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Ed Sheeran hails BBC Introducing: ‘it’s hugely important’

Sheeran received his first radio play from the scheme, which is believed to be threatened by BBC cuts to local radio

By Nick Reilly

Ed Sheeran
(Picture: Rolling Stone UK)

Ed Sheeran has hailed BBC Introducing for its role in championing new artists, months after fears emerged over the future of the initiative.

BBC Introducing is the corporation’s platform to champion new musical talent and has played an integral role in launching the careers of acts such as Sheeran, George Ezra, Lewis Capaldi and Florence + The Machine.

Earlier this year, fears emerged that cuts to local BBC stations could impact the Introducing programme – with many artists receiving their first air play on regional stations as part of the scheme.

In an open letter to BBC chairman Richard Sharp published in January, figures such as Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust, Jon Collins, CEO of LIVE and the CEO of the Association of Independent Music, Silvia Montello – all said the scheme plays a “vital role” in supporting new musical talent in the UK.

Now, Sheeran has delivered arguably the most high-profile show of support for the platform.

Speaking to Rolling Stone UK behind the scenes of our latest digital cover, he explained how BBC Introducing had played an integral role in his career.

“I think shows like BBC Introducing are hugely, hugely important. That’s where I got my first radio play and support from. But I think also in regional towns the venues are super supportive, and it’s, you know, there’s lots of initiatives now to save grassroots venues and help home grown talent.”

He went on: “I think it’s a fact that, all of the top ten selling acts, bar people like Stormzy and Adele, are from outside of London. And it’s very important that we understand that in all countries, talent comes from all over the country, not just from the capital cities. So it’s good to keep the infrastructures that are there to help kids be found.”

Sheeran was speaking as he prepares to release ‘Subtract’, an Aaron Dessner-produced acoustic album that will dive into his personal grief, hope, and how he’s dealt with “fear, depression, and anxiety” through the last year. The album arrives May 5 via Atlantic.

“I had been working on Subtract for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be,” he wrote in the note. “Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art.”

Sheeran explained that early last year, his wife Cherry Seaborn was diagnosed with a tumour “with no route to treatment” until after their baby’s birth early last year and that his best friend Jamal Edwards had died tragically, all within a month. 

Speaking to Rolling Stone UK earlier this week, he added of Edwards’ death: “My best friend died. And he shouldn’t have done.”

He also found himself battling depression in the wake of Edwards’ death and his wife’s health issues, but sought therapy on Seaborn’s advice.

“No one really talks about their feelings where I come from,” he said. “People think it’s weird getting a therapist in England.… I think it’s very helpful to be able to speak with someone and just vent and not feel guilty about venting. Obviously, like, I’ve lived a very privileged life. So my friends would always look at me like, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad.’ ”

“The help isn’t a button that is pressed, where you’re automatically OK,” he added. “It is something that will always be there and just has to be managed.”