A week after winning his landmark copyright case, Ed Sheeran is celebrating by playing the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards in Frisco, Texas tonight. Though only announced Tuesday (May 9), his appearance has been in the works for a few weeks when an unrevealed artist invited him to play together.
That artist and their performance are a secret, but Sheeran is also playing “Life Goes On,” from his new album – (Subtract).
If he has it his way, Sheeran will be making a lot more country music. “I talk about this to my wife all the time. I would love to transition into country,” he tells Billboard backstage at the Ford Center at The Star at Frisco following rehearsal. “I love the culture of it, I just love the songwriting. It’s just like brilliant songs.”
Sheeran considers himself a major country music fan. He’s lived in Nashville twice for extended periods of time in 2013 and 2018 and found himself very inspired by the local songwriters. “It’s like a community. There’s not really a place in Europe where you could point and say, ‘That’s the home of songwriting,’” he says. “It’s not just for country music. Nashville is just a hub of incredible songwriters, incredible performers. And I really felt inspired just being there being around everyone.”
He has Taylor Swift to thank for turning him on to country music. “I’d never really listened to country music as a kid growing up. It was only being on Taylor’s Red tour and living in Nashville and her basically introducing me to that side of it.”
Now he’s a convert, adding that “there’s a radio station in England called [CountryLine Radio] that me and my wife have on all day, every day in the kitchen.”
As country grows in popularity internationally, he predicts more artists experiencing global success. “Luke Combs could probably play a stadium in England. I think if he put on Wembley [Stadium] next summer, he could sell it.” (Combs, who is on a world tour, already has two O2 Arena dates in London on his October calendar.)
As Sheeran celebrates his May 4 copyright victory during which a jury ruled that his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud” did not copy Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic “Let’s Get It On,” he hopes that his willingness to fight instead of settle helps other songwriters, though he admits it may take some time to change the current culture where such suits have “become a big money business,” he says.
“But the more that people step up and fight, the less it’s going to happen because the reason it has become a culture and a big money business is because of the threat of it. And so, people settle because they don’t want to spend a lot of money on lawyers and take time out,” he says. “I took time out of promoting my album two weeks, I spent a lot of money on lawyers to prove my innocence. And I think that if that happens more and more and more, it’ll just stop people thinking that they can just do a hit and run basically.”
This story originally appeared on Billboard