Sunday, 8 June 2014 | MYT 4:45 PM

'Outside my comfort zone': Ed Sheeran returns, with a little help from Pharrell

Preceded the Pharell Williams-produced first single Sing, Sheeran says he hopes to expand his growing fan base with his new album simply titled x.

After scoring the highest selling debut album of 2011 in the US and achieving worldwide fame — thanks in part to Taylor Swift’s fandom — British singer songwriter Ed Sheeran hopes to expand his fan base with his new album simply titled x.

To achieve this, Sheeran chose Sing as the first single from the album, which comes with Pharrell Williams’ cache. Produced and co-written by the star producer who’s currently enjoying a career renaissance, the track steps away from Sheeran’s laid-back acoustic sound, straying into pop territory.

Bigger sound: British singer songwriter Ed Sheeran, seen above at the 2014 Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar Party in Hollywood in March, is currently promoting his second album that sees him pushing a new sound that he says is "outside my comfort zone." — Reuters

Sing was a song that I did with Pharrell and it was a very random studio session where he was forcing me to try new things and really pushing me outside my comfort zone and we just ended up with that song,” Sheeran told Reuters in an interview. “I think he knew how special it was and I needed a lot of convincing and I’m glad he convinced me,” he said, hoping it will provide further proof of his versatility

The new song comes from Sheeran’s sophomore album, x (read as 'multiply'). Its title gives a strong indication of his expanding musical scope, especially since his debut was titled + (read as 'plus'). And he confirms its implication: “It’s a bit more of a well-rounded album. It’s more thought out, I think. Along the same trajectory as + but bigger, that’s why I called it x because it had made everything bigger.”

The minimal cover art (right) and tracklist (right) for Sheeran's second album that the singer songwriter shared via Instagram

One can’t help but wonder if the success of +, with sales that have gone 22 times platinum worldwide making Sheeran the biggest selling British artist since 2011, may have put pressure on the 23-year-old to break his own mould. Or was it his almost overnight transition from being a tireless busker to performing as the opening act on Taylor Swift’s highly successful Red tour as well as being her duet partner on her track Everything has Changed that has made him braver on the musical front?

Asked about Swift’s role in his US success, Sheeran minced no words: “I think Taylor as a musician, as a person and as an entity, is one of the biggest exports from the US. So to have her seal of approval, enough to take me on tour for six months was, you know, instrumental to me breaking the States.”

“I’d been over to the States a lot. I’d had a bit of success there but just having that stamp of approval just took me from a theatre artist to an arena artist and took me from a one hit to a household name,” he continued.

Swift also has become something of a role model for Sheeran: “If someone has aims, dreams and aspirations to become a superstar she’d be the best example of it, of how to keep it together.”

On tour: Sheeran, seen performing onstage at the 2014 Wango Tango concert in California, will be hitting the US tour circuit from Aug onwards before returning to the UK in Oct. — Reuters

‘Everything happened’

Fame has allowed Sheeran to circulate in the higher echelons of the pop world, including the chance to duet with Elton John, singing the classic Candle in the Wind at the elder musician’s 22nd Annual AIDS Foundation in March. Surprisingly though, he says it hasn’t brought many surprises.

“I think my experience of fame thus far has been everything I thought it would be, everything you hear about in songs and interviews and people say this is gonna happen and this is gonna happen and this is gonna happen,” he said. “Everything happened. It was just like watching a domino effect. And most of it was positive.”

However, not everything in Sheeran’s life has been quite so positive, indicated by the track which he says “describes the album best” called Mess. “The music industry is a very dark place and you can let yourself get sucked in there quite easily,” he said. “I mean there were a couple of occasions where I was in the darker side of things, I guess, but again it’s just about coming home and getting back to your roots.”

It’ll be a while yet before he sees home though. Sheeran recently announced plans for his first North American headlining arena tour, kicking off in Seattle on Aug 21 before returning to London in Oct. Until then, expect to see and hear more of the ginger Ed. – Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Entertainment , Music , News , Ed Sheeran


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