After joining Sheeran's label, his 2015 album 'Jamie Lawson' hit No. 1 on the U.K. charts.

By Madison Vain
Updated February 17, 2016 at 04:57 PM EST
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Brand new Grammy winner Ed Sheeran launched his own record label, Gingerbread Man Records, last August. Not long after, he found his first signee — another English singer-songwriter with shaggy red hair, Jamie Lawson. Over lunch in Midtown New York City, Lawson tells EW about what it’s like having Sheeran at the helm of his career, how he hopes to change pop music, and his brand new tour with Vance Joy.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you link up with Ed Sheeran?

Lawson: We met five years ago in London. We were doing an acoustic show together and got on pretty well. Then he got signed and took off phenomenally. We lost touch straight away. But then I got this text in summer of last year saying Ed was doing a show in Dublin and could I come and join.

He remembered you after all those years?

I asked him about that and he said two days before the call, he was in a pub in Ireland and my poster was on the wall. He was like, “I remember that guy!”

What made you want to sign with him?

It seemed like a no-brainer. We’d talked about what I wanted to make — he said, “Well, how do you want the record to sound?” I described it and he said, “Well, that will be perfect.” He didn’t get involved in that sense, he supported me, instead. He has said one of the reasons he chose me is that he wouldn’t have to do any work [laughs].

Can you describe what you wanted it to sound like?

1970s Van Morrisson is huge for me. I love the Moondance album. There’s a real sense of space and warmth. It doesn’t ever oppress you, in anyway. I find music today a bit oppressive. I wanted to make the album in a way where you could walk in, walk around, sit down for a bit — just let it come to you, in a way. I don’t know if I got that but that was my aim.

I think your self-titled album (released last October) accomplishes that. Is there anyone else putting stuff out right now that you really like?

I like hearing Hozier and Elbow on the radio. Things have been pretty vapid for a while, I like hearing what they say. Actually, I listen to them and think, “These guys are writing, lyrically, much better songs than I am.” They make me want to get better.

Listeners had a similar reaction when your song, “Wasn’t Expecting That” took off. It sounded fresh and different from much of the Top 40 fare.

I feel a bit out of place. When I hear my song on the radio, I feel like it doesn’t quite fit. And yet at the same time, it’s had such a reaction that it clearly does belong on the radio.

Is the size of Ed Sheeran’s career your aspiration?

There is a level of fame that I wouldn’t wish for, or on anyone. I don’t know how it’s balanced. But yes, I would love to sell music and reach a lot of people.

You were ahead of him for a minute there last fall when your album went No. 1 in the UK. He was right behind you with x at No. 2.

I was just shocked [laughs]. And Ed was so excited. In some ways I felt a great sense of relief for him, because he’s put so much energy into me. We knew early in the week because it was out-selling everyone but I didn’t want to believe it until I actually saw it. And even then, even though it was in print online I still didn’t believe it until I saw it in print, in the physical. So I went and saw it on a wall in a music shop. So when I saw it and Ed was No. 2 it was like — that’s pretty sweet.

You’re out on tour with Vance Joy this spring. What are you most looking forward to?

Mainly his crowd. I saw him play a couple shows in London at Hyde Park and his crowd is such an exceptionally happy crowd.

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