The process began when Mac played the iconic opening notes on a keyboard: "Literally the first thing he did was [he] went over to the keyboard and played. I was like, 'Well that's a good start.'" From there, the track quickly came together when Sheeran began to add percussion.
"I honestly believe it's because Ed is so impatient that he can't wait for me to get a drum sound up," Mac says. "So he goes out and he says, 'I'll just do it on the guitar.' This is fifteen minutes into meeting him and we're away. We're off."
The three songwriters then tried different sounds and lyrics to go along with the track. "I'm always a fan of keeping it more stripped." Sheeran says. "I'm an acoustic artist, first and foremost." But finishing a song wasn't the easiest task for Sheeran. "His attention span can be really low," McDaid says. "One of the things I did to try to keep him in the room while I would be working on a track -- I would have a suitcase full of Legos, I'd pull into the hotel room, and say, 'There you go, you build that.'"
There were also disagreements that arose during the songwriting process. In the original demo of the song, the phrase "I'm in love with the shape of you" wasn't even in the chorus. Instead, it was an instrumental interlude. "[The phrase] 'I'm in love with your body' on its own felt objectifying to me," McDaid admits. This led to the team reworking the lyrics to make them sound less objectifying.
Finally, they added more guitar, bass, and some claps to the song to give it more weight. "It kind of builds and builds and builds and then drops," Sheeran says. McDaid adds that the song builds tension and then releases it. "At the end, it has a moment which I quite like," Sheeran adds.
After finishing the track, Sheeran intended for it to go to someone else. He envisioned it being a duet between Rihanna and Rudimental. He played it for his record label head who said, "Why are you wanting to give this away?" Suddenly, it became Ed's track, and eventually, a massive pop success. "I don't really know what it means to chose a hit," Sheeran admits. "I just like writing songs."
You can watch the full video here.