Ed Sheeran has had plenty to do in 2014: In addition to finishing and promoting his second album, X, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in June, he also spent a lot of time learning to dance for the video accompanying his latest single, “Thinking Out Loud.” He talked with Billboard about “Don’t,” his top 20 collaboration with star producers Rick Rubin and Benny Blanco, and about what happens when you go to a Passover seder with Usher.
What sound were you after with “Don’t”?
It was me trying to make a sort of ’90s hip-hop jam in the sense of telling a story. So, how hip-hop tends to work, you have three verses: The first verse is the setup, the second explains the situation, and the third is the outcome, with a chorus in between each. I did it with Benny Blanco, who produced it with Rick Rubin.
What was the chemistry like for the track?
Rick can take stuff away to make it better. And Benny’s just got super pop sensibility; he knows how to make a hit. If you stick them together, Rick takes a little bit of Benny’s pop away and Benny takes a little bit of Rick’s edge away, and it balances up.
What’s up next for you?
I’m writing and recording on the road, preparing for the third album. If it’s done by the end of the tour, it’ll come out straight after the tour. But if not, it’ll come out in 2016. There’s an Usher [song] coming. I went to a Passover seder with him at a Jewish friend’s house. I sat next to him, and after a lot of red wine, we ended up in the studio that night with Skrillex. Me and Skrillex made a beat, me and Usher wrote the topline, and Usher put a rap on it. It’s good.
This story originally appeared in the Oct. 18 issue of Billboard.