Singer Ed Sheeran has revealed that his wife Cherry Seaborn was diagnosed with a tumour last year, when she was carrying their second child.
Sheeran said he felt fear, depression and anxiety when his childhood sweetheart, who he married in 2019, was given the diagnosis during the couple’s second pregnancy.
Around the same time, his close friend Jamal Edwards died. Then, in April, he was involved in a high court battle, which he won, after two songwriters claimed his 2017 hit Shape Of You infringed copyright of their song Oh Why.
He has said he and Seaborn were told by doctors that she had a tumour while pregnant with their second child, a baby girl who was born in May, “with no route to treatment until after the birth”. This was within a month of the sudden death of music entrepreneur Edwards, who founded the music platform SBTV in 2006 that helped launch Sheeran’s career. He died in February 2022 at the age of 31.
The multi-award winning Sheeran, 32, made the revelation in a statement announcing his new album, called – (pronounced as 'Subtract'), which is due to be released on Friday 5 May.
What did Ed Sheeran say in new statement?
Sheeran said the songs had been influenced by difficult events in his life in the past year. “I had been working on Subtract for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be. Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art.”
Sheeran’s statement continued, with an admission from the Bad Habits hitmaker that he “felt like [he] was drowning” when all three things happened in a very short space of time.
“Writing songs is my therapy. It helps me make sense of my feelings. I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out. And in just over a week, I replaced a decade’s worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts.
"Within the space of a month, my pregnant wife got told she had a tumour, with no route to treatment until after the birth. My best friend Jamal, a brother to me, died suddenly and I found myself standing in court defending my integrity and career as a songwriter.
"I was spiralling through fear, depression and anxiety. I felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air.”
Sheeran added that he did not feel he could release an album that did not “accurately represent” his current situation and the challenges he has faced. He said writing the album was like “opening the trapdoor into my soul”.
He added: “For the first time I’m not trying to craft an album people will like; I’m merely putting something out that’s honest and true to where I am in my adult life. This is last February’s diary entry and my way of making sense of it. This is Subtract.”
A sea theme
Fans of Sheeran will recognise the name of his latest album, Subtract, as being part of his mathematical symbol series, which has progressed through albums including = (Equals) and ÷ (Divide). But there are some differences to his previous work. In a departure from his previous album covers, which played on their title’s mathematical symbol, the new one shows Sheeran’s face combined with a cracked and broken heart.
The sea does seem to be a recurring theme with the album, however, as it opens with songs called Boat and Salt Water. Other song names from the forthcoming album include Life Goes On, Colourblind and No Strings.
The final song on the album references a Scottish market town which Sheeran has visited frequently, The Hills Of Aberfeldy. Continuing with the water theme, images taken by acclaimed US photographer Annie Leibovitz were released alongside the announcement of the album and show the songwriter being washed away by waves and crouched over a writing desk at night.
Sheeran’s record label, Atlantic, describe the album as ranging from “pared back, folk-leaning textures to bolder, full-band/orchestral arrangements”. It has been created with the help of Aaron Dessner of The National, who collaborated on Taylor Swift’s lockdown records Folklore and Evermore.
Sheeran asked Dessner to help with the writing and production of his latest album last year. Work began in February 2022 and the pair wrote more than 30 songs during a month of studio time, with 14 tracks making the final collection.