“I heard that song ‘Photograph’ on the radio and my first instinct was, ‘Ah, another acoustic ballad from Ed,'” Urban tells Rolling Stone. “Then I saw him do his concert live at Wembley, and it was absolutely amazing.”
Urban joined thousands of other audience members at the London show, which was also filmed for a concert documentary to be released October 23rd. “It’s beautifully refreshing to watch somebody on stage that’s just about the music,” he says. “It was extraordinary because this is a guy holding 90,000 people in the palm of his hand, not running around the stage, no flashy-ism at all, no smokes and bombs or pyrotechnics — nothing except just a beautiful heart.”
Sheeran, whose performances are a vulnerable combination of singing, playing acoustic guitar and adding loops and effects with a pedalboard — sans band — has recently performed with Beyoncé at Global Citizen Festival in Central Park and the Bill Withers’ Tribute Concert at Carnegie Hall.
Urban’s appreciation for Sheeran goes beyond live performances. “I’m flabbergasted at the level of songwriting,” he says. “Thank God for him to remind us in the midst of all this ringtone-song world we live in that actual real songs and songwriting still exist. The fact that we still get it renews my faith in humanity. When we are given something pure like Ed, we still respond globally.”
Urban has a kindred spirit in Sheeran in that he’s not one to cave to trends nor confine himself to genre boundaries, but rather to just make music that moves him. “I’m trying to capture songs that feel right to me and record them in the way that I envision them and get it right,” he told Rolling Stone Country last week when we asked about the progress of his next album. “I tend to not even spend that much time thinking what doesn’t fit and what does. It feels very organic. There’s a fine line between diversity and scattered shit, too. At some point you just gotta make the record and put it out and people are going to do whatever they want, but I have to at least put it together the way I envision it and let it go.”
The first taste of the country Grammy winner’s as-yet-untitled LP is the chart-topping “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.”