From out of nowhere British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has become one of the biggest-selling names in music. Only Adele and One Direction sold more albums in New Zealand last year. Ahead of Sheeran's Wellington debut tomorrow, George Palathingal asks, is he the most lusted-after ginger in pop?
"Adele nicked my parrot," says British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran of perhaps the only person on the planet more famous and successful than himself.
"I was dressed up as a pirate and I had a parrot on me and she nicked it for her kid."
Although this is exactly the kind of bonkers behaviour we dream the world's biggest pop stars get up to in their spare time, Sheeran has a good excuse. He turned 22 a couple of weeks ago while still in Los Angeles after the Grammys and, to celebrate, played a fancy-dress gig on the big night.
He had flown a bunch of friends over from England for the occasion, and some higher-profile fans also turned up - among them Adele (clearly), Ben Harper and Sir Elton John, with whom Sheeran had duetted at the Grammys on his own Song of the Year-nominated The A Team. As you do.
"There have been a few things that have been absolutely mind-blowing in that sense," Sheeran admits.
He was 20 when his debut album + ("plus") was released and has since not only found his pretty folk-pop songs resonating with fans from his native Suffolk to Wellington, but also has become something of a sex symbol.
He denies he is the most lusted-after ginger-haired man in the world. "I think Prince Harry has that mantle . . . just 'cause he's a prince, though," Sheeran says, but appreciates the attention, basically because it's clear that's not all his fans are about.
"Like, when I play these gigs it can go from deafening screams to complete silence within two songs," he says. "It's a good balance of people just being excited to be there in general and then people wanting to listen to it, as well."
Sheeran is also likely to further increase his profile in the United States this year. He will spend six months as the opening act for Taylor Swift's American tour.
"My competition at the moment is probably somebody like Taylor," he said in an earlier interview. "It's a healthy competition. She's someone to aspire to because she's one of the biggest touring acts and record-selling acts on the planet.
"That's where I want to be. . ."
New Zealanders caught on early. His debut album was the third-biggest-selling album last year - the only acts to outsell him were One Direction and Adele - and it has been on the charts for 62 weeks. This week + is No 3 in the charts - the same position it was in exactly a year ago.
Having been here just last August to play to excited fans in Auckland, he returns to play Wellington for the first time.
It's not bad going for one man, an acoustic guitar and a loop station.
"I've always had an intention to get a band," he says, "it's just there's never been a right time - it's kept on growing and growing and growing.
"I quite like the challenge of doing these venues and these venues saying, ‘You've been the only person to do it completely solo'. I quite like being that guy."
Ed Sheeran plays Wellington's TSB Bank Arena on March 8.
- The Dominion Post
Is this the best summer ever?Related story: Wellington sizzles in January heat