Ed Sheeran was supposed to headline Tempe’s Marquee Theatre in February, but it sold out so quickly the local promoter bumped it to the 4,950-seat Mesa Amphitheatre.
Now, the English singer-songwriter is back in the Valley to open two Taylor Swift concerts at Jobing.com Arena, where the fact that he appears on “Everything Has Changed,” a song he co-wrote with Swift on her new album, “Red,” is sure be a big hit with the audience.
Of course, he also has “The A Team” in his corner. The heartbreaking portrait of a crack-addicted prostitute, “The A Team” gave Sheeran an unlikely U.S. breakthrough when it peaked at No. 16 on the BillboardHot 100. It also earned the 22-year-old a song-of-the-year nomination at the Grammys, where he memorably shared a stage with Elton John, dueting on “The A Team.”
We caught up with Sheeran to talk about “The A Team,” his debut album, “+,” the Swift tour and the co-writing session with Swift, which as it turns out, happened in Phoenix.
Question: You were through town earlier this year on a headlining tour. How does doing these dates with Taylor Swift compare to that experience?
Answer: It’s definitely a new experience, having such a big crowd, finally. So yeah, it’s good. I’m having a lot of fun with it.
Q: Does it feel like a pretty compatible fit to you, playing with her?
A: Um, I guess so. With those huge arena tours, you could really have any sort of an opening act and make it work. But I’m glad I got to do it.
Q: You’re also on her album on a song you co-wrote. How did you hook up?
A: We both kind of reached out to one another at the same time to do some songwriting. And I was on tour myself at the time and she came to Phoenix to come and write.
Q: Wait. She came where?
A: Well, I was gigging with Snow Patrol in Phoenix and she flew in and we wrote a song in our hotel room. That was the first time we met.
Q: How did it feel to be nominated for song of the year at the Grammys?
A: Yeah, that was nice. It was a brilliant thing to happen, and getting to perform as well and be part of that whole thing was excellent. I really enjoyed it.
Q: How big a deal was it to share the stage with Elton John at the Grammys?
A: A pretty big deal, yeah. It really doesn’t get any bigger than that.
Q: You’re a fan, then?
A: Yeah, I think most people grew up with Elton, listening to him.
Q: Who were your biggest inspirations growing up?
A: I listened to a lot of Bob Dylan with my dad. And a lot of Van Morrison. Then, I got into Eminem and Damien Rice and lots of different acts.
Q: What do you think it is about “The A Team” that people are responding to?
A: I’m not sure, man, because it’s not exactly a song that people can relate to. So I don’t know. But people connected to it, which is good.
Q: Do you think there might be a segment of the audience that doesn’t necessarily know what the song is about?
A: I think it definitely starts off like that, but I think once people do a bit of research, watch the video and read interviews, they find out what it’s about.
Q: Did something in particular inspired the writing of that song?
A: Yeah, it was written about a homeless woman I met called Angel in a shelter. I wrote the songs about her.
Q: Have you done much writing since the release of “+”?
A: Yeah. That’s all I have been doing. A lot writing. I’ve been working on the second record for quite awhile now.
Q: You’ve already started recording it?
A: Yeah, I’ve already started recording it. It’s pretty much there.
Q: How do you feel the new material compares with “+”?
A: I have more tools at my fingertips now, so it’s definitely sounding a lot better, but it’s the same kind of songwriting that I’ve been doing.