Ed Sheeran says his wife developed a tumour during pregnancy, which informed new album

Ed Sheeran is set to release a new album, ‘-’ (Subtract), on 5 May, with the singer revealing how both his wife’s tumour during pregnancy and the death of Jamal Edwards both informed the album. 

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is set to release a new album, ‘-’ (Subtract), on 5 May, with the singer revealing how both his wife’s tumour during pregnancy and the death of Jamal Edwards informed the album. 


‘-’ (Subtract) will be the final instalment of Sheeran’s mathematical album series. The pop megastar has described how he was working on the album for a decade, “trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album” until personal tragedies struck that led him to re-devise the record in just over a week, with the result being an album that “open[s] the trapdoor into my soul.”

Among the three events Sheeran has outlined, his wife developing a tumour during pregnancy, “with no route to treatment until after the birth” was one; the death of his longtime friend Jamal Edwards, who helped kickstart Sheeran’s career on the SB.TV platform, was also detailed; he also referenced the copyright trial over his track ‘Shape Of You’ where, despite ultimately winning the case, he found himself “defending [his] integrity and career as a songwriter”.

These challenging situations combined left the singer “spiralling through fear, depression and anxiety,” he detailed. “I felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air.

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran by Annie Leibovitz.

“As an artist I didn’t feel like I could credibly put a body of work into the world that didn’t accurately represent where I am and how I need to express myself at this point in my life.”

“For the first time I’m not trying to craft an album people will like, I’m merely putting something out that’s honest and true to where I am in my adult life.”

‘-’ (Subtract) comes more than a decade since his 2011 debut ‘+’. Albums ‘x’, ‘÷’, ‘No.6 Collaborations Project’ and ‘=’ would later follow, developing one of the most commercially successful catalogues of the 21st century in the process.

The mathematical series so far has been so successful, in fact, that Sheeran became the first ever artist to have four albums spend a year in the Top 10, with albums – ‘+‘ (Plus), ‘x’ (Multiply), ‘÷’ (Divide) and ‘=’ (Equals) having now all charted for 52 weeks or more inside the Top 10 of the UK’s Official Albums Chart. Only Simon & Garfunkel have managed to have more than one album achieve this, and that was just with two of their albums.

Ed Sheeran Subtract album

He also broke a Spotify record, becoming the first artist to ever reach the 100 million follower mark on the platform. 

Despite Sheeran’s notion that ‘-’ (Subtract) is an album constructed with less commercial intent than previous records, written from a place of significant personal struggle, it still remains likely to have significant chart success. Time will tell following the album’s release on 5 May.

The singer has also announced the tracklisting for the new album, which is below.

  1. Boat
  2. Salt Water
  3. Eyes Closed
  4. Life Goes On
  5. Dusty
  6. End Of Youth
  7. Colourblind
  8. Curtains
  9. Borderline
  10. Spark
  11. Vega
  12. Sycamore
  13. No Strings
  14. The Hills of Aberfeldy

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