Grammy-nominated Ed Sheeran made his first performance in Connecticut on Thursday, performing a few songs for the 96.5 FM sponsored Acoustic Cafe event at Maneeley’s in South Windsor. More than 100 enthusiastic fans were at the event.
Sheeran burst onto the British music scene several years ago, where his first LP “+” has achieved multi-platinum status. His popularity in the United States has been steadily growing, particularly since the 2013 Grammy Awards that netted the song “The A Team” with a Song Of The Year nomination, and saw Sheeran performing with Elton John.
In addition to working with Taylor Swift on the song “Everything Has Changed,” Sheeran has joined the star on her “Red” tour. The performance in South Windsor was a quick stop on the way to Gilette Stadium in Foxboro, MA, where they were slated to perform two nights in a row.
Between songs in South Windsor Sheeran fielded audience questions from audience members, and posed for a meet and greet afterward.
I sat down with Ed before his performance for a casual conversation, during which we talked about his tour with Taylor Swift, latest musical influences, dealing with growing popularity, and bad fast food choices.
- How’s everything going? A bit of a whirlwind today, a lot of driving.
ES: Yeah! It’s been alright, been alright. I pulled an all nighter, not yesterday but the day before, so I’m still trying to catch up with that. But that’s only because I had to catch the flight to here, which was incredibly early, and it was my friend’s birthday and I couldn’t go to bed at 10 p.m.
- Gotta do what you gotta do. How’s everything going with tour so far?
ES: Good! I’m just kind of counting down the days until my first break. I’ve got 4 months off at the end of this tour, which is the first time off I’ve ever had since I started music, so it’s going to be cool.
- Are you looking forward to that break? Does it feel weird to suddenly take a rest?
ES: I’m very confused about what I’m going to be doing, and take a proper break from music and literally not touch an instrument for a while. Learn How to drive. Stop smoking. Stop drinking. Get healthy.
- The best laid plans. Good luck with all that. You’re also working on a new record.
ES: Yeah, that will carry on, trickling in until the end of the year, which is why I think I probably won’t be putting down instruments. Ideally I should, but I need to carry on writing.
- Is this your first time in Connecticut?
ES: I believe so…
(Lou Rizzo of Atlantic Records, who is passing in and out of the room during our talk chimes in: “Yeah, we haven’t played here yet. We haven’t done a show, we haven’t done promo here, that’s actually why we’re doing this today”)
Yeah, I think this is my first time ever in Connecticut… I think I stayed here when i was 10. I think this is where my dad’s best friend lives. Or New Jersey. New Jersey’s not too far, is it?
- Nah, it’s a few hours away, not too terrible. Clearly you’re growing in the States, but there’s pockets out there that aren’t so familiar with your work. What is it you really want Connecticut audiences, and people who aren’t familiar with you, to come away with?
ES: I’d like them to feel good about themselves. I do write depressing music that people eat ice cream to and cry, but when I play a show I want people to feel entertained and feel good. Even if it’s the kind of good where you’re emotional. Like people who watch “The Notebook.” That kind of good.
- I cried a little bit in The Notebook
ES: Everyone cries in The Notebook! Is it a verb or a noun… when you get ‘Notebooked’? I failed in school.
- I’ve actually never heard that phrase before.
ES: Notebooked. Yeah it’s a coined phrase among men in England
- What exactly does it denote?
ES: Being Notebooked is like… you watch a film or something that you didn’t expect to make you cry and it does, but you’re trying to be a man about it. Like Forrest Gump, I got Notebooked in Forrest Gump hard. And there’s an episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air where his dad comes home, I got Notebooked in that as well.
- Are you a fan of Fresh Prince?
ES: Massive fan, I got it tattooed on my arm. (Pulls up sleeve to reveal graffiti style “Prince” tattoo, as seen in the opening credits of the show)
- Holy shit! Wow, can I take a picture of that?
(I take out camera, photograph the tattoo)
- You’ve been working hard, you just said you pulled an all nighter. Are you worried at all about burning out?
ES: I think if I was going to burn out, I would have by now. The Taylor tour is very relaxing actually. Because you have a lot of time off. But there was a stage last year when I worked hours and hours, it was probably unhealthy, the amount of hours I was working. But I didn’t burn out then, I doubt I’ll burn out now.
- How did you first meet Taylor Swift?
ES: It was through a gig I did in Nashville at The Rhyman, and her manager turned up and took my details. The next day I got an email.
- You guys have become friends since then, you worked on her new album.
ES: Yeah, she’s a cool lady.
- You guys are all over Instagram together.
ES: Yes, yes, Instagram is definitely… a spot where you can find us.
- How do you unwind when you’re on tour?
ES: Try to do nothing. I guess I unwind by going into the studio, then relax by doing nothing.
- Who would you say you look to musically for inspiration?
ES: That’s been a harder one more recently. I haven’t really had that much time to sit down and listen to anyone properly. But I discovered Bruce Springsteen for the first time. That took a while, for me to get into him, but now I’m in, I’m sold hook line and sinker.
- Any favorite albums or songs?
ES: Nebraska. He has an album called Nebraska and a song called Atlantic City that I fucking love.
- Do you see that kind of lo-fi sound (of Nebraska) getting into anything you might work on?
ES: Not yet, I need to grow up a little bit. I’ve still got my younger sound to come out.
- What about for fun, when you’re listening to stuff for shits and giggles?
ES: I bought J. Cole’s album the other day, it’s great, a really great album. So those two right now, those are the two I put on.
- How have you been dealing with the rise to stardom, where walking down the street people might recognize you?
ES: Um… I try not to go out that much. I’ve got to be honest. And when I do, make sure it’s a controlled environment. I mean I don’t have security guards or anything, I do go out on my own, I just won’t go out to a mall on a Saturday on a school holiday. Which I did once. I’ll go to a small dive bar with only twelve people in it, where even if they knew who I was they wouldn’t give a fuck. So I’ll go to an environment like that where it’s more low key.
- What happened that time at the mall?
ES: I went out on my own. In my job I’ve forgotten the days of the week and the time of the year, it’s all just rolled into one.
So I woke up and said ‘Oh I want to buy a DVD today, I want to watch a film.” So I got a cab to the mall, cab dropped me off, cab left. And I walked in to the HMV (a British multimedia store), and went to go and buy a DVD, and I turn around and there’s about 200 kids. I’m like ‘Oh fuck.’
So I walk a little bit more, go outside, and there’s about 2000 kids. Then I think ‘Oh… yeah… it’s a Saturday, it’s a school holiday, it’s the biggest shopping center in England, and I came on my own. In a taxi. So I couldn’t just get in my car and leave, I have to go outside and wait for a taxi, it was a very dramatic experience!
- You probably get a little bit less of that in America right now. But getting more?
ES: In the beginning it was bliss, like no one had a clue. But it’s getting a lot worse. I think the Grammy’s helped that.
- But you have a farm now, so you can always escape to that.
ES: Yes, and I have a big fence, so if anyone tries to come, they’re not getting over that. You know that non-dry paint? So you drag over it, your clothes are going to be ruined.
- What do you have on the farm right now, animals? Plants?
ES: Absolutely nothing at the moment, I haven’t had any time to do anything to it. It’s just an empty shell at the moment.
- Any plans for it?
ES: I want to get ducks. I want to get a goat. I have stables. I imagine if I marry a woman, she’d eventually want horses, because that’s what women want, right?
- I… don’t know…
ES: I feel like most women would like a horse, I feel like that’s a female thing.
- I think so? At least when they’re kids, kids always want ponies.
ES: Okay so if I have a daughter, she can have a pony. Wait no, no. Because that’s me spoiling. I don’t want that. There’d be a horse. That she can look at.
- My girlfriend would probably want ducks so we could kill them and eat them.
ES: Ironically I’m getting the ducks from my friend who runs a duck farm, and he kills them and people eat them, so I’m going to save them.
- Oh, that’s nice. Are you a full on meat eater, or are you a vegetarian?
ES: I used to be a vegetarian, from the age of like zero to ten. Then my grandmother “accidentally” gave me a bacon sandwich. I was like ‘oh this is amazing!’ and she said ‘Yeah it’s bacon’ so I said ‘Oh! Is it? Cool.’ And ever since then I’ve eaten meat. My brother’s still a vegetarian though.
- What’s probably the best food you’ve ever had on tour?
ES: There was a place in Australia we went, in Sydney, by the harbor… (asks a crew member, mentions a few names…) it was like fresh shrimp and oysters… (mentions a few more names…) with the guy who made the Koala bear…
- He cooked a Koala Bear??
ES: No, no, he made me a Koala Bear out of Legos. (no doubt in reference to Sheehan’s popular song “Lego House.”
- Oh, okay.
ES: Now and then the label will take us out to some really really nice places. But usually it’s just Taco Bell, or… well actually I’ve never eaten at Taco Bell. Chipotle.
- Honestly, you’re not really missing much with Taco Bell.
ES: See, I hear it’s a 50/50 thing. I hear from 50 percent of the world that it’s the best creation known to man, and I hear from 50 percent of the world that it gives you the shits.
- Even from people who do think it’s the best, I think it still gives them the shits.
- I don’t know, Taco Bell never really jumped out at me
ES: What’s it like though? Is it burgers and shit?
- No, it’s all tacos. You’ve had a taco, right?
ES: Yeah, but I can’t imagine getting one at a fast food restaurant.
- Yeah, it just tastes a little more… lo fi. You can get the beef, or the chicken with just little chunks of chicken in there…
ES: (To crew member) Have you ever had Taco Bell? (The crew member shrugs and replies no)
- I don’t know if you’re really missing much. But you should give it a shot before you die!
ES: Yeah. Maybe I’ll get drunk and try it.
- That’s what people love to do. Get drunk and have late night Taco Bell.
ES: I’m down.
- I was always a late night McDonald’s sort of guy.
ES: Oh man, McDonalds is the fucking late night shit. Love it.
(The crew member chimes in: “The sadness, the McDonalds sadness”)
ES: Didn’t have it though! I went out the other night, 4 o’clock in the morning got McDonalds, and I was like, ‘I know I’m going to eat this, and regret it, and feel ashamed and sweaty and all that. I had it, and said ‘That’s the best decision I’ve had all year.’
- So what’s the McDonald’s sadness?
ES: The sort of sadness when you have a one night stand. It seems like a great idea, it feels amazing while you’re doing it, but straight afterwards it’s just regret.
From there the conversation descended into talk about McDonald’s curry sauce, a ubiquitous condiment in Britain but not available at US locations. Sheeran went on soon after.