Ed Sheeran’s former singing teacher on why the ‘accident-prone’ but ‘special soul’ has made it so big
PUBLISHED: 19:00 20 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:20 23 August 2019
From sticking his glasses together with Sellotape to hanging out with Big Narstie on a mattress in Framlingham – singing teacher Claire Weston recalls some of her favourite memories of Ed Sheeran.
"It was supposed to be my year out," laughed Claire, as she launches into the story of how she came to teach the star.
It was 2005 and the soprano, who is a former principal of the English National Opera, had just moved to Framlingham to be closer to her sister, when impulsively she decided to put up a flyer in the local post office advertising singing lessons.
Imogen Sheeran, Ed's mother, approached Claire after noticing the advert, and from then on a young Ed spent two hours every week learning to sing and play piano.
Claire, who is now the head of singing at Woodbridge School and still performs widely across Suffolk, said: "Ed was about 13 or 14 when I started teaching him.
"He was a very normal young boy, but one thing which stood out was how eager he was to do everything properly and how much he wanted to learn."
Ed, who Claire says was "accident-prone" and would turn up at her door with his glasses stuck together by Sellotape in true Harry Potter form, had a fascination with her box of clippings.
"One day he asked me if he could look through it," said the 45-year-old, who is originally from Yorkshire. "He found a picture of me performing at Glastonbury and said he wanted to sing there one day."
In 2004 Claire was the first ever classical artist to perform on the main stage at Glastonbury, her debut performance using a microphone.
Her classical background - where she would sing acapella - was one which fascinated a young Ed, and Claire said his favourite song to sing was 'Where'er You Walk' by George Frideric Handel.
"He was interested in the technical side of music," added Claire. "He wanted to know how to use his voice and how to control his vocal stamina.
"He was very focussed on what he wanted to do - and had a very inquiring mind.
"In that sense he was very different to your average teenager, I never once heard him say 'I want to be a star', but now that's often what young people say when they come to me for lessons."
Claire taught Ed for about five years, but has continued to see him sporadically in London or when he visits his home in Framlingham, and is now considered a close friend of the family.
A few months ago Claire, who has lost 10 stone in the years since she first moved to Suffolk, bumped into Ed at the Station Hotel in Framlingham and the superstar's reaction was: "Oh my god, Claire when did you get so hot?"
"I was like, Ed you can't say that!" laughed Claire.
When asked whether she had any inclination of what was to come for Ed, Claire said: "I knew he was a special soul, but honestly, it's a combination of a moment of chance and drive, and you can't predict that, no one can."
Claire does admit that it's slightly surreal witnessing his meteoric rise to stardom.
But in true Ed style, he has always wanted to be his very best.
She recalls a time shortly after the release of A-Team when Ed visited her worried that his voice might not good enough for the Jools Holland TV show.
"He was always trying to be his very best," she added. "He understood the importance of experience, and how it comes with age - the ability to see that as a teenager is incredible."
Ed has famously remained true to his roots and still has a house close to where he grew up, which Claire believes is the perfect place for the superstar.
She remembers popping over to Ed's on one occasion and coming across Big Narstie (who she admits she had no idea who he was at the time) lying on a mattress playing Lego in the living room.
"I have no clue about pop music," laughed Claire. "But it was still very weird for me."
She thinks the lack of hysteria in Framlingham helps Ed stay grounded - along with his family and the help of his former school Thomas Mills, who she says "gives children the opportunity to be who they want to be".
Claire added: "What an extraordinary success he has had and will continue to have.
"I think his longevity comes from him writing his own songs, but also because he has real integrity and a great tie to where he has come from.
"Through knowing and meeting Ed, I know his lyrics are true to who he is, he writes how he feels and people have a lot of empathy and can share their experiences with him in this way."
Despite not being a fan of pop music, Claire says she always likes Ed's music when she hears it and claims that he has never sung a bad song.
"I always know when it's a song of his," she laughed. "He's got that individuality about him and it's always something I like."
Claire knows what it takes to be a success - and knows just how hard Ed has worked to get to where he is today.
She says the whole of Framlingham and Suffolk are proud of him.
"I was just a facilitator in Ed's life," she explained. "As teachers and parents we nurture youngsters to aspire them to be a better person, but none of us are responsible for their success.
"It is all down to the hard work and graft that Ed has put in."
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