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Ed Sheeran wanted Jay-Z to guest on ‘Shape of You’

And nine other things we learned from his cover-story interviews, from his sword injury to the animated musical he's working on

By Brian Hiatt

(Photo: Liz Collins for Rolling Stone)

Ed Sheeran was ready to reveal all in his interviews for his latest Rolling Stone cover story, digging deep on his battles with depression, his new album  (pronounced Subtract), and many other subjects. But there was even more from Sheeran that didn’t make the story. Here are some highlights.

If Sheeran had gotten his way, “Shape of You” would’ve had a guest verse from Jay-Z.

“We were in touch,” says Sheeran. “I sent him the song, and he said, ‘I don’t think the song needs a rap verse.’ He was probably right. He’s got a very, very good ear. He usually gets things right. It was a very natural, respectful pass.”

Sheeran doesn’t see the point of music critics in the age of streaming.

“Why do you need to read a review? Listen to it. It’s freely available!  Make up your own mind. I would never read an album review and go, ‘I’m not gonna listen to that now.’”

He’s finished the songs for an animated musical that he’s been “working on for about two years with Netflix.”

“I got pitched on it,” he says, “and got super excited about it. And then wrote loads of songs.” He expects the songs to come out on an album of their own — one of the many albums he already has in the works.

He wants to slow down his touring somewhat by the time his kids are in school.

“I don’t want to homeschool my kids,” he says. (He has two: a two-year-old and an eight-month-old.) “I love the way that country artists do it. They do the weekend-warrior thing, where they’ll just go out and play weekends. That’s obviously not possible in America because I live so far away from America. But it’s certainly possible in Europe, to just go out and play Frankfurt on a Saturday night, come back.”.

Though he’s started to incorporate a full band for some songs on tour, he has no plans to abandon his guitar-plus-loop-pedal set-up as the heart of his concerts.

“I feel like every step of my career, there was a conversation of getting a band,” he says. “When we moved into theaters, into arenas, into stadiums, it was always a conversation. And then the gig happened and it was never needed. It kept getting bigger and bigger with a loop pedal. That is because people liked the show. So I’m never going to strip that element out of it. It’s a very common thing within my genre to use a loop pedal, but it’s not a very common thing at the level that I’m doing it at. So why strip away the uniqueness of it?”

With his new album, he’s fulfilled his record contract, and he isn’t sure how he’ll release music going forward.

“It depends,” he says. “I’m sort of in flux at the moment because this is my last album with Warner. So I don’t know what I’m doing next. In all honesty, like, yeah, I might put out a record independently. That might be quite fun. Just to try.”

Sheeran “doesn’t believe in genres.”

“I think it’s not being bogged down by what you started off as,” he says.  “I think there’s two genres. It’s good and bad. And I don’t think kids believe in genres anymore, either. Now it’s just playlists and kids are like, well, I like this song by this artist, and I like this song by that artist. And it might be a Skrillex song next to a Doja Cat song next to a Kendrick Lamar song.”

He constantly uses his own Heinz hot sauce, Tingly Ted’s, released earlier this year.

“I did an advert for ketchup,” he says, “and they wanted me to do another advert. They were like, ‘We should do another ketchup.’ And I was like, ‘I would love to actually just create a sauce with you.’ It’s spicy. But the older I get, the less plain I like things.”

There’s still a visible scar on his face from the bizarre incident where someone accidentally cut him with a sword at a party. 

“It was really deep,” he says. “I had to have seven or eight stitches. Imagine if it had hit my eye! It’s not that far off, right?” The story goes like this: “I was at a party. Everyone was drunk. Someone got a sword and started shaking it about and I didn’t notice. I was standing behind that first person and I got hit in the face with it. I didn’t know I was hit until I looked down and saw my shirt was covered with blood. The room emptied, and the next thing I knew I was in hospital. One of the security guards took me.” (Sheeran has never confirmed the identity of his accidental assailant, though it’s widely reported to have been a member of the British royal family.)

“Blow,” his 2019 hard-rock collaboration with Bruno Mars and Chris Stapleton, is one of his most slept-on songs, but he’s convinced it’ll have its day.

 “I feel like when people saw Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, they were like, ‘Oh, that’ll sound a [certain way]’,” says Sheeran, who’s regularly playing the Lenny Kravitz-like song live. “It was so not that. At some point, someone will come across it, and it will be put in a superhero movie or something.”

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