By Madison Vain
May 22, 2017 at 08:00 AM EDT
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Credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Pop megastar Ed Sheeran took the first hiatus of his career recently. At the end of 2015, he shut off his social accounts, got rid of his cell phone, and headed for far-off places.

“I traveled to places that I’d been to on tour but never really got a chance to see, like Japan, as well as places that I’d never been but always wanted to, like Ghana,” he tells EW. “It was incredible. I felt totally refreshed and rejuvenated.”

He says the benefit was two-fold, for both him and his fans. “I came back even more driven than the last album, [which] I pretty much went straight into from my first without any break,” he says. “And I also think it was good for my fans. They needed a break from me and I think going away made them even more excited when I did finally come back with new music.”

Excited is an understatement. Trop-inspired tune “Shape of You” has ruled the Billboard Hot 100 since it dropped and Sheeran’s massive global tour has been met with such demand that extra shows are being added all the way into 2018.

“Production is definitely bigger this time around,” the 26-year-old says, previewing the run which hits North America on June 29. “I’d like to think that it’s sounding better too. I have a new loop station that can handle a bit more. But ultimately, it’s still just me, my guitar, and the looper. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

He notes that more than half of the nightly setlist is new music.

Sheeran’s tour started earlier this year in Europe and he says he’s loving how quickly the new songs have begun to be sung back to him. “I’m a little surprised,” he admits. “And [surprised] how a song like ‘Galway Girl,’ which is rooted in traditional Irish music, is being embraced by fans in places like Italy, Germany, and France.”

Sheeran also says he’s particularly excited to spend time dotting the U.S. map. “I’m literally going to be there all summer, even into fall, really,” he says. “It’s hard to put my finger on what exactly it is, but every country has its own vibe. Not any better or worse, just different. And, even within the U.S., each city has its own vibe. I have friends in New York and L.A., so those shows always feel a bit closer to ‘home shows’ I imagine.”

To read more from our summer music preview, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands now, or available to buy here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.