“So honey now, take me into your loving arms. Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars. Place your head on my beating heart. I’m thinking out loud, maybe we found love right where we are.”
If you are a fan of pop music, chances are that you have hummed these lines innumerable times.
These are the lyrics from the much-adored 2014 song ‘Thinking Out Loud’.
With over 3 billion views on YouTube and 1.5 billion streams on Spotify, ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is a song that has won the singer song-writer two Grammy Awards.
More than the song in itself, fans all across the globe adore its vivacious and cheerful creator — Ed Sheeran. He is one of the most decorated pop singers of this decade.
Nonetheless, about 15 years before he released ‘Thinking Out Loud’, he found himself stuck with a speech problem — quite literally.
How Ed Sheeran Struggled with Stuttering in Childhood
Thinking out loud was never a problem for Ed Sheeran.
However, sharing his thoughts with others or speaking in front of a real audience was the real challenge.
Ed Sheeran was born with a port-wine stain birthmark on his face. He believes that his stuttering was a result of the medical team’s mistake when they forgot to put him under during a laser-assisted removal surgery of the birthmark.
Years before he penned “people fall in love in mysterious ways”, he discovered that his brain worked in mysterious ways.
Though he was able to think clearly, he found it difficult to put his thoughts into words.
Being an unconventional kid, wearing thick blue glasses, and having eccentric mannerisms, Sheeran was already unpopular in school.
His stuttering came as the final blow in making him ‘uncool’ amongst his peers. He initially tried homeopathy and herbs but to no avail.
Ed Sheeran’s father, John Sheeran was a ‘take no prisoners’ guy.
At a very early age, John taught his son to fight back whenever someone picked on him. But more than that, John’s gift to his nine-year-old son helped the singer turn his life around.
Ed Sheeran’s uncle Jim told his father that a new singer called Eminem is going to become the next Bob Dylan.
Hence, despite not knowing much about the contents of Eminem’s songs, John bought his son The Marshall Mathers LP.
According to Ed, hearing someone say ‘rude stuff’ was naturally attractive to a nine-year-old.
He found himself hooked to Eminem’s songs.
By the next year, he knew every single word of every single song of The Marshall Mathers LP.
The “weird kid” who used to stutter now sang entire rap songs with incredible ease.
Ed Sheeran’s Thoughts on Stuttering
Not many knew that Ed Sheeran struggled with stuttering as a child until he opened up about it at the American Institute for Stuttering’s (AIS) Free Voices Changing Lives Benefit Gala.
Actress Emily Blunt, who also struggled with stuttering as a child, invited Sheeran to the event.
He addressed some critical issues during his award acceptance speech at the event.
As a kid, we all have tried to fit in with the “cool’’ guys.
Dealing with his idiosyncrasies, Sheeran was a kid who grew up with very few friends.
With maturity and rationale still at their developing stages, facing discrimination and bullying at a young age often results in low self-esteem.
In a desperate attempt to be like everyone else, we risk losing our uniqueness.
However, Sheeran described how our quirks make us unique.
He encouraged embracing one’s “weirdness”, instead of trying to fit in.
Addressing the kids who are struggling with similar emotions that he experienced two decades ago, Sheeran stated,
“Everything you think is wrong with you is actually right because that makes you an individual, and that makes you an even more interesting human. That makes you, you.”
Kids grow up thinking that those with so-called “issues” might not have much to look forward to, while the popular guys will end up at the pinnacle of success.
One such popular kid now does plumbing for Sheeran. On the contrary, the so-called “weird kids” of his class are now highly successful.
In a bid to be popular, we go miles to emulate others. However, each of us is unique in our own way and that is our most beautiful trait.
Sheeran, alongside millions of other successful people, is a living proof that you, in your very own and distinctive way, are remarkably special.
Eminem, Ed Sheeran, and Stuttering
Ed Sheeran is only one name amongst a plethora of talented musicians, who used singing as an antidote to overcome stuttering.
Rapper Kendrick Lamar, contemporary R&B singer Sam Smith, and indie-pop musician Megan Washington have all dealt with speech impediment issues.
A reason for this is familiarity.
While singing, we know the words we will sing out next, and hence do not have to worry about finding words and forming sentences.
Singing also involves a rhythm, which is lacking in speech. The innate and natural rhythm of music induces fluency.
That’s why speech-language pathologists (SLP) help patients master a breathing mechanism — which is in synchronization with a rhythm. Besides these factors, the lack of anxiety of communication also comes into play when we are singing.
Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP may not have had any spellbinding wizardry in it.
The cure of Ed Sheeran’s stuttering may not have been due to any miracle either.
Instead, it was a popular and effective speech therapy method that has helped countless people around the world.
Sheeran found himself lost in the fast and melodious four-letter raps of the “Rap God”.
He was engrossed in the rhythm of the songs and memorized every word. With some practice, he became a pretty decent rapper at the age of 10.
While not everybody is as gifted as Ed Sheeran, this method has proved to be efficacious time and again.
For Sheeran, music therapy worked as a way of self-expression. It helped him find his own identity. He used it to tackle the bullies regularly during his childhood. In Sheeran’s words, it made him, him.
After donating USD 20,000 to the American Institute for Stuttering (AIS), he ended the event by singing ‘Thinking Out Loud’.
Unlike two decades ago, now he was both thinking, singing, and speaking out loud-and-clear for everyone to hear.