“Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All”: 6 heartbreaking revelations from the Disney+ doc

The singer-songwriter opens up about his personal life and struggles in an intimate and moving four-part series

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published May 5, 2023 2:12PM (EDT)

Ed Sheeran from "Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All" (Photo courtesy of Mark Surridge)
Ed Sheeran from "Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All" (Photo courtesy of Mark Surridge)

When Ed Sheeran performed his single "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" live for SB.TV's YouTube channel in February 2010, he didn't anticipate it to be his big break. Shortly afterwards, Sheeran released his debut studio album, "+" ("Plus"), which charted within the Top 25 of the UK Singles Chart and sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.

Sheeran's personal journey from a struggling artist — who once couch surfed with celebrities, including Jamie Foxx and Courteney Cox, before he attained stardom — to internationally renowned pop star is both admirable and inspirational. Over the years, Sheeran has amassed an ardent fanbase, known as the "Sheeran Sheerios," who have stood by him through thick and thin.

In 2018, Sheeran was at the center of a copyright infringement lawsuit brought forward by the estate and heirs of the late producer Ed Townsend, who accused Sheeran of copying parts of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" in his 2014 hit single "Thinking Out Loud." On May 4, Sheeran was found not liable for copyright infringement in the case.

Although Sheeran's sheer success is no secret to the public, his personal life and marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Cherry Seaborn, have mostly been private. The singer-songwriter recently opened up about the latter in a Disney+ docuseries, titled "Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All." The moving four-part series features Sheeran himself, his wife, parents and other members of the star's inner circle as he narrates moments from his personal life and endeavors in music.

Here are the six major revelations from the series:

Sheeran's impressive world record
Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It AllEd Sheeran in "Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All" (Photo courtesy of Sofi Adams)

Sheeran's Divide tour, which began in March 2017, broke the record for the biggest, most attended and highest-grossing tour of all time. The world record was previously set by Irish rock band U2, whose 2011 360° tour had a record attendance of 7.3 million. In comparison, Sheeran's tour saw more than 8.5 million people across 43 countries following its conclusion and grossed $736 million, breaking U2's record of $735 million.


At the time, Sheeran took to Instagram to thank his fans and supporters. "Thanks so much for each and every one of you who have come to a show," he wrote. "12 shows left, will never forget it."

The death of Sheeran's best friend remains "very raw" to this day
Jamal EdwardsA general view of images of the late Jamal Edwards onscreen at the Music Industry Trust Awards 2022 at The Grosvenor House Hotel on November 07, 2022 in London, England. (JMEnternational/Getty Images)

"This is his first birthday that he hasn't been here. And this is his first cookout that he hasn't been here. You know, he died six months ago," Sheeran said while recounting Jamal Edwards' 2022 death. "It's still like very very raw. I've never been to a burial. This is the first time that you're there. Someone's singing a hymn, then suddenly, someone hands you a shovel. And then suddenly, you're putting dirt on your mate's grave, and it's very real."


He continued, "And it just feels so weird that he's in amongst loads of people that he didn't know. It's obviously a grave site . . . And it's all just pure sadness. Oh, it's horrible."


Sheeran's close friendship with Edwards — an English music entrepreneur, DJ and founder of the online R&B/Hip-Hop platform SB.TV — helped launch Sheeran's career and contributed to his great success. On Feb. 20, 2022, at the age of 31, Edwards died of a cardiac arrhythmia caused by recreational drugs.


"I had friends in school whose parents passed away when they were like 14," Sheeran recounted in the documentary. "I looked back on it and I'm like, 'That is when you became an adult.' I became an adult recently. But that's when you became an adult because grief instantly ends your youth."

Sheeran says loss ultimately "took over my life"
Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It AllEd Sheeran in "Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All" (Photo courtesy of Sofi Adams)

"I feel, like, a lot of times in a kind of chaotic storm where you're just trying to stay level," Sheeran explained. "I hadn't really grown up until I felt grief. Loss, it just took over my life."


A day after Edwards' memorial, Sheeran performed in Warsaw, as part of his ongoing Mathematics tour. While backstage, he spoke about how difficult it was to mourn his friend's death while having to perform:


"Obviously it's good to be distracted and have things, and playing to a crowd, that is great. At one o'clock in the morning, I was at the mural and . . . it's just kind of weird. I was thinking, 'I don't want to cry in front of 78,000 people.' And I found myself really close at times.'"

Sheeran spiraled over wife's cancer diagnosis
Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It AllEd Sheeran and wife Cherry Seaborn in "Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All" (Photo courtesy of Sofi Adams)

"I got diagnosed with cancer at the start of the year which was a massive s**tter," Sheeran's wife, Cherry Seaborn said. "It made me massively reflect on our mortality. I would never agree to do anything like this but it made me think, 'Oh if I died, what's people's perception of me? What do you leave behind?'"


She continued, "For Ed, the whole point is he wants to say to people, 'I'm not just this music machine. I'm not just this robot that tries to get No. 1. I'm a father, I'm a son, I'm a friend.' It wasn't until this year when I was like, 'I might die.'"


To cope with the pain, Sheeran said he wrote seven songs in four hours.


"The moment you find out that the worst thing in the world has happened to someone that you truly love with all your heart, you feel like you're drowning and can't get out from under it," Sheeran said.

Sheeran has repressed his grief
Ed Sheeran and Cherry Seaborn during The BRIT Awards 2022Ed Sheeran and Cherry Seaborn during The BRIT Awards 2022 at The O2 Arena on February 08, 2022 in London, England. (JMEnternational/Getty Images)

"And now [the] stage is not his safe place. Or it wasn't," Seaborn said in the documentary. "I've never seen him cry on stage. He doesn't really cry in general. That's really unusual to see him cry. But I just don't think he's had the time to . . . he hasn't had the time to sit with his thoughts. And I can't see when he's gonna have that in the next four years."


Seaborn added that Sheeran overloaded on work to distract himself from his recent hardships, including Jamal's death, Seaborn's cancer diagnosis and his recent court cases.

Sheeran's new album reflects his struggles
Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It AllEd Sheeran in "Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All" (Photo courtesy of Sofi Adams)

"It's scary putting out your sort of deepest, darkest thoughts to the world," Sheeran said of his upcoming album, which releases on May 5. "The first half of this year was a very difficult part of the last 30 years of my life. There's an umbrella over that time which is just a bit of a blur.


"It's opening the trapdoor into my soul. For the first time I'm not trying to craft an album people will like, I'm merely putting something out that's honest and true to where I am in my adult life."

"Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All" is now available for streaming on Disney+. Watch a trailer for it below, via YouTube:

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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