Ed Sheeran penned seven songs in just four hours after learning his wife, Cherry Seaborn, had been diagnosed with cancer.
The couple, who have known each other since they were just 11, got together in 2015 and were married four years later and enjoying marital bliss every day – until February, 2022 when Cherry was told by medics that she had a tumour that needed urgent treatment. She was six months pregnant with the couple's second child and the gruelling diagnosis also came around the same time as the death of Ed's close friend Jamal Edwards and while he was wrapped up in an intense court battle over his hit song Shape of You.
Opening up about the tumultuous time in the trailer for Ed's upcoming documentary The Sum of It All, which will be released exclusively on Disney+ on Wednesday 3 May ahead of his new album Subtract being released on Friday 5 May, Cherry recalled that her husband "went down into the basement" after hearing about her diagnosis and immediately wrote a collection of songs as he tried to process the news and manage his emotions.
"We had the diagnosis of the tumour and the next day Eds went down into the basement and wrote seven songs in four hours. Some people write a diary and get their emotions out through the pen and for Eds, if something really intense happens, he'll go and write a song," she said.
Ed said that writing music is "like therapy to me," explaining: "The moment you find the worst thing has happened to someone you truly love, you feel like you're drowning and can't get out from under it. [Writing songs] was a way to get my thoughts and feelings down as a kid, and it works. It really works."
The trailer for the special documentary comes two months after Ed confirmed he'd been working on new album Subtract for a decade – but that a "series of events" in 2022 changed his life so much that he had completely changed everything he'd been working on.
Sharing a photo of himself writing in a notebook, surrounded by book shelves, Ed previously wrote on Instagram: "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.
"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.
"As an artist I didn't feel like I could credibly put a body of work into the world that didn't accurately represent where I am and how I need to express myself at this point in my life. This album is purely that. It's opening the trapdoor into my soul. 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."
In another post on Ed's Instagram page, he shares an early trailer for his documentary and says he's "always been guarded" about his personal life and that the documentary was initially going to be about the making of his next album – but soon became a chronicle of the "twists and turns" of his life.
"I've always been guarded of my personal life; the only documentary I've ever made has been one that focused on my songwriting. Disney approached me to make a four-part documentary on the making of my next album Subtract. Initially the documentary was just that, a documentary on the formation of an album. But, as my life took a few twists and turns, the subject matter of the album changed, and so did the documentary,"" he explained.
"It became something completely different to what I thought it would be. I wanted to provide context to the album as it touches on very personal things, that we all experience. I knew if I made a documentary, I would want to put my trust in the hands of the director, so it wouldn’t be sculpted by me, and was actually an accurate reflection of who I am, even if it’s uncomfortable to watch. The team at Fulwell 73 Productions have done a fantastic job of that. I hope you guys connect with this 4-part series, The Sum Of It All, streaming 3 May Disney+."
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