While few official comments about Ed Sheeran’s long-awaited fourth full-length album, prospectively titled “-” (“Minus”), have surfaced, the singer is pretty clearly in album mode. He recently released a new single, “Bad Habits” — which will soon rack up its fifth week at No. 1 in the U.K. — he’s performing at the British record-store chain HMV’s 100 th birthday party in Coventry on August 25th, he’s performing at the “Global Citizen Live” concert in September and more. He also debuted a new song called “Visiting Hours” at a tribute concert for Australian music impresario Michael Gudinski back in March.
The activity comes at the end of a long quiet period for Sheeran in the year since he finished his tour behind 2017’s “Divide.” In that time he released a mixtape-type “No. 6 Collaborations Project” in 2019 and became father to a daughter who is nearly a year old.
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His manager Stuart Camp talked with Variety about the forthcoming album — possibly albums? — plans for the touring around it/them, and the change in sound and image (via an uncharacteristic video where he appears as a vampire) that’s come with “Bad Habits.”
“When you’re an established artist at the level we’re at, you can play a bit dangerously with the first single back, because you know you’re going to get some exposure,” Camp tells Variety. “We knew we could take a slight risk – although you then balance that out with shitting yourself about that slight risk two minutes before it’s due to come out!”
Camp says “Bad Habits” is not necessarily representative of the sound of the album, due in the fall, although “it’s indicative of a different approach to a lot of songs.”
“It’ll both surprise and comfort people,” he adds. “There’s some normal Ed songs, but there’s also some more sonically adventurous ones as well.”
He says the plan is to “hit them hard with another single and album in the autumn,” and although he declined to give a date, he did say, “There will be an album this year, but I can’t tell you any more than that.”
Camp says that, with lengthy touring plans in the works – including “setting aside most of 2023 for North America” – it’s likely Sheeran will release more than one album during this on-the-road cycle.
“We’ll be touring – if we’re allowed to – for two to three years, and there may be more records in that period,” says Camp. “If we tour for that long, I’d imagine there will be two albums within that cycle. Because this record’s taken so long to make, we genuinely have a lot of songs, so it could happen relatively quickly. If he wanted to, he could literally release an album of acoustic ballads tomorrow!”
Sheeran recently unveiled a jersey sponsorship at his local Ipswich Town soccer club, which features two mathematical symbols, – and =, that have yet to be used as album titles, although it does suggest that those could be the names of his next ones.
“Divide” sold 672,000 copies in the U.K. in its first week, the third highest such sale of all time (behind only Adele’s “25” and Oasis’ “Be Here Now”). But, with a radically changed market, Camp is unsure whether the as-yet-untitled follow-up will be able to match those heights.
“That might have been a unique place in time and success is measured at different levels now,” says Camp, who has recently expanded his Grumpy Old Management company’s roster to look after other acts, including U.K. pop sensations Griff and Maisie Peters. “But we have to go into it with the ambition to reach as many people as possible. And Ed will always say he wants to beat it!”
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