Ed Sheeran ‘didn’t want to live any more’ after deaths of friends Jamal Edwards and Shane Warne

Ed Sheeran ‘didn’t want to live any more’ after deaths of friends Jamal Edwards and Shane Warne

Ed Sheeran has said that following the deaths of friends SBTV founder Jamal Edwards and the Australian cricketer Shane Warne in 2022, he “didn’t want to live any more”.

Speaking to Rolling Stone magazine ahead of the release of his sixth album, – (Subtract), he said: “I have had that throughout my life. You’re under the waves drowning. You’re just sort of in this thing. And you can’t get out of it.”

Sheeran, 32, said he worried that the thoughts were “selfish”, especially given that he is a father to two young girls. “I feel really embarrassed about it.”

As a result, his wife, Cherry Seaborn, prompted him to get therapy for the first time. “No one really talks about their feelings where I come from,” he said. “People think it’s weird getting a therapist in England. I think it’s very helpful to be able to speak with someone and just vent and not feel guilty about venting. Obviously, like, I’ve lived a very privileged life. So my friends would always look at me like: ‘Oh, it’s not that bad.’ 

“The help isn’t a button that is pressed, where you’re automatically OK,” he continued. “It is something that will always be there and just has to be managed.”

Jamal Edwards. Photograph: Karen Robinson/The Observer

Sheeran described Edwards as his best friend, and recounted how the night before he learned of his death, he was at dinner with Taylor Swift and her partner, the actor Joe Alwyn, texting Edwards about an upcoming video shoot. Edwards’ death resulted in a bout of depression, a type of low that Sheeran said he had experienced throughout his life – first in primary school, when he was bullied for being different and not being sporty.

Edwards died from a heart attack after taking cocaine and drinking alcohol aged 31. His death also prompted Sheeran to kick a drug habit that had begun in his mid-20s. “I remember just being at a festival and being like, ‘Well, if all of my friends do it, it can’t be that bad,’” he said, not naming the substance. “And then sort of dabbling. And then it just turns into a habit that you do once a week and then once a day and then, like, twice a day and then, like, without booze. It just became bad vibes.

  Six warning signs of cancer revealed after Ed Sheeran details wife Cherry Seaborn's tumour diagnosis while six months pregnant

“I would never, ever, ever touch anything again, because that’s how Jamal died,” he said. “And that’s just disrespectful to his memory to even, like, go near.”

Sheeran said he also quit drinking spirits prior to the birth of his first daughter in 2021. “Two months before Lyra was born, Cherry said, ‘If my waters break, do you really want someone else to drive me to the hospital?” he said. “Because I was just drinking a lot. And that’s when it clicked. I was like, ‘No, actually, I really don’t.’ And I don’t ever want to be pissed holding my kid. Ever, ever. Having a couple of beers is one thing. But having a bottle of vodka is another thing. It’s just a realisation of, ‘I’m getting into my 30s. Grow up! You’ve partied, you’ve had this experience. Be happy with that and just be done.’”

Ed Sheeran and Cherry Seaborn at the 2022 Brit awards. Photograph: JMEnternational/Getty Images

His lifestyle changes also helped him address his experiences with binge eating. “I’m self-conscious anyway, but you get into an industry where you’re getting compared to every other pop star,” he said. “I was in the One Direction wave, and I’m like, ‘Well, why don’t I have a six pack?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, because you love kebabs and drink beer.’ Then you do songs with Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes. All these people have fantastic figures. And I was always like, ‘Well, why am I so … fat?’”

Sheeran said he found himself “doing what Elton [John] talks about in his book – gorging, and then it would come up again”, seemingly alluding to what Elton John has characterised as bulimia.

  Ed Sheeran Wins ‘Thinking Out Loud’ Copyright Trial

He said it was important to be honest about these things as a man, despite the discomfort he felt in being open: “Because so many people do the same thing and hide it as well.”

Today, he said, “I have a real eating problem. I’m a real binge eater. I’m a binge-everything. But I’m now more of a binge exerciser, and a binge dad. And work, obviously.”

In the announcement for Subtract, Sheeran said that it had also been influenced by Seaborn being diagnosed with a tumour when she was pregnant with their second child, Jupiter, which could not be operated on until after delivery. Seaborn carried the baby to term and had successful surgery in June 2022, the morning that Sheeran headlined Wembley Stadium, the interview revealed.

Subtract was initially meant to be an acoustic album of songs written over a decade-long period, but Sheeran scrapped that and instead only included songs written in February 2022, in the wake of Edwards’ death, Seaborn’s diagnosis and a court case over whether he had plagiarised Shape of You from an unknown songwriter, which Sheeran won.

Aaron Dessner (right) and Taylor Swift at the 2021 Grammy awards. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

He made the record with Aaron Dessner of the National, who co-produced Taylor Swift’s lockdown albums Folklore and Evermore. Sheeran revealed the existence of a second album made with Dessner, which will come out at an unspecified date. He told Rolling Stone he was aware that collaborating with Dessner might bring him the kind of critical approbation that the commercial behemoth hasn’t often had in his career to date.

“All my biggest records, they hate,” he said. “Someone who’s never liked my music ever? And sees me as the punchline to a joke? For him to suddenly be like, ‘Oh, you’re not as shit as I thought you were?’ That doesn’t mean anything.”

  Shape of TATTOO! The secrets behind Ed Sheeran's inkings are revealed by the tattoo artist who created them

Dessner told the magazine that he found it “boring” to consider whether or not Sheeran or his music was uncool. “He’s a brilliant writer,” he says. “I’ve seen it up close.”

Sheeran said that Subtract’s first single, Eyes Closed, rewrites a previously written generic breakup song to speak to his personal trauma. “I pictured this month a little bit different / No one is ever ready.”

He also revealed the existence of other unreleased music: he has made a full record with reggaeton star J Balvin, recorded last year. He also has forthcoming collaborations with Pharrell, Shakira, Devlin, David Guetta, Benny Blanco and Justin Bieber. Sheeran wrote Bieber’s 2015 hit Love Yourself and the pair previously duetted on I Don’t Care from Sheeran’s 2019 album No 6 Collaborations Project.

Subtract is the last album in Sheeran’s series of albums with mathematical titles: +, x, ÷, = and -. His next suite of albums will be named after another category of symbols, he told Rolling Stone. A final album will come out posthumously. “I want to slowly make this album that is quote-unquote ‘perfect’ for the rest of my life, adding songs here and there,” he said. “And just have it in my will that after I die, it comes out.”

Subtract is released on 5 May. It will be accompanied by the four-part Disney+ documentary series Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All, released on 3 May. “I’ve always been very guarded in my personal and private life; the only documentary I’ve ever made has been one that focused on my songwriting,” Sheeran said in a statement. “Disney approached me to make a four-part documentary, and it felt like the right time to open the door and let people in. I hope people enjoy it.”