It's ridiculous. I joke what are you going to do -- build bigger venues? In Australia we did over a million people in the end. That's the biggest tour there has ever been [there] and we could have done double that easy, had the time and space been there. This year alone we will play to 7 million people. I keep redoing the sums because I think I'm bullshitting myself, but I'm not. It's just crazy.
How important was the year off that Ed took prior to making Divide?
It was really important. You have to recalibrate yourself as a person and as an artist. It was good for him just to go away and decompress and make sure he's ready to recommit himself to what will be three years of this record, which we're only half way through now. We wouldn't be having this conversation now if Ed hadn't had that year off because the album might not have been as good. And he certainly wouldn't have let me tour him for two and half years. It was vital.
How do you manage the considerable demands on his time and avoid burnout?
I just say no or yes. They are pretty much the only emails I write to people and not much more. I don't have time. But we plan our time very carefully: touring for two or three years but making sure there's months off at Christmas and New Year. His time is carefully managed and without sounding like a cliché you do learn to say no a bit easier when you're in our position. People are generally respectful and assume that you can't do things. We're always open [to requests], but it's just the nature of what we're doing at the moment. We don't have time for anything else and once that machine starts rolling, it's rolling.
When you first started managing Ed in 2011, did you ever imagine he would get this big?
No. Not to this point. Adele obviously kills everyone on records, but [in terms of] the live impact and international appeal, I don't think anyone could have really ever imagined it. We always wanted to do better than Multiply, but we didn't necessarily know if it was possible with the way that the market changes. We always try [to] surpass ourselves. You tell Ed some good news and within a second or two, he has changed the parameters and wants the next step up.
The two of you have a very close friendship and you regularly accompany Ed on tour. How beneficial is that to supporting his career?
We have a deep understanding with each other. We can both read each other well. We know when to pull back and we know when not to. It allows you to have that work ethic and be able to carry on without everything falling apart. I certainly wouldn't want to be the manager sitting at home telling him where to go and counting my money. You have to put yourself through what your artist is going through, so I'm with him wherever he goes. It's about understanding what's happening to him to on a personal level and a professional level. It's invaluable. It's odd when I'm not there.
February saw the end of your three-year joint venture with Elton John's management firm Rocket Music, taking your own company, Grumpy Old Management, independent. What difference has that made on a day-to-day level?
Rocket were a great partner. It was always a three-year relationship that we had planned when we signed the deal back in 2015, so we knew this day was going to come, but the support we had from Elton and David was amazing and that will still continue in some respects. In terms of the day-to-day, nothing really has changed at all. I've actually employed a member of staff [Gaby Cawthorne], which is a new one for me. She takes the pressure off me because she is someone who I can trust. That almost psychic relationship between me and Ed, she can tap into that. She has same second-hand knowledge.
Why pick Grumpy Old Management as the company name?
I didn't choose it. It was Ed that chose it, but now I'm running with it. He's working on the company logo as we speak, which is just horrific. I don't think anyone else will ever see it, but he's adamant that I'm using it.
What's next for you and Ed?
Another year of touring. A bit of time off from the public eye. This run of dates finish in North America in November. Then they'll be a few charity gigs at Christmas and then we'll start again March /April next [year], right through to September/October. Then we'll take stock. He's already recording. Typical Ed, he's probably got around three or four albums tucked up his sleeve although I think it will be sometime in 2020 possibly before the next record.
In addition to writing his own material, Ed has proved to be a prolific and highly successful songwriter for other artists, penning hit singles for Rita Ora, Justin Bieber, The Weeknd and Taylor Swift, among numerous others. Is that something you've encouraged?
It pains him when he's not [creating new music] and that's why he's really embraced working with other people and doing lots of co-writes. Because it allows that itch to be scratched and it doesn't necessarily have to be an Ed Sheeran record. It keeps him sane and it keeps me sane in not trying to put out a record every two weeks. That allows us to actually sit back and do it properly. We still have to be careful when we release another record because there will be even more expectation on the next one, but we know that we'll get it right. We're not going to rush it.