Revisiting Ed Sheeran's Personal Revelations: From His Wife's Tumor to Behind-the-Scenes Struggles
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While Ed Sheeran pours his heart into his music, the 32-year-old British singer-songwriter has been known to keep his personal life out of the spotlight. Still, that has not stopped him from unexpectedly pulling back the curtain on challenges he's faced, from substance abuse struggles to mental health. On Wednesday, Sheeran announced his upcoming album, -, (pronounced "subtract") and took the time to share the heartbreaking circumstances from his personal life that bled into the new music.
While the father of two has also kept his marriage to his childhood love, Cherry Seaborn, mostly private, he has occasionally shared tidbits from their life together with their young daughters, Lyra and Jupiter. And alongside information about the new album, Sheeran also revealed that Cherry was diagnosed with a tumor while pregnant with Jupiter, noting that it was "inoperable" until after she gave birth.
Sheeran also revealed that his "best friend Jamal" died suddenly in the same month that he received Cherry's tumor news, causing him to spiral "through fear, depression, and anxiety."
Back in February, Sheeran shared that there had been "some turbulent things happening in my personal life," prefacing this shocking new reveal.
Now, ET is looking back at all the times the star opened up on his own terms.
Here are his most candid confessions and sweetest milestones:
During an interview with Zane Lowe for Beats 1/Apple Music, Sheeran opened up about wanting to start a family, saying he was "massively" looking forward to becoming a father.
"I wanted to be a dad, like, last year. I'm ready, let's go – tour bus babies, little fat, chubby babies that just walk around," he gushed.
He added at the time that he plans to take time off to raise his children once they reach a certain age.
"When they hit four or five and start primary school, I'm just out," he said. "I think [Bruce] Springsteen took an extended break when his kids went to school. I think that's going to be me. I want to set up a little studio in the countryside and have new artists come down."
At the time, he'd been dating Seaborn for almost two years and Sheeran opened up about their romance for the first time.
"This has been the first time I’ve ever actually had the time to fall in love properly," Sheeran said. “I’ve always got into relationships very passionate -- I’m a redhead and also Irish. But then I will get in a relationship and go on tour for 18 months and everything will f**k up. And I’m like, ‘Oh, what happened?’ But it’s because I had no time to put into someone."
He credited Seaborn with his decision to take a year off from music.
"So the catalyst for taking a year off was also the fact that my partner, she quit her job in New York," he explained. "We were basically like, ‘Let’s both quit our jobs and let’s have a year off forming a tight bond and a relationship.’ So we went traveling and spent every day for a year together… We’re very, very strong. I’ve never been happier. I’ve never been more comfortable. I’ve never been more inspired. I sort of feel like everything’s falling into place because I’ve given it time."
Sheeran opened up for the first time on The Jonathan Ross Show about his struggles with substance abuse.
“I think you need to, when you get into the industry, adjust to it -- and I didn’t adjust because I was constantly working on tour," he shared at the time. "All the pitfalls that people read about, I just found myself slipping into all of them. Mostly, like, substance abuse."
He said the unhealthy habits happened subtly.
"I didn’t really notice it was happening. It just started gradually happening, and then some people took me to one side and were like, ‘Calm yourself down,'" he recalled. "It’s all fun to begin with, it all starts off as a party and then you’re doing it on your own and it’s not, so that was a wake-up call and taking a year off."
He said that his music and his relationship with Seaborn helped him to settle down.
"I focused on work, and I can’t work under the influence, I can’t write songs under the influence, I can’t perform under the influence -- so the more I worked the less [that happened]," he continued. "I’ve worked my whole life to get to where I am and you can’t lose that over something that you do in your spare time."
As for Seaborn, Sheeran gushed, "We live together now, and I think that was a real help grounding me. I was a 25 year old in the music industry on tour, so I just needed someone to balance me out."
In a rare personal social media post, Sheeran revealed that he and Seaborn were engaged.
"Got myself a fiancé just before new year," Sheeran wrote on Instagram. "We are very happy and in love, and our cats are chuffed as well xx."
He later shared that Seaborn made him his own engagement ring, which he wore before they tied the knot.
As rumors swirled that he and Seaborn were already married, Sheeran wouldn't confirm or deny that he was now a husband when speaking with ET. But he did share his ideal wedding setup.
"I don't like large groups of people at the best of times so... I never wanted a wedding that was lots of people," Sheeran said, adding that small, elegantly simple ceremonies have "a good vibe."
After months and months of speculation, Sheeran finally confirmed that he and Seaborn had tied the knot. He referred to Seaborn as his "wife" in the song "Remember My Name" with Eminem and 50 Cent.
"It was actually before me and Cherry got married, and I knew that we'd be married by the point that the song came out," he told Charlamagne tha God. "Someone’s gonna hear that and be like, 'Oh, they’re married!' I didn't know how that would be construed, but obviously it's already come out."
In February 2019, The Sun‘s Dan Wootton reported that Sheeran and Seaborn had tied the knot at his country estate in Suffolk, England, shortly before Christmas. The British outlet quoted a source who said the ceremony was super private, with only 40 people in attendance, and that despite Sheeran having famous pals like Taylor Swift, no celebrities were present.
Sheeran opened up about his mental health struggles like never before in a rare interview as part of the Hay House Chasing the Present Summit.
"It was down to bad diet, drinking and then not seeing sunlight at all... and I wasn't exercising. Exercise, I think, is a really f**king important thing to keep people happy," he said at the time. "I was touring and I would stay up and drink all night and then... the buses would park underneath the arenas and I'd sleep on the bus all day and then wake up and then come out do the show, drink, get back on the bus. I didn’t see sunlight for, like, maybe like four months."
"It’s all fun and games at the start -- it's all rock 'n' roll and it's fun, and then it starts getting just sad," Sheeran continued. "So I think that’s probably the lowest that I’ve been and I kind of ballooned in weight and I just wasn't healthy."
It was then that Sheeran found himself asking, "What was the point? Why am I around? What is the point?'"
During that time, he also struggled with panic attacks while in public places including "the Tube, planes, supermarkets, anywhere where there's lots of people."
"It's a weird paranoia in me that's assuming that everyone's gonna be horrible, when usually people are nice," he explained.
He also opened up about his addictive personality.
"I’m covered in tattoos and I kind of don’t do things by halves," he said. "So if I’m gonna drink, I kinda see no point in having a glass of wine, I’d rather have two bottles of wine. I think having a glass of wine is having something in moderation and probably isn’t going to affect your day the next day. But two bottles of wine probably might make you quite sad the next."
He added that his relationship with social media is complicated, noting, "I was on my phone probably 19 hours of the day in 2015 and before that. Just constantly flicking, posting, flicking, posting, flicking, posting. And it wasn't till the tour ended in 2015 where I was like, 'I'm going to try to live without my phone for a bit,'" he said. "... It just felt like a massive weight had been lifted... Being off it has been really good."
Once again, he credited Seaborn with helping him get to a healthier place.
"She exercises a lot, so I started going on runs with her. She eats quite healthily, so I started eating quite healthily with her. She doesn’t drink that much, so I wasn’t drinking," he said. "That all changed things."
Sheeran shocked fans when he announced that he and Seaborn had welcomed a daughter following a completely secret pregnancy.
"Ello! A quick message from me as I have some personal news that I wanted to share with you...," the "Perfect" singer captioned a photo of a knitted blanket and some tiny black socks. "Last week, with the help of an amazing delivery team, Cherry gave birth to our beautiful and healthy daughter - Lyra Antarctica Seaborn Sheeran."
The GRAMMY winner went on gush about his new life as a dad, adding, "We are completely in love with her. Both mum and baby are doing amazing and we are on cloud nine over here. We hope that you can respect our privacy at this time. Lots of love and I’ll see you when it’s time to come back, Ed x."
Sheeran shared on The Late Late Showthat welcoming his daughter Lyra helped him to get healthy.
"Well, I became a dad and I feel like my lifestyle shift has changed. Instead of going to bed at 6 [a.m.], I'm getting up at 4," he explained. "It just feels like what life was meant to be. It's great. My days are structured."
"I'm healthier than I've ever been. I'm exercising every day," he continued. "I'm spending so much time at home making the record. Yeah, I feel like a human being. It's good."
He also said that his baby girl is responsible for him returning to music.
"I didn't touch the guitar for months after my tour finished," he admitted of his massive 2017 to 2019 ÷ Tour. "I kind of had a crisis of confidence of I wanted to not work, but then I was like, 'Work is my hobby.' So I basically had to find different things that I had as hobbies so it wasn't just all [singing]. So I didn't touch a guitar for ages. Actually when Lyra was born, that's when I picked it up again and started singing to her."
But Sheeran doesn't just play the hits for his daughter. "I was brought up on traditional Irish folk music and being able to sing trad songs to her was really, really sweet," he shared.
Sheeran opened up to ET at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards about his album =.
"I got married. I became a father," he told ET. "I lost a really close friend and turned 30. I feel like it's a coming to terms album."
While speaking with Audacy radio host Julia, the British performer admitted that he doesn't like to attend American award shows.
"The room is filled with resentment and hatred towards everyone else and it’s quite an uncomfortable atmosphere," he explained. "All the artists are sweet people, but they’re, like, surrounded by entourages that want them to win, too, so it’s one artist surrounded by 10 people and another artist surrounded by 10 people and everyone is kind of giving each other the side eye."
Sheeran went on to note that his feelings were not toward the VMAs specifically, but rather the culture at all American award shows.
"It’s nothing to do with MTV or the award show," he said. "It’s at all the other awards shows [too]; Billboards, GRAMMYs... AMAs. It’s just lots of people wanting other people to fail and I don’t like that."
According to Sheeran, other artists have similar feelings to him about the U.S. ceremonies.
"People get the same feeling as me at those award shows. I’ve spoke to people and they’re like, 'I just felt really depressed afterwards,'" he said. "The atmosphere is just not nice… It’s a really, really horrible atmosphere to be in there. I always walk away feeling sad and I don’t like it."
Sheeran's feelings extend toward the American after-parties, too.
"The after-parties, again… it’s not just musicians. It’s musicians, all their entourages, then you got influencers and blah blah blah," he said.
Sheeran appeared as a mega mentor on The Voiceand talked with coach Ariana Grande about married life and being a dad.
"This is the longest I've been away from my daughter, and I don't know how on earth people do it," he remarked, encouraging contestant Katie Rae to use the difficult emotions in her performance. "The sacrifice you're making now will pay off dividends. Just go for it."
Shortly after his new album was released, Sheeran contracted COVID and had to cancel several appearances. The next month, he spoke with Howard Stern about the experience.
"My wife was away, so I was there with my daughter... She had it, too, so it was kind of heavy," Sheeran said, noting that there were three days that were "really bad."
"It's quite an odd thing getting [COVID-19] and then having to announce it to the world," he continued. "I'm still sort of being treated [like I have it]."
Sheeran also revealed his reasoning for announcing his diagnosis. "I didn't really want to announce it to everyone, but I had to cancel three big things in England and I didn't want to be rude," he said.
Sheeran spoke with ET about his daughter Lyra at the 2021 MTV EMAs.
"She's great! She's walking, she's talking. She's at my parents at the moment and having a good time," Sheeran shared with a grin.
When asked about what her first word was, Sheeran said, "You see, I'm not sure because been saying 'dad' for awhile, but pointing at random s**t. So yeah, I'm not sure."
Surprise part two! Sheeran shared that he and Seaborn had welcomed a second daughter in a similar Instagram post to the couple's first baby announcement.
"Want to let you all know we’ve had another beautiful baby girl," Sheeran captioned a pic of a pair of baby socks. "We are both so in love with her, and over the moon to be a family of 4 x."
Sheeran penned a sweet tune for his daughters called "Welcome to the World," which featured Seaborn talking during her pregnancy.
At the end of the sweet track, Sheeran asks Seaborn, who was pregnant at the time, "You felt a kick?"
"It just kicked!" she exclaims in response, before the song comes to a close with the couple joyfully laughing together.
While Sheeran hasn't spoken about the meaning of the track, it was released the same month that they announced the birth of baby Jupiter. The lyrics read: "Welcome to the world / I heard your heartbeat and lost every word / Just stood there quietly, taking in the sound / Of our love/ I know that everything's changing / And I don't want to miss a thing / I know that life won't ever be the same / And this love won't ever go away."
Sheeran recalled losing out on the opportunity to write a James Bond theme song. He noted that when Danny Boyle was in line to direct the film, he was approached to pen the movie's title track. However, when Cary Joji Fukunaga ultimately came on to direct No Time To Die, singer Billie Eilish ended up with the gig, which eventually won her an Oscar.
"I was within a f**king gnat’s pube of doing one [a Bond theme song], and they changed directors, and then they just changed scripts and that was it. We’d done all the meetings, I started writing it,” Sheeran dished on an episode of That Peter Crouch Podcast.
In a candid video on Instagram, Sheeran shared that he'd been steering clear of social media recently.
"Just being totally honest, I've had some turbulent things been happening in my personal life so I just didn't really feel like being online and pretending to be something I'm not when I wasn't feeling like that," he explained.
Despite the surprising confession, Sheeran added that "things are looking up" and noted "I'm back online."
Sheeran kicked off March by announcing his new album, - (subtract). In the press release, the singer-songwriter revealed a series of personal struggles that inspired the new music.
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 shared in his statement. "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."
He continued, "Within the space of a month, my pregnant wife got told she had a tumour, with no route to treatment until after the birth. 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. I was spiraling through fear, depression and anxiety."
Sheeran recalled how he "felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air."
However, Sheeran explained that "writing songs is my therapy." So, he decided to work through the rollercoaster of emotional trauma and channel it into something positive.
"[Writing songs] helps me make sense of my feelings," he shared. "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."
He also called the new music the "trapdoor to my soul."
Ed Sheeran Talks 'Turbulent Things Happening' in His Personal Life
Ed Sheeran Reacts to Losing James Bond Theme Song to Billie Eilish
Ed Sheeran's New Song Includes Audio of Pregnant Wife Cherry