Let’s go to my place for the finale!” Ed Sheeran shouts as he hops into an SUV. It’s just after midnight in London. Sheeran spent much of the evening in a bar, but even with his bright-red hair hidden under a ball cap, people started to recognize him. The DJ played one of his songs, and his friends had to create a wall around him so he could drink in peace. It all made him a little anxious, which is why we’re speeding to his West London home to keep the party going.
Sheeran is celebrating tonight because he knows he’s about to score his first Number One hit in America with “Shape of You,” a sleek, funky stomper from his new album, ÷ (pronounced Divide). We’re joined by his girlfriend, Cherry, and his old friends Zack, Nathan and Catherine, who have been watching him perform since he released his first album, The Spinning Man, when he was 13. “I went plywood,” Sheeran, now 25, jokes about that LP. “Not gold. I sold 100 copies
Peggy Sirota for Rolling Stone
Sheeran has been going hard tonight: espresso martinis and rum-punch shots at dinner, gin and tonics at the bar. It’s my birthday, and at one point he grabs my phone, takes a selfie of us and posts to my Instagram, writing “It’s my birthday bitches #london #hashtag #believe #achieve #inspiration.” He encourages friends to knock back pints with a drinking song that ends “Na na na na/Hey hey hey/You’re a cunt!”
Soon, we arrive at his house, a five-floor, industrial-style space with brick walls, wood floors and several personal touches: a Charmander Pokémon stuffed animal in his bedroom and a bong shaped like Benny Blanco’s head in the living room. There’s also a recording studio, a gym and a full bar, where he recently entertained several young cast members of his favorite show, Game of Thrones. As we arrive, Sheeran offers bedrooms to anyone who wants to “get rowdy,” then goes to work mixing drinks.