Ed Sheeran Talks ‘Thinking Out Loud’ Copyright Trial With Howard Stern – Billboard
Written by GRB on 11/05/2023
Few of us will experience a week quite as eventful as what Ed Sheeran just sailed through.
The singer and songwriter is accustomed to the limelight, occupying center stage. Last week, however, was a blur for Sheeran who, in quick succession, won a major court battle; released a new album, Subtract; then set about promoting his new music on national TV and in the round at U.S. stadiums.
Sheeran faced the media outside the Manhattan Federal Court just last Thursday, where he had been accused of copying the chord structure of Marvin Gaye‘s 1973 classic “Let’s Get It On,” for his own hit, “Thinking Out Loud”.
The “Shape of You” singer even took a pause from his current +–=÷× Tour (pronounced The Mathematics Tour) to take the stand in his own defense. Ultimately, the court found Sheeran not liable. But the experience was a deeply unpleasant one for the singer, who had vowed to quit music should he lose.
With the trial in the review, Sheeran paid a visit to The Howard Stern Show for some thoughts on the court case, his new album, give some shoutouts to artists who’ve inspired him, and, of course, perform new works.
Speaking to Howard Stern and co-host Robin Quivers at SiriusXM studios in New York, Sheeran delivered an encore performance of his courtroom medley, which began with “Thinking Out Loud” and flowed into such standards as Rod Stewart’s “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One,” and The Temptations’ “My Girl.” They’re same-same, but clearly different.
“There were 101 songs (in the medley), and that was like scratching the surface,” Sheeran explains. “Yes, it’s a chord sequence that you hear on successful songs, but if you say that a song in 1973 owns this, then what about all the songs that came before? We found songs from like the 1700s that had similar melodic stuff.”
He adds, “No one’s saying that songs shouldn’t be copyrighted, but you just can’t copyright a chord sequence—you just can’t.”
Had the court ruled in favor of Gaye’s estate, the precedent would’ve rocked the entire music community.
“I’m really glad it’s over, man,” he says, pointing out that the proceedings forced him to miss his own grandmother’s funeral. “It’s a shame,” he continued. “I won’t get that time back and she was a great woman.”
Making music “is the thing I worked my entire life to do, and to have someone … diminish it and just say that you’ve stolen it, I really felt like I had to take a stand,” he notes.
“I really think I would’ve (quit music if he had lost) because it just takes the joy out of it to sit down and say you can’t use a G chord to a C chord because someone did it in the ‘60s,” Sheeran explains.
Now, Sheeran can focus on the music. With the new album and tour, he enthuses, he feels “the most connected I’ve felt to my fan base in years,” adding, “I write music because I have to, and I release music because I want to connect to people.”
Subtract, which completes his mathematics-themed series, “is quite a solitary record,” he admits. “There’s nothing on this album that’s gonna be like banged out at the gym when you’re doing reps or that you’re gonna put on the club when you’re dancing with your mate.” It’s actually a “bit dark”.
Sheeran also recounted how he rubbed out his youthful stutter by rapping to Eminem, took early inspiration from Eric Clapton, and performed album track “Salt Water” and “End of Youth.
Next up, a concert this Saturday (May 13) at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX.