how determined he has been and continues to be. With his latest album, “X,” read as “multiply,” his work includes four albums, four EPs, and one collaboration project with various artists.
With a huge repertoire- from acoustic and folk to R&B and hip-hop- Sheeran’s music, poetry, and British accent come together to create unique songs fueled by his past.