If there's an underlying message to the career—and life—of Ed Sheeran, it's that it always pays to persevere. As a kid the Suffolk-raised singer-songwriter was a self-admitted outcast well aware of his own idiosyncracies. After committing to a music career in his teens, he struggled for years, couch-surfing with friends and occasionally sleeping in subways, parks, and a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace. Today Sheeran, who headlines a sold-out Rogers Arena on Friday (July 28), owns numerous houses in the U.K., counts Taylor Swift as a close friend, and watches everything he records turn multi-platinum, including this year's record-breaking ÷. Oh, and he's only 26. Did we mention you should never give up?
1. Letting off steam. The closest most of us come to a second-degree burn is when we fall asleep on Jericho Beach after three 2-litre bottles of Okanagan Orchard Peach cider. Ed Sheeran, as ever, has gone one better. While hiking in Iceland on his 25th birthday, the singer climbed up to the top of an active volcano. “They were like, don’t walk over there”, he told the Vodafone Big Top 40 radio show. “Then I just slipped into a little bubbling geyser.” Despite wearing thick boots, Sheeran saw the boiling water flood down the tongue of his shoe—and when he yanked it off, all the skin came with it. It’s not quite Jorah Mormont on this week’s Game of Thrones, but it’s close.
2. Picture perfect. Sheeran is a human Etch A Sketch. Tattoo crazy, the singer has inked (permanently, we might add) a ketchup bottle, a cup of tea, the word “Prince” in honour of Will Smith’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Taylor Swift’s album title “Red”, Puss in Boots, a family tree, a section from Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, and more than 60 other disparate images. Sheeran also had a pact with One Direction’s Harry Styles, with whom he decided to get matching Pingu tattoos—but while Styles just got the name, dedicated Sheeran went for the full picture. According to the singer, all of his tatts are connected to his family, achievements, or memories—so we’re still waiting for the full-length portrait of the moment that he smashed Justin Bieber in the face with a golf club.
3. Screw KFC. Wanna catch Sheeran out and about in Vancouver? A good bet is camping out at Nando’s, which has locations in Kerrisdale and Davie and Howe. The singer has a long-running love for the Portuguese-style grilled chicken chain, which started out in South Africa in the ’80s and now has over a thousand outlets in countries around the world. His affection for the chain’s peri-peri chicken runs so deep that he’s written about it in song; check out “Nando’s Skank” where, along with British MC Example, Sheeran raps: “I love Nando’s more than your mum does”. And evidently eager to reciprocate on the affection front, the corporation reputedly gave Sheeran one of its mythical “black cards”, which gives the bearer free chicken. (Others to hold the card, which may or may not exist, reportedly include David Beckham, Andy Murray, and Dizzee Rascal). Nando’s also rolled out a custom-made Ed Sheeran Peri-Peri sauce in 2014, each bottle featuring the singer’s face and famous flaming red hair. And speaking of flaming, here’s a warning: go easy on the peri-peri sauce or your anus will look the back end of the original Batmobile roughly 12 hours after over-consumption. But we digress. Save us a seat at Nando’s Friday afternoon, order us a quarter-chicken with peri-peri fries, and then get ready to kick a verse or two from “Nando’s Skank” when Sheeran arrives. All together now: “Nando’s from me, fat chance I gotta black card/If you come to me and ask for chicken you’ll get a fat scar.”
4. Late-blooming ladies’ man. During his teenage years, Sheeran was anything but a successful Casanova, that having everything to do with his Coke-bottle glasses, stutter, and, um, red hair. That’s changed since he’s gone stratospheric. Word is that he’s slept with Selena Gomez and Ellie Goulding, as well as almost every one of Taylor Swift’s friends when he supported Tay-Tay on her Red Tour. No one is more impressed by this than Sheeran himself, who hinted in an interview with The Big Issue that someone upstairs one day decided he’d had a rough ride for long enough. “I was weird,” Sheeran said. “A weird little ginger kid with a stutter, big NHS specs and no ear drum. It probably is why I’m not very good at chatting up women. If you grow up with women not being interested, you don’t know how to capitalize on it. I’m an outsider who found solace in music. But I do have the utmost confidence in my career. My view on it is God looked down one day and was like, ‘Fucking hell, you need some help, mate. Here’s a guitar!’”
5. Giving credit where it’s due. Back in March, a couple months after it was released as a single, Sheeran retroactively updated the credits of his song “Shape of You”, officially adding Kandi Burruss and Tameka Cottle as cowriters. This move came after many fans pointed out that part of the song’s melody was nearly identical to “No Scrubs”, a 1999 hit that Burruss and Cottle penned for R&B girl group TLC. Sheeran can certainly stand to give Burruss and Cottle a percentage of royalties from “Shape of You”. The single was a No. 1 in a staggering 35 countries and is the second-most-streamed track in the history of Spotify. Say what you like about Sheeran, but the dude is clearly no scrub.