More than four years after the release of his blockbuster album “-,” Ed Sheeran has announced that his long-awaited fourth full-length album, called “=,” naturally enough, will be out on October 29.
“‘=’ (Equals) is a really personal record and one that means a lot to me,” he said in the announcement. “My life changed greatly over the past few years – I got married, became a father, experienced loss, and I reflect on these topics over the course of the album. I see it as my coming-of-age record, and I can’t wait to share this next chapter with you.”
Sheeran revealed the album’s tracklist (below) and unveiled a new song from it, “Visiting Hours,” alongside a performance video. Sheeran released the first single from the album, “Bad Habits,” in June.
The fourth instalment in Sheeran’s “symbol album” series, according to the announcement, “=” is “a body of songs that were made over a four-year period following his seminal ‘÷’ (Divide) album era. Thematically, ‘=’ finds Ed taking stock of his life and the people in it, as he explores the varying degrees of love (‘The Joker And The Queen’, ‘First Times’, ‘2step’), loss (‘Visiting Hours’), resilience (‘Can’t Stop The Rain’) and fatherhood (‘Sandman’, ‘Leave Your Life’), while also processing his reality and career (‘Tides’).”
The announcement comes at the end of a long quiet period for Sheeran in the years since he finished his tour behind 2017’s “Divide.” In that time he released a mixtape-type “No. 6 Collaborations Project” in 2019 and became father to a daughter who is nearly a year old.
Sheeran’s manager, Stuart Camp, spoke with Variety about the album late last month — and said there’s likely to be another album sooner than later, if Sheeran can tour for as long as he’s hoping.“We’ll be touring – if we’re allowed to – for two to three years, and there may be more records in that period,” Camp said. “If we tour for that long, I’d imagine there will be two albums within that cycle. Because this record’s taken so long to make, we genuinely have a lot of songs, so it could happen relatively quickly. If he wanted to, he could literally release an album of acoustic ballads tomorrow!”
The new song, “Visiting Hours,” finds Sheeran coming to terms with the loss of his mentor and friend, Australian music impresario Michael Gudinski, and was written shortly after his passing: “I wish that heaven had visiting hours / So I can just swing by and ask your advice.” He debuted the song at a memorial for Gudinski back in March.
Written and recorded across England, Sweden and Los Angeles, the album’s executive production comes from Ed Sheeran, Fred (“No.6 Collaborations Project”) and Johnny McDaid (“Divide”), with additional writing and/or production provided by Steve Mac, Joe Rubel, Amy Wadge, Foy Vance, Elvira Anderfjard, David Hodges, Andrew Watt, Lou Bell, Natalie Hemby and Ben Kweller. Sheeran’s brother, Matthew, a composer, also contributes string arrangements on “First Times” and “The Joker and the Queen.”
‘=’ Official Tracklist:
- First Times
- Bad Habits
- Overpass Graffiti
- The Joker And The Queen
- Leave Your Life
- Stop The Rain
- Love In Slow Motion
- Visiting Hours
- Be Right Now