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Sheeran wrote on Instagram on Thursday: “My 4th studio album ‘=‘ comes out October 29th, and is available to preorder today on all platforms, cd, vinyl and cassette. I started writing and recording this album June 2017.
“Its been a long, long process. I’ve been through love, loss, new life, grief and everything in between during the whole period of writing it, and I feel like it’s really a coming of age record. I’ve never been more proud of a body of work, or more excited/nervous for you all to hear it.
“The next song off of it is called Visiting Hours, which I finished for my friend Michael who sadly passed away this year.
“If you preorder the album you get this song with it, but it’s also on all platforms from now too. Lots more music to come, but for now I hope you are as excited as me for this album. ‘=‘ everywhere from October 29th x
Speaking to fans during an Instagram Live session, he also explained the symbolism behind the new album.
He said he painted part of the cover during lockdown, with a friend then helping him design the cover.
Referencing a teaser Instagram post from Wednesday, he said: “You will have seen the little chrysalis cocoon that is on there. Basically the symbolism behind the album is sort of new life.
“I’ve been through, over the last sort of four years, different experiences in life, including… getting married, having a kid, losing a friend, and I just felt like the butterfly symbolism fit in with that.
“There’s 14 songs on the album. It’s been a kind of painstaking process, cutting it down to 14 songs.
“I started with quite a lot, but they all have their place and I love it, I think it’s the best bit of work that I’ve done, and it’s cohesive, and it feels great.”
After the Instagram Live session he performed Visiting Hours, which he debuted earlier this year at a memorial Gudinski.
“Me and Cherry’s actual wedding was a tiny affair, with hardly anyone there,” he said on Jessie Ware’s podcast Table Manners recently. “We did it at night, at a random day in the middle of January, in the middle of nowhere. No one knew, no one came to it, we lit candles and we got married, went back and had a curry.”
The couple then had a star-studded celebration - with mobile phones banned to stop pictures being leaked to the press.
Sheeran said: “The wedding party was more a celebration of us and our friends. I didn’t want pictures getting out and I’m surprised they didn’t.”