Get To Know: Ed Sheeran

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John Kennedy / February 11, 2013

How the self-described geek made it to Grammy stage with Elton John

Folk-pop troubadour Ed Sheeran sings, spits and strums, but he’s no rock star. “I don’t really drink, take drugs [or] sleep around too much,” yuks the Suffolk, England native, who performed his hit single “The A-Team” with music icon Elton John at the 2013 Grammy Awards. “I’m probably more of a geek.” Conforming to the party life may be a stretch given Sheeran’s choirboy-in-the-countryside roots. Yet the pale-faced perfectionist first learned to move diverse crowds at age 11, fine tuning his serenade swag at charity gigs. Crossing the pond in 2010, Sheeran, now 21, polished his stage show and, six years later, dropped his soul-warming Atlantic debut, +. “I make music for personal reasons—for therapy, for fun,” says the guitar-wielding Eric Clapton fanatic. “I wanted to play a show every single night to make sure I was getting better live. Not necessarily trying to make fans, just seeing how [different audiences] react.” Sheeran’s sharp-shooting acoustics blended with spitfire raps (see the self-centered “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”) drives the teenybopper set Bieber-batshit. Still, whether playing dirty pubs or hip-hop nights, the high school dropout relishes being the underdog. “Any R&B promoter that gets a short, chubby, ginger White kid is not gonna be that interested,” says Sheeran, who collaborated with Yelawolf on the indie EP Slumdon Bridge in February. “If you shock and surprise people, then that’s all the more powerful.” —Adelle Platon