As Suffolk singing sensation Ed Sheeran prepares for the biggest gig of his career, Craig Robinson and Tom Potter look back at humble beginnings and the meteoric rise from the Steamboat Tavern to superstar

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran - Credit: PA

Just five years ago Suffolk’s singing superstar Ed Sheeran was performing to small audiences at intimate venues across the county.

Now he is set to play one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most famous arenas, in front of 20,000 fans in New York.

The 22-year-old’s meteoric rise to fame has seen him become a global star – with his debut album now quadruple platinum in the UK alone and attracting admirers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In November, Framlingham’s singer-songwriter will perform at Madison Square Garden (MSG) and follow in the footsteps of musical heavyweights including the Rolling Stones and Sir Elton John.

The gig will confirm Ed’s place as one of the world’s biggest and brightest stars – a far cry from when he started out playing small venues in his home town and surrounding area.

Among those who remember him fondly is Val Bint, of the Steamboat Tavern in Ipswich, where the former Thomas Mills High School student played in 2008 when he was just 17, in front of an audience of about 120.

“He definitely had a talent, not only for music, but also in that he could really hold an audience,” she said. “He had a good stage presence. Very clever but very unassuming, quite mellow.

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“Because he wrote songs about his personal experiences, he really connected with his audience, and what’s more he appealed to all ages.”

For three years in a row, Ed also played at Halesworth’s Gig in the Park.

Festival organiser John Marshall-Potter said: “At that time what he was doing was quite different to anything else around. It doesn’t surprise me that’s he’s gone on. He attracted good crowds and had a big fan base. There was a very loyal following.

“It’s nice to see him doing so well. From what I can tell he still keeps in touch with his mates and he’s back in Suffolk every now and again. As far as I can gather he hasn’t really changed which is good to see – he doesn’t seem to have been swallowed by the whole machine.”

Ed’s rise to fame is anything but an overnight success – he has a reputation in the industry as a hard worker, playing more than 300 gigs in 2009.

His dedication was evident at a young age, releasing an EP when he was in secondary school entitled The Spinning Man.

Former music teacher Richard Hanley has previously said: “I have never encountered anyone with such determination to really make it. He clearly has the talent but he also has that determination.”

This commitment to his profession appears to have continued, with one website rating him as the second hardest working “band” of last year – playing 167 shows and travelling an incredible 222,912km, the equivalent of six laps of the Earth.

Despite his busy schedule, Ed has remained close to his roots – returning to his old primary school of Brandeston Hall earlier this year to surprise young fans who were performing their summer concert.

In partnership with CF Martin & Co he has also designed a limited edition guitar to help raise money for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).

He signed for Atlantic Records in 2009 – choosing to complete the paperwork at The Station pub in Framlingham.

Landlady Resa Jones has previously told the EADT: “It’s amazing to see him right at the very top. He used to come into the pub, and signed his record deal here with his manager, lawyer and a label executive.

“He’s a very sweet boy and fame hasn’t gone to his head. He’s very talented and has a style of music that is different and refreshing.”

Ed’s career has gone from strength to strength, selling millions of copies of his debut album, +, and scooping a raft of awards.

He has even achieved what many British acts appear to find so difficult, continuing that success in the USA.

By supporting the likes of pop star Taylor Swift on tour he has amassed a large and loyal American fanbase, which looks set to increase even more with the recent announcement that he will join the fifth series of the The Voice USA as a team advisor to Christina Aguilera.

But this will be topped on November 1 when he takes to the stage of MSG for his biggest Stateside performance to date.

Posting a message on social networking website about the show, Ed said: “My dad always said you haven’t made it til you’ve played MSG so it’s a massive honour.”

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