Ed Sheeran is really suffering.
He may be a global superstar, but here at a Dallas BBQ joint he’s just another guy holding a tray heaped with aromatic meats—which EW’s photo team won’t let him eat until we’ve got our shot. “I’m sorry, I’m just…” Sheeran, 24, struggles endearingly. “I’m starving.” But he endures like a champ (and finally chows down) as we, er, grill him on ballroom dancing, bizarro fans, and hanging with Beyoncé.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Welcome to Texas. Have you spent much time here before?
ED SHEERAN: There’s a thing about Texan people, I think, are very warm and welcoming and loving and everyone wants to invite you around for dinner, whoever you are. I remember the first gig I did on my first American tour, I was in a lift and a couple walked in and just started talking to me. In England, if people you don’t know start talking to you they’re probably going to rob you, so I was sort of wary. Then they were like, “All right, see y’all later!” And I was like, “Oh! They were just being nice.” I really like Texans.
Where is home for you now?
Still where I grew up. I was considering moving to America, but I don’t even spend more than a week in my own house in England, so I can’t really justify living here.
You played a ton of club dates until you were discovered in Los Angeles. What was the worst gig you ever played?
It was a gig in a place called Exiter. I got 50 pounds for that gig which was like $65-$70, but the ticket down there was 80 pounds. So I was kind of like, “If I sell CDs [at the gig], that will probably help with the train fare.” Got down there, empty venue. Just me and the sound engineer. Ended up waiting about an hour. Nobody came in. And I thought, “F— it, I’ll just go on.” So I played the gig to the sound engineer, and then went to the train station and realized I’d missed the last train to London. So I had to sit in a cold station for like seven hours doing nothing.
At the other end of the spectrum, what’s the biggest rockstar moment you’ve had?
Playing with Beyonce. That’s the only point I’ve felt like a rockstar. In my own shows, I’m still quite an awkward British dude with an acoustic guitar. But when you’re on stage with Steve Wonder’s band, Gary Clark Jr. and Beyonce and then they give you an electric guitar to play … that’s when you can feel a bit rock-y.
In the video for your single “Sing,” you have a puppet stand-in who had a pretty rockstar lifestyle. Is that how you roll, generally?
In a limo with models? No. The last limo I was in was with my team, and they booked a bright pink one. I remember seeing it and being like, “I’m not turning up to a radio station in a limo, let alone a pink one, so let’s just get a taxi.” I think you can easily live the rockstar stereotype, but it’s a once-in-a-while thing. If you do it all the time it loses its value and loses its excitement. So we’ll have a blowout once every three months and we’ll do it properly rather than have a blowout every night.
Speaking of Beyoncé, you did a great take on “Drunk in Love,” and you’ve covered rap songs like “No Diggity” and “I’m in Love With the Coco” really well. Would you ever make a full-on rap or R&B album?
I go into every album wanting to make them just one genre, but I find that dull…. One of my favorite albums is The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem. There’s so many waves and dips and different sounds that make it interesting—for me, anyway. And it’s the same if you listen to any Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder record.
Have you met Eminem yet?
There was an opportunity when I went to SNL with [producer] Rick Rubin. I said, “Will he know who I am?” And Rick said, “Unless you’re an underground rapper from Detroit, he won’t.” I really wanted to meet Jay Z, and I met him at the perfect point where he was aware [of who I was] so we could have a conversation rather than me just being the dude that takes a picture. So I’m going to wait for that with Eminem.
Is there a rapper that would be like a dream collaboration?
My favorite rapper to listen to is The Game. He’s a very emotive rapper, you feel everything he says. He’s my go-to. And I ended up making a whole album with him that I hope sees the light of day soon. We need to mix it, but that was fun. And very out of the ordinary for both of us.
You’ve said that you wrote 120 songs for your last album. Will you repeat that for the next one?
Well, I’ve done 40—maybe more like 50—already, and I’m not planning to release it for another year and a half, so yeah, I want to do a few more. Because there’s even more pressure now for this album. When you have a whole company depending on one thing, if I don’t release the goods, it’s going to be awkward.
So waiting a year and a half is more strategic than it is artistic, in terms of how long you need to make it.
I could probably put it out this year. But I haven’t taken a break in between the first and second albums. We’ve been touring for five years without a break. I actually want to go and live in the house that I bought because I haven’t lived in it yet.