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Ed Sheeran reflects on the time he almost gave up on music career: ‘I didn’t want that pressure’

The Grammy-winning artist sat down with Sunday TODAY's Willie Geist to talk about the pressures of the music industry, marriage and fatherhood, and touring again.
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Ed Sheeran has been dishing out hits for over a decade. With four solo studio albums and multiple global tours under his belt, the singer has experienced all of the highs and lows of the music industry — but in 2017, he was ready to walk away from it all.

When Sheeran’s third studio album “Divide” was released in March 2017, it broke records and was accompanied by a massive tour. That time was a whirlwind for Sheeran, but it made him reconsider what he wanted from his career.

“The album was bigger than people thought it was gonna be,” he told Sunday TODAY’s Willie Geist in a candid interview. “And then suddenly, you come to the end of this thing and you have the biggest streaming song in the world, the most attended tour in the world, the highest grossing tour in the world, the album sold 25 million copies, and then everyone’s kinda looking at you going, ‘Hey, yeah. We’re gonna do that again, but better.’ And I didn’t want that pressure.”

Willie Geist and Ed Sheeran
Willie Geist and Ed Sheeran enjoyed a pint together at the Houndstooth Pub in New York City.Michael Smith / NBC

Sheeran said he was tempted by the idea of never releasing music again, instead opting to play and craft music for himself in his personal time. 

“It wasn’t retiring, but it was retiring from giving a f———,” he said. “I wasn’t necessarily wanting to step away from music, but I was definitely wanting to step away from it being a professional hobby.”

The singer said that the public scrutiny that comes along with putting new music was also a factor that almost drove him to not release any more.

“You know, having a song that you love ... It’s basically like taking out your heart and offering it out to a bunch of people and you don’t know whether they’re gonna like it or not,” he explained.

There was one person that helped guide Sheeran through this crossroads moment in his life: his wife, Cherry Seaborn. The couple tied the knot in 2019 and have one child together, a daughter named Lyra.

“Cherry saw the toll it was taking on my happiness,” he said. “I’d get very sad about everything ‘cause it is my hobby. Like, I love writing. And I just wasn’t writing or performing.”

Sheeran said that all of his music has been a “mirror image” of his life during that time period. Now that he’s experienced a shift in his life and priorities, the topics of marriage and fatherhood shine in his fifth studio album “Equals,” which was released in October 2021.

“If you go back and listen to ‘Plus,’ it’s an 18-year-old boy who’s just moved to London and had a breakup and is trying to figure out if he wants to be in the music industry and whatever,” he said. “And then the second album is me moving to the States and touring around and living in Los Angeles. Third album is me traveling the world, settling down. And then this album is, yeah, pandemic, baby, marriage.”

It’s been over four years since Willie and Sheeran sat down for an interview, leaving plenty of room for change. Sheeran acknowledged the difference between where he was in 2017 and where he is today, explaining to Willie, "I think especially on promotional trips like this, I’m, like, weighing it up of being like, ‘But I could have spent this time with my daughter,’ you know?”

Despite his inner grappling with releasing new music and touring in recents years, Sheeran is "100 percent” ready to get back out on the road to tour his new album this year.

“I feel quite lost not being on stage, ‘cause that’s so much of my purpose,” he said. “And I have been on stage since I was, like, 11 years old just constantly. Just any stage that there is, I would hop up and play. So I really, really like that gigs are back on and, you know, we’re finding a way to do shows, I can’t see the tour stopping. I’m gonna be going for a while.”

This time around, Sheeran is going to try to do things differently and make sure he spends time in each city he visits on his 2022 tour, which is set to kick off in Dublin on April 23.

“We’re gonna spend time in each city,” he explained. “We’re gonna try and do it on the train or talking to VW about an electric camper van. I want to travel to every show as electric as possible.”

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