Friday, September 18, 2015

Thinking Out Loud* about Ed Sheeran

I recently returned from Nashville, TN, where my 16-year-old son and I traveled for the sole purpose of seeing superstar singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran in concert. While we enjoyed the Country Music Hall of Fame, a tour of legendary Studio B where Elvis recorded many of his hits, and the Johnny Cash Museum, we were really there for Ed.

And so were about 20,000 other people.

If you don’t know much about Ed Sheeran (and most moms of-a-certain-age don’t), he’s a gregarious 24-year-old British man with red hair and an impish grin. He is not movie-star gorgeous. As a matter of fact, he isn’t terribly photogenic.

But boy, can he sing.

Not only does he sing and play the guitar, he writes his own songs (many of which are more like poetry than pop music), and he also uses a fascinating machine called a loop pedal or loop station. This technology allows him to record bits of vocals, guitar, and rhythm and then “loop” these back over and over again with the effect of a much larger group of singers, musicians, and even drummers. In concert, Ed stands on stage, all by himself, with just his guitar and his loop pedal, and for two hours, he makes the most amazing music. 

What really sets Ed apart from many other artists is his unusual ability to create rhythm, both with words and with music. He does things with rhythm that no one else is doing in the industry.

But even though he’s an amazingly talented singer and songwriter – and rapper – he simultaneously manages to be just a down-to-earth guy. If you follow him on social media, he posts photos of his lunch, mugging with dogs, hanging out with babies, being silly with his friends – pretty much what every other 24-year-old posts. He is always warm and friendly in interviews, making jokes and being quite self-effacing. The result is that fans can really relate to him, and if social media is any indication, they all just want to be friends with him. My son included.

During the concert, even as he performed incredible musical feats, simultaneously encouraging the audience to participate, backed by huge video screens displaying gorgeous graphics and live and pre-produced video, he still managed to be humble. During one of his best-known and most romantic songs, *Thinking Out Loud, couples often become engaged right during the concert! This happened during our concert in Nashville, and Ed seemed touched, and even said that he appreciated that he -- and this concert -- would be a part of their memories forever. 

Somehow, the fame and success which he is enjoying right now has not (yet) gone to his head. He’s humble, and seems to really enjoy what he’s doing.

At the end of each concert (he’s currently doing a tour in the U.S.), he pulls his iPhone out of his pocket, and shoots a photo of the audience. Then he posts it the next day. You can see photo after photo of full stadiums and screaming fans on his Instagram page. Each image is very similar.

I’ve been thinking about Ed and about what it must be like, touring the U.S. (and the world), filling stadiums with tens of thousands of fans, all screaming and singing the words to his songs, all basking in his energy and music, as he basks back in the love of the audience. In some ways, it must be difficult to do this, day after day and week after week, but in some ways, it must be perfect.

Lucky, lucky Ed.

P.S. Here is my son covering Thinking Out Loud (and giving Ed a run for his money)!