With his return to the spotlight now imminent, Ed Sheeran is opening up about the private turmoil that’s reflected in his latest artistic output.
Sheeran, a four-time Grammy winner, graces the April cover of Rolling Stone and, in the accompanying interview, speaks at length about his new album, “Subtract,” and Disney+ docuseries, “The Sum of It All.”
The chat takes several emotional turns, notably when Sheeran addresses his fraught relationship with body image and his experience with depression and substance abuse.
“I’m self-conscious anyway, but you get into an industry where you’re getting compared to every other pop star,” the singer-songwriter explained. “I was in the One Direction wave, and I’m like, ‘Well, why don’t I have a six pack?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, because you love kebabs and drink beer.’ Then you do songs with Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes. All these people have fantastic figures. And I was always like, ‘Well, why am I so … fat?’”
Sheeran said that his preoccupation with body size and weight intensified to the point where he developed an eating disorder. He found himself identifying with Elton John after reading the Rocket Man’s 2019 memoir, “Me.”
“I found myself doing what Elton talks about in his book – gorging, and then it would come up again,” he explained. “I have a real eating problem. I’m a real binge eater. I’m a binge-everything.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Sheeran acknowledged having suicidal thoughts after the death of his longtime pal and collaborator Jamal Edwards last year. The DJ and music entrepreneur was the founder of SmokeyBarz TV (SBTV), an online platform dedicated to showcasing up-and-coming musicians.
In the aftermath of Edwards’ death, Sheeran told Rolling Stone he “felt like I didn’t want to live anymore.”
“And I have had that throughout my life,” he said. “You’re under the waves drowning. You’re just sort of in this thing. And you can’t get out of it.”
In recent months, Sheeran has embraced therapy and is focused on fitness. He credits his wife, Cherry Seaborn, and his daughters Lyra, 2, and Jupiter, nine months, with helping to prevent him from turning to drugs and alcohol in his low moments.
He said he also found solace in returning to the studio to record “Subtract,” noting: “It helps me make sense of my feelings. I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out. And in just over a week, I replaced a decade’s worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts.”
Sheeran’s four-episode docuseries “The Sum of It All” hits Disney+ on May 3, with “Subtract” set for release two days later.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.