An album that revisits Grammy-winning pop superstar Ed Sheeran's singer/songwriter roots, and one that was written against a backdrop of personal grief and hope, Subtract (-) presents one of the biggest stars on the planet at his most vulnerable and honest. Since he first learned to play "Layla" by Eric Clapton on guitar at the age of 12, Sheeran's love for singer/songwriters has only multiplied.
For a decade, Sheeran had been working on Subtract — the conclusion of his math symbol-themed albums — trying, he says, to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what it should be. Then at the start of 2022, a series of events rocked his life, his mental health and ultimately the way he viewed music and art.
Within the space of a month his pregnant wife, Cherry Seaborn, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her arm, with no route to treatment until after the birth. The couple welcomed a seond daughter to their family in May of 2022. Seaborn received treatment and is in remission. Then Sheeran's best friend, musician Jamal Edwards, died suddenly, followed by Sheeran finding himself found himself defending in court a plagiarism suit that attacked his integrity and career as a songwriter.
"I felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air," Sheeran, 32, told People Magazine.
The rough course of events inspired him to put out an album that accurately represented what he was experiencing, he says.
Growing up with the likes of Damian Rice, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan playing on repeat in his parents' house — artists that his dad, John, introduced him to — Subtract was always on Ed's horizon. Yet as the songs and writing process took on a whole new meaning and direction after the series of hard-hitting events impacted Ed's world in 2022, one thing that remained untouched was his strong desire to make a record anchored in his love of singer/songwriter compositions. And now, as he gears up for the release of his most soul-baring work to date, Subtract serves as a timely reminder for why Sheeran remains one of the most gifted lyricists of his generation; an artist who breaks down his own experiences for fans to seek comfort and belonging. Subtract is the result of Sheeran pushing the boundaries of his songcraft, as he delivers the most profound songwriting of his career.
Teaming up with Aaron Dessner (The National) on writing and production after the pair joined forces following an introduction from mutual friend Taylor Swift, Ed and Aaron began crafting the album in February 2022. Writing more than 30 songs during their month-long studio stint, the album's 14 tracks are seamlessly tied together by exquisite production from paired back, folk-leaning textures to bolder, full-band/orchestral arrangements.
Life Goes On
End Of Youth
The Hills Of Aberfeldy