How does the school geek, famed for his ginger hair and massive blue NHS specs, go on to win the support of the hard-to-please grime scene and bag hoards of screaming females along the way? Follow the Ed Sheeran School of folk acoustic hip-hop thought. Nineteen-year old Ed, the son of two happily married former art exhibitors, was never going to be defeated by his gingerness, poor eyesight and lack of hearing in one ear. But this childhood, which Ed describes as "slightly depressing", instilled in him balls of steel and a wicked sense of humour (hence why he now wears a lot of orange).
"I remember during the yoyo craze my mum wouldn't spend £8 and made me one out of jam jar lids and string. Can you imagine taking that to school? But now I see it was cool and I realise how amazing my parents are for not giving me that stuff - all the kids I knew with everything aren't really in a good place right now." It was a chance meeting with Damien Rice that led to the then 11-year old Ed's foray into songwriting. Meeting his idol backstage at a gig in Ireland he heeded Rice's words of advice and wrote his first song the next day. Soon after he began selling CD's, recorded on an eight track in the confines of his bedroom, with the initial earnings going on Coca Cola and Twix's. His first five-track EP, The Orange Room, came not long after, but It was during the summer holidays, aged just 14, armed with the support of his parents, a backpack, guitar and a spare set of underwear, that he headed to London for the summer holidays. A chance meeting with Julian Simmons (Guillemots), in a Limehouse studio, led to Ed's self-titled debut album been born, with another Simmons-produced release, Want Some?, following a year later.
Adding to his repertoire, beat boxing, rapping and the loop pedal became a staple part of his formula. Garnering the attention of a large management company, he soon became a regular face on the acoustic circuit (despite frequently having to sneak in the back door due to his youthful stature). By this point he'd also landed a job as a roadie with Nizlopi ('JCB Song'), jetting off at every opportunity to change their guitar strings. "I did a cover of one of their tracks on YouTube which they saw and liked. They invited me to join them on tour and I learnt everything I know about singing, song-writing and live music from them." Other musical influence comes from hearing his parents playing The Beatles, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Planxty on road trips, and personal favourites like Foy Vance, Nizlopi and anything with hip hop credentials. Despite his hectic diary leaving little time to study, Ed managed to bag his GCSE's, including five A's and an A*, and still excels in the arts, with jewelry craft one of his few hobbies.
With formal education on a back burner, it was the 16-year old Ed who became a resident of London town. Meeting producer and songwriter Jake Gosling on his first day, recording began immediately, with his track about moving, 'The City', going on to feature MC Scorcher and receiving heavy rotation on 1Xtra. Tinchy Stryder's co-hort's Ruff Sqwad called not long after, requesting Ed to star on 'Without You'. Gigging daily for the entirety of his first year in the Big Smoke, he performed at integral nights like Soundbites, alongside the likes of Mr Hudson, Joe Driscoll, Get Cape.Wear Cape.Fly and Jamie Woon, selling albums to get by. Support slots ensured for The Noisettes, Jay Sean, Gabriella Cilmi and Nizlopi, further boosting his CV. With 100's of songs on his hard drive, 2009 saw the road testing of the new material begin with another 312 gigs in the diary. Celebrity fans now range from Goldie ("I've been working with him ever since we met at a gig"), Pixie Lott (who's also a good friend) to Wiley, Example and Elton John.
One of the more random twists in Ed's career came when Just Jack rang inviting him on his national tour. After the Shepherds Bush show meeting requests from Guy Chambers and the head of Universal Publishing led to Ed parting company with his management team. Three months later he launched the Loose Change EP and in January this year signed to the same management as musical moguls Lily Allen and Just Jack. Having recently discovered the art of grime, Ed is pulling in fresh influence and looking to collaborate with a number of the scene's stalwart fixtures as well as jetting off to LA to work with Iglu & Hartly. Demonstrating his ability to re-jig songs of any genre with his Martin guitar, a recent song filmed for infamous online street music channel, SB.TV, has garnered 20,000 views in a week. "I feel like the lovechild of Damien Rice and Jay-Z, but not quite! My dream is to sellout Shepherds Bush. I look at people like Plan B who hasn't had loads of hits but has respect. His album will be listened to in a decade and that's what I want. Respect."