Ed Sheeran: ‘Yo-Yo Ma emailed me to tell me he loved my song Shape of You’

19 November 2021, 16:30 | Updated: 19 November 2021, 18:29

Ed Sheeran on Bach's cello suites, and an email from Yo-Yo Ma

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

The star English singer-songwriter talks to Classic FM about his musical roots as a cellist and reveals the courteous email from one of the greatest virtuosos of our time.

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Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has sold more than 150 million records and is renowned the world over for songs like Perfect and Shape of You, topping charts the world over.

Sheeran’s music incorporates a range of genres, from folk and hip hop, to rock and soul – but in a new interview, he has revealed how deep his classical music inspiration runs.

This Sunday on Classic FM’s interview series, Moira Stuart Meets..., legendary broadcaster Moira Stuart sits down to talk with Sheeran about life, music and his passions for all things classical.

And it was during the course of this talk that a charming story about a classical-pop crossover was revealed.

Sheeran says “I got an email from Yo-Yo Ma, just saying that he loved Shape of You. [It] was the first song he’d heard of mine...7 or 8 years into my career.”

The song clearly had an impact on Ma, who recorded a cello cover of Sheeran’s track.

The singer-songwriter spent his early years learning the cello, and was thrilled to hear from a great of the instrument. “I love Yo-Yo Ma, I think he's phenomenal,” he said.

A young Sheeran looks thrilled to be playing the cello
A young Ed Sheeran with his cello. Picture: Alamy

In his Moira Stuart Meets... interview, Sheeran talks about his classical upbringing. He says he grew up with classical music, with his brother playing the violin and piano.

“I just wanted to be like my brother, but he didn’t want me to copy him, so I learned the cello,” he says.

“My grandmother was also a classical singer, and she was very influential on us as kids.”

His brother, Matthew Sheeran, is now an award-winning classical composer specialising in music for film and TV.

Sheeran was brought up in Framlingham, Suffolk, and began writing songs in secondary school. before releasing his debut album, +, in 2011.

He describes how fellow Suffolk resident, 20th century composer Benjamin Britten, also had an impact on his life.

“My grandmother knew him, my grandfather knew him,” recounts Sheeran, “he’s always been a massive part of our lives because of what he did for the area, and in founding the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts”.

You can listen to the full interview of Moira Stuart Meets...Ed Sheeran on Sunday 21st November at 9pm on Classic FM.