It’s been more than a year since we’ve heard from Ed Sheeran — but much to the pleasure of Sheerios everywhere, he’s back with two brand new singles, “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill,” which dropped in the early hours of Jan. 6.
While it may seem crazy for an artist to take a hiatus without any sort of action for an entire year, Sheeran still managed to win two Grammys and have plenty of hangouts with Taylor Swift in a year where music was otherwise Ed-less.
But frankly, the British singer did enough in the year between releasing his last LP, x, and taking his break from social media and music that Sheeran’s hiatus was more than deserved. As we embark on a new Sheeran era with “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” — from his forthcoming album (supposedly titled) Divide? — take a look back on what Sheeran has been up to since his last release.
Embarked on a 179-date world tour (August 2014 – December 2015)
Sheeran set out across the world in support of x?, visiting countries in Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America over a span of more than a year. Although his documentation of the tour basically resulted in finding that most crowd shots look exactly the same no matter where you are, he posted shot of the audience from the stage at practically every show (with just as much excitement in each post, like the one below).
Won his first American award, an MTV VMA for his “Sing” video (August 2014)
With the way Sheeran pretty much took the summer by storm after x? dropped in June 2014, it was almost inevitable that he would receive some? sort of American recognition other than major record sales. He was pretty excited about his moon man:
Published a book, A Visual Journey (October 9 2014)
Since Sheeran’s first-person account of his journey to becoming a successful singer-songwriter was published only a few months after x? dropped, the events in the book are either pre-x? or during the writing process of that album. Just imagine what he’ll be able to write a second book about…
Won British Artist of the Year at the BBC Awards (Dec 2014)
Once Sheeran landed his first American award, his home country had to show their love in some bigger fashion.
Performed in the Stevie Wonder tribute (Feb 2015)
Sheeran joined Beyonce on stage during a GRAMMY Special for the legendary singer for a cover of his song “Jammin’,” followed by an appearance from Gary Clark Jr. for an epic collaboration on “Higher Ground.” Sheeran also got the opportunity to sing his own rendition of a Stevie tune, delivering a soulful rendition of “I Was Made For Loving Her.”
Got his own wax figure (June 2015)
To commemorate all of his achievements in the year since ?x?’s release (which included the milestone of 10 million albums sold worldwide), Sheeran was honored by Madame Tussaud — and of course couldn’t help poking fun at being embodied in wax.
Tattooed a huge, colorful lion on his chest (Aug 2015)
If only the wax figure could’ve been created after this ink was done.
Kicked off Gingerbread Man Records (Aug 2015)
After announcing his record label endeavor in May 2015, Sheeran officially launched the Gingerbread Man Records three months later along with an accompanying YouTube channel. As of January 2017, he has signed singer-songwriters Jamie Lawson and Foy Vance.
“Lay It All On Me” with Rudimental (Sept 2015)
Despite the fact that this was technically a feature for Sheeran, it served as his first non-x single of the year.
Performed at Global Citizen (Sept 2015)
Sheeran teamed up with Beyonce on stage again, this time singing a Queen B hit with her majesty (“Drunk In Love”) after he and Coldplay performed their own full sets.
Joined Stevie Wonder at his Songs in the Key of Life Tour (Oct 2015)
Eight months after honoring Wonder at the Grammy tribute, Sheeran was invited to join the icon on stage at his Songs in the Key of Life Tour stop in New Jersey for a duet of “Pastime Paradise.” (As if that’s not cool enough, Sheeran also had the opportunity to perform with the Rolling Stones on one of their tour stops on June 27 and Elton John in July.)
Released ?x Wembley Edition (Nov 2016)
The deluxe edition of Sheeran’s extremely successful second LP reminded fans of just how great that album is, with the addition of his Wembley Arena show film Jumpers For Goalposts as well as five extra tracks.
Announced his hiatus (Dec 2015)
While Sheeran had had quite the whirlwind 18 months after releasing x?, he took to Instagram to declare that he hadn’t really been able to really take in some of the experiences — so he decided to take a break from social media (and frankly, any way to communicate with people). “I’m taking this opportunity of me not having to be anywhere or do anything to travel the world and see everything I missed,” he wrote in his post.
Won Song of the Year for “Thinking Out Loud” at the Grammys ?(Feb 2016)?
To put the cherry on top of the record that made 2014 and 2015 special for Sheeran, the Recording Academy rewarded him with one of its Big Four of the night. “Thinking Out Loud” also received the Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance.
Completed his red nose day challenge to fans while traveling in Japan (May 2016)
As Sheeran was making his way through Japan during his hiatus travels, he still gave a hand in raising money for the UK’s Comic Relief charity, promising fans that he would dress up in a red tutu to eat the country’s grossest foods (fermented bean and sea snails). Fortunately for Comic Relief, his plea resulted in the best fundraising the charity has seen — but unfortunately for Sheeran, that meant something not so exciting.
— James Corden (@JKCorden) May 27, 2016
Hung out and jammed with Taylor Swift (July 2016)
At this point it’s no secret that these two are best buds, but even when he’s supposed to be on a break from social media she found a way to slip him in a post and let fans know he’s alive and well — in the best way they know how.
Apparently celebrated one year with Cherry Seaborn (same day, July 2016)
Considering the dating rumors between Sheeran and Seaborn began just before his hiatus, their relationship was never really in the public eye. That is, until they hung out with Swift and she spilled the beans with a sneaky photobomb of the couple kissing in the background of Swift’s best friend Abigail’s engagement celebration. (As of Jan 2017, there’s no signs of a breakup.)
Performed his first live show since his hiatus ?(December 2016)
Gradually coming back into the limelight, Sheeran performed his first live show of 2016 at the East Anglian Children’s Hospice gala in London. During the performance, Sheeran felt so inspired by performing again that he sang “Love Yourself” — which he co-wrote with Justin Bieber — for the first (and probably last, he insists) time.
— Mike (@miketomlinson) November 30, 2016
After his time away, Sheeran felt it was only necessary to release two singles for his return to music. Take a listen to them below: