I can remember the first time I heard Ed Sheeran. Not in a ‘seismic moment’ kind of way, but it did stick in my mind.
It was on Radio 2, on the Jonathan Ross Show, about 2011 - and I’m pretty sure he had just been signed.
They played a couple of his songs. They were decent, but not my cup of tea.
What really stood out for me though was his dogged determination. He explained how he’d been sofa surfing for years from the age of 16, just so that he could be in and around Central London – trying every opportunity to get his music heard, to get signed and playing anywhere that would have him.
When he couldn’t get a record contract, he turned entrepreneur and harnessed the internet to build a following then release his music independently. When an ‘audience’ for his music started emerging and too many people would turn up to see him play in clubs in London, he’d play twice so that nobody was turned away.
He was determined to get his music heard, willing to put the graft in and respectful of what it takes to build a loyal audience.
Cut to St James’s Park in 2018 and, although I’m not really a fan, I’ve just spent over £160 - plus beer money! - to take my wife to see him play one of 3 gigs in Newcastle over 3 days to over 165,000 people (that’s equivalent to over HALF the population of Newcastle Upon Tyne in ONE weekend!!)
Ed mentioned during the gig that he’d played many times previously in Newcastle, his first being at “Cluny 2” – Cluny 1 is a tiny venue in the East of the City Centre, Cluny 2 is the box room out the back!
I’m sure, during those early days, he couldn’t have dreamed of achieving even a fraction of what he’s accomplished – from struggling to fill the smallest of venues to playing to millions in sold out stadiums around the world.
And everyone at the gigs being so into the music…from the couples I saw singing to each other like every lyric was written for THEM and the dads dancing with their daughters to the stewards joining in on the chorus and even Jack-the-lad characters – all Lacoste and North Face – belting out the lyrics of Ed’s most gentle and heartfelt ballads like they were singing something from Oasis!
It just shows what you can do with talent, belief and, most importantly, the drive and determination to back it up.
Ed seems to have a lot of haters - it’s the British way! - but I think his ambition, hard work and success is something we should all applaud. Even if you don’t applaud for his music!