In the world of music, few artists are as universally recognized as Ed Sheeran, celebrated for hits like "Shape of You" that have amassed billions of Spotify streams. Sheeran is now out with his second album of the year, "Autumn Variations," which features 14 heartfelt songs inspired by the people in his life.
The release marks a significant milestone for Sheeran, as he unveils it through his own label, Gingerbread Man Records. Sheeran said he wanted to put out an independent record and move away from the industry's pressure to put out hit after hit.
"You just have to be like, 'I don't care what people think,'" he told "CBS Mornings" co-host Gayle King in an exclusive interview. "'Cause people are gonna see it and they're gonna see it being a lower figure than my other records and be like, 'Oh, he's on the way out.'"
"You just can't go like this for your entire career. You have to have moments of, like, just doing things because you want to do them," he said.
He said that his favorite artists, like Elton John, "didn't have 17 No. 1 albums in a row."
"It's kind of got to a point in the music industry where everything has to be the biggest and best every time, and then better the next time," he added.
"Autumn Variations," produced in collaboration with Aaron Dessner, aims to set a seasonal tone and draws inspiration from his cherished moments with his wife, Cherry Seaborn.
"Me and Cherry cook a lot and we always put on the same sort of records. It's like Norah Jones' 'Come Away with Me' or Jack Johnson 'In Between Dreams' and stuff. And I was always like, 'I don't have a record like this, that's just, like, one producer, one mood, one feel. And so that was very much wanting to go in and create a sort of autumnal feeling of 14 stories about my friends," he said.
The song "American Town" is inspired by his wife. The lyrics paint a picture of their relationship, blending English and American influences.
Sheeran described the song "Magical" as his favorite on the album, saying, "I wanted it to feel like fairy dust."
"Autumn Variations" follows the spring release of Sheeran's album, "Subtract," and a docuseries that captured what he describes as an "uncomfortable" period in his life. His wife was diagnosed with cancer when she was six months pregnant with their second child. She and the baby are fine. Weeks later, his best friend Jamal Edwards died.
"I find the best songs that I've ever written are the ones that make me feel the most uncomfortable," said Sheeran.
Sheeran said he doesn't have any hobbies — except making music and being on stage, "and that's what they always were."
He also said he "100%" likes being called a pop star.
"I love it," he said. "I don't think it's a dirty word."
"When I grew up Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears were the stuff that I listened to regularly. So I've never been like, 'Oh, pop.' And I feel like people lie when they say they don't like it," he said. "You can't be in a bar, a couple of beers in, and 'I Want It That Way' comes on and not be like, 'This is a good song.' You can't," he said, laughing.
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