Ed Sheeran says this is why he never learned to shred

Ed Sheeran performs using his Crashocaster Fender Strat
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur / Getty)

Ed Sheeran popped in on the Howard Stern show on Sirius XM recently and discussed his guitar playing influences and, in particular, his love of Eric Clapton’s Layla

Talking about the influence of the blues guitar hero, Stern asks Sheeran if he can shred.

“That’s the one thing that I can’t do,” says Sheeran. “I sort of made a choice when I was younger, like, ‘If I wanna be John Mayer or Eric Clapton, I learn all this shit and if I wanna be Damien Rice, I learn four chords.”

The singer-songwriter implies he opted for the latter option [fine, but if you ask us, it’ll never work out – Ed], but says he nonetheless went through a period of Clapton obsession. 

Indeed his love of the British guitar god is well-documented and, as he reiterates to Stern, was directly responsible for him first taking up the guitar.

“I was watching the Queen’s [Golden] Jubilee when I was 11,” says Sheeran. “And he came on and played the [opening notes of Layla] and I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ 

“Then I got the Derek and the Domino's album, I got the Eric Clapton Greatest Hits, I bought Eric Clapton Unplugged and just learned all these songs… [But Layla] was the first and only thing I could play for a long time.”

Sheeran also tells the story of how he came to meet his hero and says that a guitar is at the heart of the tale. 

Years into his career, Sheeran picked up a near identical Fender Stratocaster to the one Clapton used at the Jubilee show – a custom-finished ‘Crashocaster’, so dubbed due to the artwork by graffiti artist Crash (pictured above).

“I bought the sort of replica guitar of the guitar that he was playing at the Queen's Jubilee,” Sheeran tells Stern. “And I played [UK music show] Jools Holland… with that Eric Clapton guitar. 

“[The next day] I got this email and the title was just ‘E’ and it just said, ‘Nice guitar.’ And I was like, ‘I think that's Eric Clapton!’ We just got friends from there.”

Alongside discussing Layla, Stern also asks Sheeran if he can still perform the track and Sheeran duly obliges with a snippet on his acoustic guitar, before pausing: 

“I’m viewed as not a great guitarist, he laughs. “There will be guitar people around the world going, ‘What’s he doing murdering this song?’”

Regardless, it’s worth noting – that as a man who is friends with Clapton and has his own line of acoustics, Sheeran By Lowden – he is, now, guitar people. Welcome, Ed. You can never leave. Sorry...

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.