Ed Sheeran has revealed that his final contribution to music will be released after his death. In a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone the 150-million-and-counting selling superstar discussed his future plans while on his ongoing epic tour and promo duties for forthcoming album Subtract or, strictly speaking, '–'.
Amongst other things, the prolific songwriter, whose previous albums are +, ×, ÷, and =, disclosed that he has plans for a further suite of five albums titled with another as-yet-undisclosed set of symbols. Most strikingly, he also claimed that the final album in the sequence will be a posthumous release.
“I want to slowly make this album that is quote-unquote ‘perfect’ for the rest of my life," he said, "adding songs here and there. And just have it in my will that after I die, it comes out.”
–, a 14-track collection scheduled for a May release, is the result of working with The National's Aaron Dessner, a seasoned collaborator who has racked up a slew of successful projects as co-writer or co-producer with the likes of Taylor Swift, Michael Stipe, Ben Howard and Sharon Van Etten.
It was Swift who introduced the pair over a sushi dinner in New York at the end of 2021 and the project quickly took shape. Dessner says he told Sheeran that he “would love to hear him in a more vulnerable, elemental way,” and followed up the conversation with a set of fully realised instrumental tracks, which Sheeran then started writing over.
"I had these instrumentals, and I would write to them, in the backs of cars or planes or whatever. And then it got done. And that was the record. It was all very, very, very fast.”
Sheeran, a confirmed fan of Dessner's work with Swift, added that the use of completed backing tracks meant “there wasn’t any going back and checking on any lyrics. And I think that’s what was brilliant about [Dessner-produced Taylor Swift albums] Folklore and Evermore: it’s just complete brain-to-page.
"That’s where you get lines like ‘When I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed, you put me on and said I was your favorite.’ There wasn’t anyone challenging that line. And that’s why it’s brilliant.”
Elsewhere, Sheeran refuses to give his take on his hero Eric Clapton's often controversial views - “I love Eric. I don’t want to say anything bad about him" - but does open up about the tragic death of his close friend Jamal Edwards and his own struggles with depression, and the therapy he's undertaken to tackle it.
“I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore,” Sheeran revealed. “And I have had that throughout my life. You’re under the waves drowning. You’re just sort of in this thing. And you can’t get out of it.”
On undertaking therapy, he says “People think it’s weird getting a therapist in England.… I think it’s very helpful to be able to speak with someone and just vent and not feel guilty about venting. Obviously, like, I’ve lived a very privileged life. So my friends would always look at me like, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad.’ ”
Check out the full interview at Rolling Stone (paywall).