Ed Sheeran’s transition from awkward British ginger into renowned musician occurred just over the course of four years. During that time, however, he has risen to international popularity the likes of which compare to artists such as Sam Smith and even Taylor Swift. Some fortunate Chapel Hill students (aka me) got to meet him when he stopped by the university two weeks ago, but for others who weren’t as lucky, here are 8 facts you should know about Ed Sheeran:
1) Sheeran’s first exposure to music came from the album Irish Heartbeat by Van Morrison.
The singer also cites Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton as some of his earliest musical influences during his childhood.
2) Sheeran’s musical prowess started when he sang in a church choir at the age of four.
The prodigy went on to learn guitar at a young age and began writing songs during his high school days at Thomas Mills High School. Sheeran dropped out of school at only 16 and spent his educational funds on train tickets to perform at open mics across the country.
3) Ed Sheeran was praised by Jamie Foxx, Rio Ferdinand, and Elton John during the early stages of his career.
One of Sheeran’s open mic performances brought him to Los Angeles, where Jamie Foxx technically discovered him. Foxx was so impressed that he offered Sheeran a place to stay and let him use his studio. Later, English football captain Rio Ferdinand and singer Elton John complemented Sheeran on his EP after it blew up on iTunes.
4) Sheeran has earned distinctions from both iTunes and Spotify.
Aggregate Spotify streams of Sheeran’s music totaled over 860 million between January to December of 2014, so the digital music service named him as the most-streamed artist of 2014. In that same year, his album x earned him the title of iTunes’ biggest-selling artist in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Ireland.
5) Sheeran raised £40,000 for the charity One25 in just 125 hours from ticket sales to a Bristol gig.
One25, a charity that provides protection and outreach for women in the sex industry, partnered with Sheeran for their “Give it up for One25” campaign in 2012. Sheeran later discussed the show in an interview, saying “It’s good to show insight that these people are real people with real emotions, and they deserve the same charity work as anyone else.”
6) The singer is related to successful Irish journalist Gordon Burns.
Sheeran is the second cousin of Gordon Burns, who is best known as the host of the game show The Krypton Factor and radio broadcaster for BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Lancashire.
7) Though he didn’t finish his education, Sheeran received an honorary degree from University Campus Suffolk.
He later commented about the honor in an interview by saying, “Suffolk is very much where I call home. Receiving this recognition is a real privilege.”
8) Sheeran owes much of his success to fellow singer Taylor Swift.
After Swift heard some of Sheeran’s music while he toured in Australia in 2012, she invited to collaborate with her on the song “Everything Has Changed” from the album Red. Sheeran apparently got a tattoo inspired by his work with Swift, commenting “I think Taylor’s just opening up a lot of doors, and it’s up to me to make sure that I get through them. It’s a massive opportunity for me, and I want to make sure to grab it with both hands.”