Ed Sheeran Says Good Riddance to Bad Habits Before Performing Live on the Stern Show
Pop star delivers an acoustic rendition of two songs off his brand-new album “=”November 5, 2021
The life of Grammy-winning superstar Ed Sheeran has taken several interesting turns since he last visited the Stern Show in 2017. For starters, the beloved British music man quietly wed his longtime love Cherry Seaborn in 2019 and the two welcomed their first child, Lyra Antarctica, into the world just last August. He turned 30 in February and the hits kept on coming, both figuratively and literally. Just last month alone, he released a brand-new album boasting chart-toppers like “Bad Habits” and “Shivers” while also revealing he’d tested positive for COVID-19.
“It’s quite an odd thing getting [COVID-19] and then having to announce it to the world … I’m still sort of being treated [like I have it],” Sheeran told Howard, adding, “I didn’t really want to announce it to everyone, but I had to cancel three big things in England and I didn’t want to be rude.”
Ed, who is vaccinated, is thankfully now on the mend. Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, he still plans to serve as musical guest this weekend on “Saturday Night Live.” “I don’t know why there was a huge uproar about that. Everyone was saying they were scrambling to find a replacement, [but] I was always playing that,” he said.
Going into more detail, Ed told Howard he contracted the virus while recovering from the flu at a time when he’d run himself ragged with promoting his new album. “As soon as I got a cold I started testing every single day,” he said. “I was really, really, really rundown and then just one day I caught it.”
“Was it hard getting over it?” Howard asked.
“Yeah,” Ed responded, saying he had three days of “really bad” symptoms. “My wife was away, so, I was there with my daughter … She had it, too, so it was kind of heavy.”
Saying Good Riddance to Bad Habits Before the Birth of His Daughter
Settling down and starting a family is a big deal for anyone, perhaps more so for a singer-songwriter who wears his emotions on his acoustic guitar strap and found fame and fortune by crooning about hookups and heartbreak. When Sheeran released his latest lead single “Bad Habits,” many saw it as a clear-cut sign he’d finally embraced the quiet life.
“I think becoming a dad just shifted by bedtime which then shifted my waking up time,” Ed told Howard, explaining the lifestyle shift began shortly before Cherry gave birth to their daughter.
“I probably opened a bottle of wine at like 7 p.m. at night and then, whatever happens after that, it happens,” he said. “But I got to the realization, ‘What if Cherry’s water breaks tonight at 8 p.m. and I can’t drive her to the hospital?’ … Then I would feel like the worst husband.”
Ed’s maturation process extended to more than just his liver. He was only 18 when he penned his eight-times platinum debut album “+.” Looking back on it now, he realizes just how far he’s come.
“I’d always had a bit of embarrassment over that record … but then I listened back to it and was like, ‘It’s literally just the diary of an 18-year-old boy who’s [moved] to London, had his first break up, and is trying to make it on the music scene,’” Sheeran admitted, adding, “If I was still writing songs from the point of view of being an 18-year-old boy when I was 30, there’d be something wrong.”
How Losing a Close Friend Inspired ‘Visiting Hours’
When noted Australian music executive Michael Gudinski passed away suddenly in March, Ed, who shared a tight bond with him, took the news hard. “He started off being my Australian promoter, but I became close to him pretty much instantly … He [was a] super fun guy,” he told Howard of the Mushroom Records founder. “I probably have five really close schoolmates and I probably have five mates in … the industry, and he was one of them.”
As Ed recalled, Gudinski was there for both individual highlights – including his 2015 Wembley Stadium performance—and shared triumphs, like when they together sold the most tickets in Australian concert history. “He got an ice sculpture of me made to announce we sold a million tickets and invited all the press,” Sheeran recalled before admitting he arrived very late due to a long night. “The ice sculpture basically just melted before I turned up.”
While the grief from his friend’s unexpected passing was a “heavy, heavy thing” it did inspire Ed’s new song “Visiting Hours.” “I’ve accepted that he’s not coming back, but all I want is five more minutes – that’s what the song’s about,” the songwriter told Howard. “It’s about having visiting hours where you go in and you go, ‘Hey man … I will see you, but before I go, this is what’s going on.’”
Ed Gives Listeners the ‘Shivers’
Ed didn’t just talk about the inspiration behind “=,” he also broke out his trusty acoustic guitar and performed two of its songs for Howard and his listeners. He kicked off the mini-set with a spirited version of “Shivers,” the album’s second single.
“I wanted to capture the excitement of the first time … you’d feel a [romantic] spark,” Ed explained before getting down to business.
Whereas the song’s music video saw Sheeran borrow a few pages from his good friend Elton John’s sequin-covered playbook, the on-air performance was Ed at his most stripped down.
“Man, you just don’t stop writing good songs,” Howard said after hearing it. “You’re like a mad genius over there.”
A discussion about his past inspiration and fandom of Bruce Springsteen found Ed calling an audible and playing one of his new songs, “Overpass Graffiti.” “I think [it’s] the closest to that on this record … I really like it,” he noted before breaking right into the performance.
Moved by the song, Howard afterwards pressed Ed on how to approach producing a track like that. The original version of the song was closer to a power ballad, but it became something else when it came time to record it. “We were in the studio … it made the song be two things,” Ed revealed as he vocally demonstrated the strum pattern he ultimately went with. “You can really shift a song in the production of it.”
On Being Friends With the ‘Rocket Man’ and Not Signing Shawn Mendes
Another close friend of Ed’s is icon and repeat Stern Show guest Elton John. While the phone calls between the two started out lighthearted and sporadic, they’ve grown deeper and much more frequent over time. “He would call me every now and then and just sort of say something weird or make a joke or whatever but like every few months,” he said of John before explaining the arrival of his daughter took things up a notch. “Then Elton started ringing me like once a week because he’s a father and he want[ed] to check out how I was getting on and he loved seeing Lyra on FaceTime.”
After seeing how hard Ed was taking Michael’s passing, Elton made the calls a daily occurrence. “From that point, he just rung me every single day just to check up on me … and it hasn’t stopped,” the singer told Howard. “He rings me for like 30 seconds … and I absolutely adore him.”
While Elton is known for his piano skills and flair, Ed was adamant his friend was much more than just a performer. “No one really knows the true heart of this bloke, because I’m not the only person he does this to,” he said of his friend and their mentorship. “I know he has the same with Brandi Carlile, I know he has the same with [Lady] Gaga. He’s just a wonderful, wonderful human and he’s constantly plugged into music.”
That knowledge of music had Elton encourage Ed to sign other artists—which led to Ed nearly signing pop sensation Shawn Mendes to his Gingerbread Man Records imprint. “He was already down the road with [his current] record label … he was comfortable with them,” Ed said of his decision not to sign the star. “What if I can’t do a better job than them? I want him to have a career, I don’t want him to only have a career if it’s under me.”
The Best Commercials Come to Those Who Wait
Howard could hardly let his guest say goodbye without asking what might be the morning’s most important question: What’s the deal with Ed’s ketchup obsession?
Sheeran’s love for sweet and tangy tomato-based condiment seemingly knew no bounds. Not only did he infamously get inked with a Heinz tattoo while on tour in 2019, the musician also recently starred in a Heinz commercial which he crafted himself. He told Howard deciding to appear in the commercial wasn’t something he took lightly.
“I get offers … to do big campaigns for big brands—lots and lots of money to be in an advert and take a sip of a drink. I just don’t like the idea of selling anything I don’t truly love or believe in, but Howard when I tell you that I love ketchup—I have a bottle in my bag at all times,” Ed said, explaining he was desperate to be the face of Heinz in the United States and was pretty much willing to do anything to make that happen.
Excited though he was to work alongside Heinz, Ed admitted he and the condiment titan had a difference of opinion when it came to choosing plastic or glass.
“I wanted to do the advert with a plastic bottle and make the fart sounds because I thought that would be so much funnier,” he said demonstrating his ketchup bottle-extracting technique for Howard and co-host Robin Quivers. “And they were like, ‘No, we don’t do [that].”
Ed Sheeran’s “=” is available now.