Songwriting 101

Ed Sheeran

For well over a year I have worked to schedule a post that featured singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran. Why? Perhaps it was because of the hit records he created almost from the start of his career. Maybe I was intrigued by his background and story of his rise toward success. Finally, Ed Sheeran received Grammy awards and the music world took notice. Is that what moved me to finally feature the young artist? Every one of the fore-mentioned factors are my reasons for featuring Sheeran, and a few more reasons. Sheeran well represents the new age musical artist. Today, musicians must navigate through social media, music streaming, and constantly live in the public eye in order to find success. He has pushed toward the top successfully. Many fans of old school music who are critical of new artists, don’t fully understand how much the business of music has changed. The music industry is not necessarily more difficult to enter and sustain, but it is different.

I enjoy the great amount of music and artists available today. Recently I went to get lunch at a Subway sandwich shop. While waiting in line a song by rapper Future was playing. I recognized it and was kind of singing along when the guy behind the counter said, “What do you know about that?” He added, “I thought you might listen to more old school music”. Without telling him I am a music blogger, I said, “I listen to all types of music, old and new”. He took another look at me and said, “You must be a cool Grand Pa!” With that statement I could do nothing except laugh. I don’t know if my kids or grandkids consider me cool, but it might be fun if they do. The point is I do listen to a lot of music from young artists of today, and I know much of it is quite good.

That brings us back to this weeks’ featured artist Ed Sheeran. In his few years in the music industry he has begun to master the art of songwriting. How did he arrive at his current level of stardom? We’ll take a look at his background and see if there is a formula for his success.

Edward Christopher Sheeran was born February 17, 1991 in Hebden Bridge, a market town in Calderdale near Halifax, West Yorkshire. His family moved to Framlingham in Suffolk when he was a child. He has an older brother named Matthew, who was born on March 17, 1989. Matthew studied music at university and is now a classical composer. Their parents, John and Imogen, are London-born. John is an art curator and lecturer, and Imogen is a culture publicist turned jewellery designer. His parents ran Sheeran Lock, an independent art consultancy, from 1990 to 2010. Their work usually took them to London, and they spent their weekends travelling with their children, while playing music. Sheeran’s early childhood memories include listening to the records of Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. According to Sheeran, the album that first introduced him to music was Van Morrison’s Irish Heartbeat. Sheeran sang in a local church choir from the age of four, learned to play the guitar at a very young age, and began writing songs while at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham. He dropped out of school at 16, and moved to London the following year, in 2008, to pursue a career in music.

Of course, I would never tell any young person the way to success starts with quitting school. Nothing good normally comes from dropping out of school. However, Ed Sheeran was already laying the groundwork for what would be a great career. Sheeran began recording music in 2004, and independently released his first collection of work, Spinning Room. He has been friends with fellow English singer, Passenger, since he was 15, with the two playing on the same gig in Cambridge. He released another EP in 2009, You Need Me, just before going on tour with Just Jack. He also did a few collaborations with Essex singer, Leddra Chapman. In February 2010, Sheeran posted a video through SB.TV, and rapper, Example, invited Sheeran to tour with him. In the same month, he also released his critically acclaimed Loose Change EP, which featured his future debut single, “The A Team”.

At this point Ed Sheeran’s musical career started to move rapidly forward. “The A Team” was released as a digital download in the UK. The release served as the lead single from Sheeran’s debut studio album, + . “The A Team” entered the UK Singles Chart at number three, selling over 58,000 copies in the first week. It was the best selling debut single and the overall eighth-best selling single of 2011, selling 801,000 copies.

Sheeran’s second studio album, x (read as “multiply”), was released worldwide on June 23, 2014.  x peaked at number one in both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200. x was nominated for Album of the Year at the 57th Grammy Awards. On February 25, Sheeran won British Male Solo Artist and British Album of the Year for x at the 2015 Brit Awards. However, it was another coveted award that showcased Sheeran’s songwriting talent. On 21 May 21, 2015, at the Ivor Novello Awards, Sheeran received the award for Songwriter of the Year.

The Ivor Novello Awards, named after the Cardiff-born entertainer Ivor Novello, are awards for songwriting and composing. They have been presented annually in London by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) since 1955, and over 1,000 statuettes have been awarded. They are respected worldwide as the major platform for recognizing and rewarding Britain and Ireland’s songwriting and composing talents. The Ivors remain the only award ceremony in the musical calendar that is not influenced by publishers and record companies, but judged and presented by the writing community.

Last week, the nominees for the 2016 Ivor Novello Awards were revealed. Several big name British music stars were nominated with Sheeran leading the way. He was nominated  in the critically-applauded Best Song Musically and Lyrically category. The Ivor Novello puts an additional stamp of approval on the music of Ed Sheeran. I listened to the entire x album again last week. It is a great album if you are looking for music from a new artist. Certainly, Sheeran has mastered Songwriting 101, and is moving on to the next level. Get Ready!

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