Just Ed, his tiny Martin and a looper pedal can fill the 02 Arena. Stuart Ryan examines this veritable pop phenomenon’s acoustic style.
This month we are taking a look at the guitar style of one of the world’s true pop phenomena. Sheeran, like John Mayer, is one of those figures that some guitar players love to deride but in today’s climate of pre-packaged pop music it can only be a good thing that artists like Sheeran and Mayer are keeping the guitar at the fore of what they do. At just 26 years of age Sheeran is a globe-straddling pop star with multimillion album sales and world tours under his belt. And just imagining holding a full 02 Arena audience in the palm of your hand armed with just an acoustic guitar, a looper pedal and a vocal mic? Ed can, and has!
Born in Yorkshire and raised in Suffolk, there is every chance that several of my fellow GT columnists tutored Sheeran as he studied at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford in 2009. Just two years later he independently released his first collection of songs, No.5 Collaborations Project, which quickly came to the attention of Elton John. His debut album + soon followed and the lead single, The A Team, garnered Sheeran worldwide attention and an Ivor Novello award. His explosion in popularity was partly thanks to a slot as opener on the Taylor Swift tour across the USA in 2013. His recently released third album ‘÷’ has cemented his position as a global pop superstar and sees him grow further as a songwriter and performer.
Sheeran grew up listening to classic artists like The Beatles and Eric Clapton but was also drawn to prominent musical figures from his childhood – Damian Rice and Eminem being the two most prominent examples. Sheeran’s rise is a classic example of how things are done these days – after some strong support tours in the UK he took a trip to Los Angeles and played open mics around the city before coming to the attention of actor Jamie Foxx. This publicity and a growing YouTube fanbase started off what has become an incredible success story.
Sheeran’s guitar style is more multifaceted than you may expect – beyond all the obvious strumming stuff there is looping, percussive stuff and fingerpicking. He plays with great groove and attack garnered from so many years performing as a solo artist. Factor in some big ‘stadium’ chords to contrast with thinned out double-stop parts and you have an artist who is worthy of some study time.
sheeran grew up listening to classic artists like the beatles and eric clapton, but later was drawn to damien rice and eminem
Ed Sheeran: charismatic performer of great pop songs