Ed Sheeran Opens Up About Eating Disorder and Feeling 'Embarrassed' by Addiction and Depression
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Ed Sheeran is opening up about his life in a way he never has before. The notoriously private musician broke down the hardest times of his life in an intimate interview published by Rolling Stone on Tuesday, peeling back the curtain of mystery surrounding his family life, battles with addiction and depression, and his upcoming album.
"I spent so long with people laughing about me making music," the 32-year-old tells Rolling Stone of his highly memed rise to fame. "Everyone saw me as a joke, and no one thought I could do it. And I think that's still the drive. There's still this need to prove myself. And I'm still kind of not taken seriously. If you were to speak to any sort of muso, 'Oh, I love my left-of-center music,' I'm the punchline to what bad pop music is."
Despite the jokes and ribbing on his versatile musical style -- from "cheesy" hits like "Thinking Out Loud" to the unexpectedly sexy "Shape of You" and rap collaborations with 50 Cent, Meek Mill and Eminem -- Sheeran says he decided not to worry about what other people say about his music or his style.
"But at the time being like, 'I don't know if I care.' And they became the biggest ballads in the world that year. And you're like, 'Well, people must connect with cheese, then,'" he adds.
Sheeran's long-awaited new album, Subtract, will be decidedly different from his previous musical offerings, mainly due to the five-year journey that led to its creation.
"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," Sheeran previously shared in a statement announcing the album's arrival. "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."
The "Bad Habits" singer reveals that a series of misfortune and tragedy struck him consecutively, including his wife, Cherry Seaborn, finding out she had a tumor, the death of his close friend, Jamal Edwards, and the stress of fighting a copyright infringement lawsuit.
"I don't want to get over it," Sheeran tells Rolling Stone of Edwards' death. The late artist was one of the U.K.'s most prominent young music entrepreneurs, and died of a cardiac arrhythmia brought on by cocaine use at the age of 31. Edwards and Sheeran were such close friends that the latter openly credits the former for establishing his career on his YouTube channel, SBTV.
Sheeran shares that he knew of "a big rumor in the industry" that he and Edwards were lovers. "And I don't think anyone thought that I knew the rumor. But I get it, man. I lived in his room," he says. "Like, I get why people would think that. We used to go on holidays together."
Edwards' death sent the singer "spiraling" and led to what he knew to be depression. "My best friend died and he shouldn't have died," he tells Rolling Stone. "I've always had real lows in my life... but it wasn't really till last year that I actually addressed it."
Sheeran's depression triggered by Edwards' death and Seaborn being diagnosed with a tumor that needed surgery -- she ultimately delivered the couple's second daughter, Jupiter, to term and had successful surgery in June -- was further exacerbated by the death of another friend, Australian cricket star Shane Warne, in early March.
"I felt like I didn't want to live anymore. And 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," the singer admits, sharing that he also felt a sense of shame because his feelings "seemed "selfish, especially as a father. I feel really embarrassed about it."
Seaborn encouraged Sheeran to see a therapist, which he notes is remarkably different from what he saw growing up. "No one really talks about their feelings where I come from," he says. "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.'"
But the solution isn't a heal-all; Sheeran points out that therapy "isn't a button that is pressed, where you're automatically OK." He notes, "It is something that will always be there and just has to be managed."
Similarly, the artist opens up about his "addiction issues," which are referenced in his 2021 hit, "Bad Habits." Calling himself a former "party boy," Sheeran admits that it was his wife that called him to work on his addiction before their first daughter, Lyra, was born.
"I remember just being at a festival and being like, 'Well, if all of my friends do it, it can't be that bad... 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," he recalls.
He continues, "Two months before Lyra was born, Cherry said, 'If my water breaks, do you really want someone else to drive me to the hospital?... 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... I don't know any old rockers that aren't alcoholics or sober, and I didn't want to be either."
His decision to quit hard liquor led to the admittance of another struggle -- his disordered eating. "I'm self-conscious anyway, but you get into an industry where you're getting compared to every other pop star," Sheeran muses, echoing the sentiments of other male celebrities who have opened up about how being in the public eye has led to struggles with body image and insecurity.
"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," he continues. "And I was always like, 'Well, why am I so ... fat?'"
The singer admits to "doing what Elton [John] talks about in his book -- gorging, and then it would come up again," calling himself a "real binge eater."
"There's certain things that, as a man talking about them, I feel mad uncomfortable. I know people are going to see it a type of way, but it's good to be honest about them. Because so many people do the same thing and hide it as well," Sheeran says. "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."
Ed Sheeran's new album, Subtract (styled as "-"), from Atlantic Records, comes out May 5.
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