Ed Sheeran posted a year-old diary entry on Instagram Wednesday about the struggles he went through last year, including discovering his wife, Cherry Seaborn, having a tumor while pregnant with their second child.
“I had been working on Subtract for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be,” the entry and caption began. “Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art.
“Writing songs is my therapy. It helps me make sense of my feelings. I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out. And in just over a week I replaced a decade’s worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts.
“Within the space of a month, my pregnant wife got told she had a tumour, with no route to treatment until after the birth.”
Ed and Cherry had known each other through grade school, but lost touch as they grew older. They reconnected in 2015 in New York City and rekindled a romantic spark between each other, eventually marrying in 2019 and welcoming two children together, the latest of which was born last May.
Ed goes on to write about the other difficult circumstances he dealt with last year, including the death of his friend and fellow musician and entrepreneur, Jamal Edwards, as well as Ed having to go to court after being sued for plagiarism for his song, “Shape of You”.
“My best friend Jamal, a brother to me, died suddenly, and I found myself standing in court defending my integrity and career as a songwriter,” he continued. “I was spiraling through fear, depression and anxiety. I felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air.”
Jamal died in February last year from a “sudden illness” at the age of 31. He was a pioneer in British music, especially in the rap/hip hop and grime genres. At 15 years old, he started the online platform, SBTV (SmokeyBarz TV) which sought to give up and coming music artists a medium to showcase their songs.
At the same time of Edwards’ death, Ed was going through legal issues, with his song, “Shape of You” being accused of plagiarizing Sami Switch’s 2015 song, “Oh Why”. Ed ended up winning the lawsuit, but the stressors he was evidently already dealing with must’ve just been piling up in his mind, sending him through the spiral of “fear, depression and anxiety”.
“As an artist I didn’t feel like I could credibly put a body of work into the world that didn’t accurately represent where I am and how I need to express myself at this point in my life,” he wrote. “This album is purely that. It’s opening the trapdoor into my soul. For the first time, I’m not trying to craft an album people will like, I’m merely putting something out that’s honest and true to where I am in my adult life.
“This is last February’s diary entry and my way of making sense of it,” the caption/entry concluded. “This is Subtract.”
Ed’s music is typically accompanied by his unique talents on the guitar (often used with a loop pedal), but he has yet to create a fully acoustic album as he says he will with Subtract (-) – although, some could argue that his debut album Plus (+) and his demo-type 2014 album, 5, were mostly acoustic tracks.
Regardless, Ed isn’t one to write particularly dark songs, despite most of his songs having strong senses of emotion and autobiographical contexts.
As a fan of his work (and a future attendee to his upcoming Mathematics Tour), I am especially excited for his new album, as he is so good at conveying feelings through both his instrumentalization and lyricism. Plus, it’ll come out just in time for his US tour, which kicks off in May and goes through September.
Subtract comes out on May 5.