Ed Sheeran revealed that he was homeless for two years sleeping in such places as London Underground trains and the grounds of Buckingham Palace. It is but one of the startling details of his rise to worldwide fame as a singer, songwriter and musician which he writes about in a memoir, ‘A Visual Journey.

Ed Sheeran

Photo: Ed Sheeran
Credit: PR Photos

By now we have come to know Ed Sheeran as an international music star who has risen steadily to fame and critical acclaim in recent years with breakthrough hits such as ‘A Team’ and ‘Lego House’ and later more notoriety as Taylor Swift’s duet partner and supporting act for her tour. And, yes, there is the story behind the success. That is to say the years of struggle. And for Ed Sheeran it has paid off remarkably with the success now of a second album, ‘X,’ which has produced many hits including the Pharrell Williams-produced ‘Sing.’

Homelessness makes for a dramatic headline, yet, as Ed Sheeran tells it in his new book, it was his life in the years that his singular pursuit of musical excellence meant sacrifices. A Visual Journey chronicles his relocation to London at age 16 to study music, and the adversity he faced when schooling ended and he had to eek out a living by playing gigs and selling CDs.

In the new book, as quoted by The Daily Mail, Ed Sheeran speaks of the days that his temporary abode was one of the world’s most iconic landmarks: “‘There was an arch outside Buckingham Palace that has a heating duct and I spent a couple of nights there.” He goes on to say, ‘That’s where I wrote the song Homeless and the lines “It’s not a homeless night for me, I’m just home less than I’d like to be.”

He offered more details of his circumstances in those days including the long stretch of time that he alternated between sleeping in the trains of the London Underground and the “sofa surfing” thanks to friends. He said, “I knew where I could get a bed at a certain time of night and I knew who I could call at any time to get a floor to sleep on. Being sociable helped. Drinking helped.’

Detailing his routine, he said, “‘I’d go out and play a gig, wait until 5am when the Underground opened, sleep on the Circle Line until 12, go to a session – and then repeat.”

Continuing, he noted, “It wasn’t that bad,” and went on to say, “It’s not like I was sleeping rough on the cold streets.’

In an interview with The Guardian, he was asked about some of the circumstances he spoke of in the book, including his uncertain sleeping accommodations. Asked how he felt about those sacrifices, he told the newspaper, “I mean, at the end of the day, I was enjoying doing it. I would have been doing it regardless. It was my hobby as well as my job. So I would have done it whether it worked out or didn’t. But there were definitely moments that weren’t great.”

And just in 2012, Ed Sheeran was back at Buckingham Palace in much more favorable circumstances, as a performer at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert. Naturally he was asked what that contrast was like, and he said it was, “Very surreal because we actually passed through the arch to get into the Jubilee.” He added, “To be honest, I don’t really dwell that much on the past. I see everything I did in that period as a set up to what I’m doing now.”

It is an inspiring tale and an instructive one of the sacrifices an artist is willing to make. Or more to the point, compelled to make for that singular and unswerving pursuit. When one has the talent, indeed the gift there is no other way to live