It's finally here! Ed Sheeran's epically star-studded new No. 6 Collaborations Project has officially arrived and is full of "bops and instant classics," as his close friend Taylor Swift put it in a recent post on her Instagram stories. And for all the Sheerios out there, Ed has revealed all of the intimate details of every song on the record in a new interview with iHeartRadio's Charlamagne tha God, who co-hosts The Breakfast Club (one of Sheeran's favorite radios shows).
No. 6 Collaborations Project is the first body of work released since Ed's 2017 studio album divide, and is his first Collaborations project since 2011's No. 5 Collaborations Project. The new album boasts a roster of superstar artists, as well as few artists part of a new wave of talent, across a multitude of genres including Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars, Chris Stapleton, Cardi B, Camila Cabello, Eminem, 50 Cent, Khalid, Travis Scott, Meek Mill, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Skrillex, Chance the Rapper, PnB Rock, H.E.R., Ella Mai, Young Thug, J Hus, Yebba, Stormzy, Paulo Londra and Dave.
"I made this because it was so much fun to make and it was all the artists I wanted to work with, and I made these songs that I was just so proud to play to my friends," Ed tells Charlamagne. He adds, "The fact is, I've already achieved more than I thought I could, so now I'm at a point where I'm just having fun."
In Ed's UK "tree house" studio, where Sheeran made divide, as well as No. 6 Collaborations Project, the singer/songwriter/producer opens up about why he chose to work with each of theses artists, what the songs mean to him and how he relates to them on a personal level. From how he became friends with Justin Bieber, to social anxiety and the pressures of Hollywood, to finding love, to childhood dream collaborations come true, Ed was honest and open to Charlamagne about everything as they went through each track, song by song. Read on below.
"Blow" featuring Bruno Mars & Chris Stapleton
If you haven't heard it yet, "Blow" boasts an eye-widening, big rock sound. When asked, "Why the hell y'all [do] a rock record?" Sheeran simply replied, "Because, exactly that." He added, "I think people do not expect that any time I play that to anyone. The first cord instantly people [are surprised], and I love that."
Ed also explained how the song and its classic rock sound came together. Stapleton initially had the track's guitar riff, and it just grew from there after the country star and Bruno got together to mess around with it. Now, Ed is inspired to get a band for his live shows because of the profound rock sound. He says, "Throughout my whole career, I've never had an excuse to get a band, and now, that's an excuse to maybe tour with a band. Because I think playing that live would be a different level." Sheeran adds, "I think people like my loop pedal, and no one's seen me with a band, and I think you can have a show that [incorporates both]. I think it's time to have a show that incorporates both of them, personally."
"South of the Border" featuring Camila Cabello & Cardi B
Ed is a huge fan of Cardi B's (and so is his wife Cherry), and he's always wanted to work with her. He says of getting the star rapper and Camila on the track, "I've always wanted to make a song with Cardi B. Cardi B, just personality wise, even if you had her talking on a song ... I love her, Cherry's obsessed with her. I've got to meet her a few times; she's very animated, very lovely, so I've always wanted her on a record. I met Camila in 2013 at the VMAs when she was in Fifth Harmony. We've kind of always kept in touch, and she's very, very, very sweet, very, very nice. [The song] has a Latin flavor, you could say that. [Camila] is from Cuba, she speaks fluent Spanish, and Cardi's Dominican, and I just felt like it was a good mix."
Ed also explained what he loves the most about Cardi B. He says, "I love how unfiltered she is. Literally. She's so media trained not to be media trained. Like, her whole schtick is she goes on and says whatever she wants, and that is what works for her, whereas I never had a media training either, and I feel like I get to just say what I want. And she's successful because she is who she is. There's no one else that can be Cardi B — and there's gonna be countless people now that try to be."
"Cross Me" featuring Chance The Rapper & PnB Rock
For Sheeran, working with Chance The Rapper very special, and he revealed of how the rapper was while creating this song, "You can just tell, just from the way that his approach was to it. His whole verse, that line 'Never say hi to me without her' ... you can't teach that level of respect. He's obviously been brought up with a very, very strong, loving mother, and probably with a lot of women around him. It's good."
Despite its upbeat tempo, "Cross Me" is a love song, but from a different angle from Sheeran's more obvious tracks about love ("Thinking Out Loud," "Perfect," etc.) He explains, "I've done 'Thinking Out Loud,' I've done 'Perfect,' I've done the love songs. It's about finding different angles now to do that."
So, you might be thinking what Ed's wife Cherry thinks about this song, and he reveals, "She likes it a lot. But I think she likes the message of it, because it's quite ... it makes her feel like a badass, as well. You originally hear the song, and it sounds like it's me being like, 'Well I'm gonna be protective,' but actually [it's both]."
"Take Me Back to London" featuring Stormzy
Any Ed Sheeran fan can see how rap and R&B has influenced his music, but UK rap also has been an inspiration for the star, and Stormzy has been a big part of that. Ed explains, "I think rap in general [has influenced me], but UK rap was the first intro for me into this, was me doing that Collaborations thing. And I've been working with UK artists since then, but we've kind of been friends for a very, very long time, but never really worked together. He [Stormzy] remixed 'Shape of You' for me, but never really worked together on a song. Everything happens for a reason, and I feel like this [song] happened for a reason."
"Best Part of Me" featuring Yebba
In case you're just being introduced to Yebba, she is a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter who has previously worked with artists like Chance the Rapper and Sam Smith. And her talent speaks for itself, which is why Sheeran chose her to be a part of his new project. He says of how he chooses artists to collaborate with, "You should only be working with people you think are better than you, so it helps you grow as a person. Like, when I did the song with Beyoncé, she definitely bodied me on that. The song with [Andrea] Bocelli, like, these people are at the peak of their game."
Yebba has known Ed for a while now, and actually went on tour with him several years ago. The two have always stayed in touch, and recently reconnected during one of Sheeran's Wembley Arena shows. He explains of how "Best Party of Me" came together, "We had been on e-mail and she sent me demos of her songs that I've listened to and stuff like that. We've always had a really cool relationship. I got on the phone with her one day, and I was like 'I have this song.' [I] sent it to her, she sent back her verse, and I was like, we have to get in and make sure that the chorus lifts and we can sing it together, and it sounds like we've actually been in the same room and made it. A song like that, you can't really make remotely, you have to be in the same room. Sometimes I play people artists, and some people will be like, 'Oh my God, this is the best thing in the world!' And some people will be like, 'I just don't get it.' But, there's no one that doesn't get her [Yebba]. It's so easy to get. It's just like, 'Wow, she's incredibly talented.'"
Sheeran also opened up about how this song relates to him and his wife. He says, "I constantly wake up everyday, with Cherry, and I'm just like, 'Why the f*** are you with me? You could literally be with whoever you want, and you chose me. I'm saying all of the things that I think are wrong with me, and you still wanna me with me.' And i just find that amazing."
"Remember the Name" featuring Eminem & 50 Cent
"Remember the Name" is not the first time Ed and Eminem (Edminem?) have worked together. Sheeran collaborated with the rapper on a song called "River" off his 2017 album Revival, but it was always a childhood dream of Ed's to work with Eminem. He says, "I had two songs I always wanted to do with Eminem. I was like, 'If I ever get to work with Eminem, there's two songs I wanna do.' One's an introspective story and one is something that is more of a nod towards some of the cheekier songs on the Marshall Mathers LP or The Eminem Show. And I was like, when I work with him, because in my mind, I was always like, 'It's going to happen, I've just got to wait,' I'll do those two songs. And one led to the other. So, I did the 'River' song with him for the Revival record, and then through that, got to know him. And then I was able to sit down with him in Detroit and approach him with this song, and it didn't feel weird. And now I feel like I've ticked my two boxes. Feels good."
Sheeran adds, "If you could've told 12-year-old me I would rap on a song with Eminem when I was older, like, so many people say that I can't rap, but I'm allowed on a song with Eminem and 50 Cent rapping. So, why does it matter?"
"I Don't Care" featuring Justin Bieber
"I Don't Care" is the first song Ed released from No 6 Collaborations Project, and he explained how Bieber was the perfect artist for the song. He says, "Bieber just got married. I just got married. That song is about the person you love, and kind of just being like 'F*** this, let's just have fun ourselves.' It was actually Cherry's idea, because she was like, 'Oh, why don't you get Bieber? He'd be perfect for this, he just fits it.' I have quite a good relationship with him. I met him at [New York City's] Z100. He came up and said, 'Oh I'm a big fan,' and I was like, 'Wow, have you heard my music?' So we kept in touch. I wrote some songs for him and with for his projects. We've just hung out a bunch of times. I wanna work with Bieber. He's just got one of these voices that works on anything, and he's got personality when he sings."
This song contains lyrics that relate to feeling social anxiety — "I'm at a party I don't wanna be at." And Sheeran explains that he himself doesn't like to be around too many people, also explaining of having some social anxiety, "I used to be super social at industry functions. My hobby was to go out and meet people that I admired, and go out and drink with them, and end up at a bar. That was my favorite thing to do. So, I ended up meeting all my musical heroes, and going out to bars with them and having fun with them. And then now, when I go to these events, I just have social anxiety. I hate large groups of people, which is ironic, because I play shows for a living. But, I just feel claustrophobic and don't like being around too many people."
Later on he adds, "I don't mind talking to people. I have no problem with having a conversation with people. It's just when people film me and sh*t, and just stare at me. It makes me feel weird, because it makes me feel like I'm not human. If you're coming up and having a conversation with me, it makes me feel human, even if we've never met. The thing that instantly shuts me off is having a moment like that with someone that's so human and so nice, and then being like, 'Can I have a picture?' It kind of then puts you back down to Earth and then you're literally just 15 likes on Instagram. That's what you are."
"Antisocial" featuring Travis Scott
"Antisocial" is almost an extension of "I Don't Care," in relation to his social anxiety, and Sheeran explained that Travis Scott is similar to him in that way. He says, "He has it, and we were talking about it, and I think he's very lucky that the girl that he's with [Kylie Jenner], he says that they have a similar thing where that they just have their little circle."
He added of Kylie's family and siblings, "They're all different, aren't they? They all want different things. I don't really know. But, he struck me as someone that I had a lot in common with, basically. He doesn't seem to me to be the type of person that's chasing fame. It's all to better himself as an artist."
"Beautiful People" featuring Khalid
Khalid's talent has taken him far over the last few years, and has now brought him to Ed. Sheeran says of why he chose Khalid for this song, "His voice is so crisp, and warm, and so full, but in a very weird way. He's got runs that aren't soul runs, he's got runs that are folk music. Like, he's a soul singer who sings like a folk artist. He sings in a very unique way. But, that song for me is warmth. It just feels cozy. And it sounds weird to say his voice is cozy as well, but that was my initial thing. He's definitely the same as me, he doesn't strike me as someone who is glitz and glam."
"Beautiful People" calls out the Hollywood scene in Los Angeles, and Sheeran admits he hated living there (and anywhere else that's not at home in Suffolk, England). He explains, "I hated it. Now, I like going to LA, because I go in for like, three days and see people I love, and then I'm gone. But, it's the same everywhere. Like, I was miserable when I lived in New York as well, because, I just have to be home. There's a book that I read called His Dark Materials, and it's about parallel worlds. And there's this guy who has a knife that can cut into other worlds, and his dad has discovered the worlds before him, and his dad ended up dying because he was away from his world for so long; it drained him being in this other world. For me, being in, not just England, but in Suffolk, just keeps me ... even on tour, I'll come back here and I'll feel revitalized. I'm not American. I don't belong in America. Just like you living here [in England], you'd probably get sad at some point, and be like, 'I need to go back to Carolina or I need to go back to Jersey.'"
Ed also opened up about getting sucked into the LA celeb scene. He says, "I definitely did, for like, six months, that was it, I was in. Hangin' out with people who were on Disney shows once upon a time, and we were hangin' out in backyards. Everyday I'd meet someone new, and it would be like, 'This is so-and-so who is in this movie,' and 'so-and-so' who did this song, and just, I don't know, you get sucked up in that world."
"I Don't Want Your Money" featuring H.E.R.
H.E.R. is another artist who has blown up very quickly, and she caught the attention of Ed fast. He says of how she came to be on the song, "I really liked her album and became a fan of her from there. When I found out she was a fan of me, I then asked her to be on this. Because you can't ever assume that people just wanna do records with you."
Just as you would imagine, "I Don't Want Your Money" is about wanting more than just dollars and coins. It's something that Ed lives by and, in fact, he will never play a New Year's Eve show simply because he wants to spend the night with those close to him. She says, "I will always turn down every single offer for New Year's Eve gigs, just because I'd rather spend it with my family and friends. And it happened very early on in my career, because I've never wanted much and I achieved a level of success, financially, very early on that I was happy with. So, ever since then, I now can't be bought, because I don't need it. But, that isn't because now I'm now doing a stadium tour, that was, like, back then doing theaters."
"1000 Nights" featuring Meek Mill & A Boogie wit da Hoodie
"1000 Nights" is inspired by being on the road, on tour, for an extended period of time. Sheeran explains of the inspiration behind the track, "I had been on tour for, it's not technically a thousand nights, but almost like 700/800 nights on tour. So, it was basically, New York, to London, to a different city every day. I don't really remember 2014/2015. It does all become a blur, but then, I now bring my best friends on tour. I've got four best friends out with me, and we enjoy it all together now. So it's not really a blur, because we remember going to nice dinners, and then we go out to nice things, and go back to my hotel room, and have a bottle of wine."
So, why Meek Mill and A Boogie with da Hoodie for this song? Ed recalls, "Originally, I had a different beat, and when I made the beat, it was ... and Meek actually said it when I played it to him, he was like, 'You know my tempo.' And for me, it just sounded like a Meek song. I always try and go two verses, I always try and go for two 24 bars, and we had done 16 bars, and it just seemed too short. And I had just bought Hoodie SZN, and I thought I'd reach out to him."
"Put It All On Me" featuring Ella Mai
Ella Mai is a fellow musician from the UK who has now achieved success in her home country as well as America quickly — which has been intriguing to Sheeran. He says, "I, like the rest of the world, heard 'Boo'd Up,' and then I found out she's from Mitcham, in south London, and it just blew my mind, because it's so rare, one, for English people to have success in America, but two, for English people to have success in America before England. She's big there [America], but before here [UK]. So, I was intrigued by her anyway. Someone I knew had a concept for her, so when we were making that song, I remember we were saying, 'What girl do we know that could be on this?' And me and Fred, who made the tune, we were both like, 'We should get Ella Mai.' And I was like, 'I know someone that knows her.' So, we had that wrapped up in two days. Because usually, you do the song, and then you have to get in touch with the artist, and then it's finding a day to do the studio. We sent it off to Ella Mai the day we wrote it, and then I think she recorded her bits two days later."
"Feels" featuring Young Thug & J Hus
Sheeran recalls of why he chose Young Thug and J Hus to be on this track, "I first heard [Young Thug] when he did the 'Rich Gang' ... and I didn't really get it. I think it was that Jeffery project that really made me understand it. And he's got a tone that is, sometimes you don't understand what he's saying, but the way that he does it is just musical. So, I was always very intrigued to work with him. Hus is always someone that I've always wanted to work with. There's not really anyone like him in the UK industry, so in his own lane. The worst thing I find, is when you have blatantly labeled things where they leave like a 16 at the end, and I never wanted to do that with Hus. So, I feel like if you're gonna do a song with Hus, it needs to fit in. I got his number, and then I FaceTimed him. But usually, every single person I've worked with, I've never not had some sort of relationship with them."
"Way To Break My Heart" featuring Skrillex
Ed and Skrillex have worked together in the past, making the multi-talented DJ/producer an easy choice to include on this new project. So Sheeran delighted us with his favorite Skrillex story. He recalls, "I've worked with him before. Actually, I have a great story about Skrillex. He came to Chicago to work on a track. Afterwards, he was like, 'Let's go out to a bar.' So, just me and him and my touring crew went out to this bar, and he was like, 'F*** man, this bar sucks. Like, the music's just not...' I don't know what was happening, and he was like, 'I got my laptop in my bag, should I just do a set?' And they're like, 'OK.' So, Skrillex got up in this bar in the middle of f***ing nowhere in Chicago, and just did a three hour set for anyone in the bar. And they just locked the doors and kept everyone in, it was amazing."
"Nothing On You" featuring Paulo Londra & Dave
Paulo Londra is a rapper from Argentina, while Dave is a UK rapper. Sheeran actually offered Dave two songs to choose from for this project, and "Nothing On You" was the one he picked. Ed says, "I really, really wanted to get him on the project. So I did two songs, and he chose that one. But, I think it's good to have him on something a little bit different, because he does a lot of deep stuff for his stuff."
He added of the backstory of their relationship, "I met him at, there's an awards show over here called the Ivor Novellos, and they have three main awards. There's Best Song, Most Played Song, and then Songwriter of the Year, and that's it. And I won Songwriter of the Year, and he won Best Song. There's only three of them a year, they're really difficult to win. So, I met him there, and we swapped e-mails and we've just been back and forth. I like talking to, I say 'up and coming' people, but I love the 'new wave' coming through. And it was one of those things where I'm putting the project together, it would just feel like a bit of a shame not to have him on it. So, I'm glad we could make it work. The other artist is a guy from Argentina that I've recently become a fan of called Paulo Londra."
You can listen to all of Ed Sheeran's No. 6 Collaborations Project on iHeartRadio.