Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Musical Ginger

Recently, I feel like I cannot go anywhere with out hearing the songs “Shape of You” or “Castle On The Hill” by Ed Sheeran. It feels like he is literally everywhere these days. Just over a month ago, Ed released his latest album ÷ (pronounced divide) and his success and creativity as musician seem only to grow over time.
Ed Sheeran is a British singer-songwriter from Halifax, West Yorkshire. Even as a child, Ed knew he wanted to be a musician. He began playing the guitar at a young age, and he first started writing his own music at the age of eleven. Ed left home at the age of fourteen to pursue his career in London. Once in London, he began playing a series of gigs and he released two EPs. By 2009, he was playing more than 300 shows. With the help of social media and a growing online fan base, Ed’s success and popularity began to grow. In January 2011, Ed released his last EP as an independent artist, which reached No. 2 on the iTunes charts without any promotion. Then, he signed to Atlantic Records that same month, and he released his first major studio album, + (pronounced plus). He began co-writing songs for One Direction and Taylor Swift. Ed even supported Taylor Swift on her 2013 tour. In 2014, Sheeran followed up his first album with a second album, x (pronounced multiply). His second album debuted at No. 1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. Ed Sheeran won a two Grammy awards for his song “Thinking Out Loud” for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. His most recent album ÷ broke a Spotify record for first-day albums streams with 56.7 million listens in 24 hours. In March 2017, Ed Sheeran announced a tour for his new album, which sold out in minutes.

   In his songwriting process, Ed Sheeran is not focused on wanting to sell albums and make money. In his songs, he aims to connect with people and perform for them live. As a musician, he is a kind of one-man show. He writes his songs and performs them live by himself. Many people are able to relate to his songs because he writes from personal experiences. For many of his albums, he writes more than 60 songs that never get used. However, this does not matter to him. Not only does he write songs hoping to connect to his fans, but he also writes songs to connect with himself. Ed views music as his own kind of therapy. It is a way he can express his emotions and show his love for music. Writing songs helps him let off steam and gets out all his feelings. Ed makes music because it is his passion and what he loves to do. This connects to our class discussion of motivation. As a creative, he is definitely intrinsically motivated. According to Collins and Amabile, “creativity must occur in a context of self-evaluation, rather than being driven by a concern with being evaluated by others” (298). Ed Sheeran does not worry about what critics think of him and his music style. He does not write songs to make hits, but he writes to make himself feel better. His hope is that his fans can connect with the feelings he pours into his music. Ed Sheeran released his second album in 2014 but his follow up third album was not released until March 2017. He took some time off in between these records because he was dealing with depression, even with all his success at the time. This relates to our class discussion of mental illness and creativity. To deal with his own mental health, Ed took some time off to travel, and during this time, he wrote much of his most recent album. In my opinion, it is his best album to date and if you have not listened to it yet, you definitely should.       



  1. That's so interesting that he writes over 60 songs for his albums, considering that typically an album only has about 10-15. It'd be interesting to know what his criteria is when deciding which songs to use or not. Given that he's written so many for himself as well as for other artists he probably has gotten close to becoming an "expert" songwriter, per Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hour Rule.

  2. I love the connection to depression being used to motivate creativity. A concrete example directly from his latest album is the song Nancy Mulligan as well as Supermarket Flowers. During his state of depression, Ed's grandmother passed away which made him even more sad. He used this emotion to write these two songs about his grandmother. Ed truly writes music for himself that he then shares with fans. I think he is a perfect example of one who uses intrinsic motivation as a propelling force behind his creativity.

  3. I have a lot of respect for Ed Sheeran as a musician. I was fortunate to attend one of his shows last summer. I wasn't entirely familiar with his music and composing process at the time, and I was completely blown away. He plays the entire show by himself, using just his voice, guitar, and a loop pedal to play all of his songs. Some of them even sound like he is being accompanied by a whole band! I am impressed by the sheer talent and dedication Ed has to his art. it is refreshing in a time where it seems like anyone can be a successful musician if you know the right people.
    I agree with Usama that Ed appears to be intrinsically motivated. It seems like he writes because he is passionate about doing so, not for the fame and glory. Not many people can do what he does and remain so humble!


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