Ed Sheeran Announces New Album Inspired by Wife’s Health Scare and Friend’s Death

Out May 5, ‘Subtract’ will be the last album in Ed Sheeran’s mathematical era.

Jackie Kolgraf
March 1, 2023

Photo: Annie Leibovitz

Today, Ed Sheeran announced that his fifth and final mathematical-era album “-” (pronounced Subtract) will drop on May 5.

According to Ed, he spent 10 years making hundreds of songs for the album before scrapping it all in 2022 after his wife had a health scare and his best friend passed away. He considers this album “last February’s diary entry.”

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In a statement, Ed shared: “I had been working on Subtract for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be. Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art.

“Writing songs is my therapy. It helps me make sense of my feelings. I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out. And in just over a week, I replaced a decade’s worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts.

“Within the space of a month, my pregnant wife got told she had a tumour, with no route to treatment until after the birth. My best friend Jamal, a brother to me, died suddenly and I found myself standing in court defending my integrity and career as a songwriter. I was spiralling through fear, depression and anxiety.

“I felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air.

“As an artist I didn’t feel like I could credibly put a body of work into the world that didn’t accurately represent where I am and how I need to express myself at this point in my life. This album is purely that. It’s opening the trapdoor into my soul. For the first time I’m not trying to craft an album people will like, I’m merely putting something out that’s honest and true to where I am in my adult life.

“This is last February’s diary entry and my way of making sense of it. This is Subtract.”

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Subtract features Aaron Dessner of The National on writing and production. Ed and Aaron were introduced by mutual friend Taylor Swift and spent a month together in-studio, creating 30 songs to fill the new album’s 14 tracks. It will contain folk-leaning textures as well as bolder, full-band/orchestral arrangements.

Subtract Tracklist


Salt Water

Eyes Closed

Life Goes On


End Of Youth







No Strings

The Hills of Aberfeldy