Ed Sheeran: Success came when I stopped trying to be successful
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ed Sheeran surely knows how to treat the ladies. He noticed there weren’t enough chairs to accommodate our all-female group during our turn to interview him right before his Manila concert last March 12, and so, he offered his seat to one of us at once.

My lucky colleague was teased on Facebook afterwards that the chair was offered to her because “he thought your legs might not work like they used to before,” playfully taking after the lyrics of Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud.

But it wasn’t lost on us, all the ladies in the room, the gentlemanly gesture. It should help explain why we think this 24-year-old British bloke writes some of the sweetest love songs on earth.

Sheeran’s first-ever visit to the Philippines came on the heels of his biggest year yet. His sophomore album X peaked at No. 1 in the UK and US Billboard charts when it was released last year. In December 2014, Spotify named him as the Most Streamed Artist in the World. His profile has gone bigger thanks to pop-superstar friends like Taylor Swift.



In the Philippines, the day when the tickets to his March 12 concert at the Mall of Asia Arena went on sale, the concert was sold out in less than half-a-day. During the concert day itself, a new section was opened but the tickets were gone in 10 minutes!

Still, it was hard to imagine him as this multi-million selling artist and all that because during our encounter with him, he acted, for the lack of a better word, normal. He had a wide smile and no airs, and even seemed a little uncomfortable when asked about his fame and success at his age.

Apart from the fanfare at the airport, how Sheeran spent the day he arrived in Manila didn’t sound celebrity-ish. He went to a salsa bar, did some dancing and then played some pool. During the interview, he excitedly asked for some Tagalog phrases to tell his audience and asked his burly bodyguard to write them down. After the concert, he and his group grabbed some Filipino food. People from MMI Live, the concert producer, declared Sheeran a sweetheart.

Apparently, it’s a conscious effort on his part not to allow fame and all its trappings to get into his head.

“I don’t know. I think the way you handle fame is not actually you. The artist side of me is the one successful but the human, normal side of me is not (laughs). I think, you know, you have to separate the two. As soon as you step off the stage, and come out of an interview, you’re back to being your normal self, I think,” he explained.

The singer-songwriter said that five years back, he’d never thought he’d be traveling from country to country, and sharing his songs. As the articles say, he went through a “young, starving artist phase” and pounded the gig circuit for years since he was 16. “If you really wanna do music, you do music full-time. You don’t have (another) job when you do music. If you live within your means, like if I sell one CD, that’s 10 pounds, I’ll live off that. So, I think yeah, if you want to do music properly, you can’t expect to have money.”

Thanks to the support given to him by his “amazing” father, who also wielded the most influence on him when it comes to music, he had the courage to go after his music dreams. “I’ve kinda known music was really for me. But in terms of my career, I knew it when I was 16, when I had the choice of staying in school or going into music.”

After several independently-produced EPs, Sheeran finally enjoyed his mainstream breakthrough in 2011 with his first studio album, simply titled +, which was buoyed up by such hits as The A Team, You Need Me, I Don’t Need You and Lego House. According to his bio, it was also the highest US debut for a British artist’s first album since Susan Boyle in 2009.

Sheeran believes though that he became successful when he stopped trying to become successful. “The day I started becoming successful was the day I stopped trying to be successful,” he said.

And that’s his advice for anyone who’s still hankering for that big break. “Don’t chase the fame and the fortune and the adoration. The only thing you chase after is your love for music. You make music because you love it. The moment you stop trying to be successful and chase music because you love it, everything will happen.”

He added, “That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be Taylor Swift or Coldplay, but you’ll enjoy your life more because you’re making your music. I stopped wanting to be famous, I stopped wanting to get signed and all that, I was like, f**k that, I was going to make music I want to make. As soon as I did that, everyone was getting interested. I think you just do it for yourself and not for anyone else.”

As a songwriter, Sheeran, who’s reportedly going to launch his own record label, said that his writing comes and goes and not a conscious thing. When asked why he writes emotionally-charged songs and not happy ones, he said, “I’m unhappy when I’m on my own and I’m usually happy when I’m with a lot of people and you don‘t really sit down and write songs when you’re with a lot of people having fun so I just end up writing a lot of sad songs. I think it’s just because when I’m happy, I’m not writing songs.”

He’s also not pressuring himself or letting anyone pressure him to write. Nevertheless, he has written more than 30 songs for his next album. He’s going to write until he reaches 100 or 200 songs before he starts choosing which ones he will include in his next record, which he doesn’t plan to release anytime soon. One thing is for sure, he’s trying out new things. “No formula. If anyone has a formula, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. For me, the next album might end up death metal if I suddenly like death metal. I’m just doing the stuff that I like doing.”

Pinoys obviously love the stuff he’s doing what with the full house at the MOA Arena last Thursday. 

Sheeran also appeared genuinely surprised at the reception of Filipinos towards him.

“It’s one of the warmest receptions on the tour,” he happily observed before the concert itself, adding that “I was expecting a good gig but I think it’s going to be one of the best ones on the tour. (The Philippines) is already one of my favorite places on the tour.”

During the concert, Sheeran would express the same observation with a little more finality and intensity, a message aptly delivered — to borrow words from his song Thinking Out Loud — under the light of a thousand stars (or rather, twinkling cellphones).

“This hands down, from my heart, (is) the best reception I have ever received,” Sheeran told the cheering audience. “I don’t wanna leave the Philippines! Thanks for having me. This is my first time here but this won’t definitely be my last.”

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