Despite his massive success as a songwriter, Ed Sheeran has managed to keep his personal life away from the spotlight.
But in a new documentary, the 27-year-old “Shape of You” singer gives peeks into corners of his world that he usually keeps tightly under wraps — including his family, his relationship with fiancée Cherry Seaborn and his creative struggles — all through his cousin Murray Cummings’ camera lens.
“It kind of came by surprise,” Sheeran told PEOPLE exclusively on Monday about the film, available now on Apple Music. “Murray had all the footage. It wasn’t something that I planned but I’m excited to get it out and see what people think — well, see what the fans think. I don’t really care what anyone else thinks!”
It’s clear from the film the star is a perfectionist when it comes to his songwriting, and his standards may be some of the highest in the business. At one point, he’s heard telling his team he doesn’t want to be the “male Adele,” but rather “be Adele.”
“A lot of people call out the competitive side of me, but if you’re a basketball player, you should [aim to] be better than LeBron James,” he explains. “You can’t just be like ‘Oh, I’m happy in my lane.’ You have to aim for the top. I don’t think any artist will do what Adele’s done. I don’t think I could do what Adele’s done, but if you don’t aim there then you won’t get there.”
Despite breaking multiple records with his albums and selling out tickets to his world tours over the years, the Grammy winner doesn’t foresee himself ever losing his competitive streak.
“I make music for me, but when it comes to a career, what is the fun of not [being competitive]?” he says. “People get very confused with me as competitive because they think I’m making the music for that and to get bigger, but it’s just work ethic.”
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“It’s quite weird being a touring ‘celebrity’ because people assume you’re living the best f—ing life in the world, but you don’t really get to live any life because you work the whole time,” he says. “I got to the end of [my last tour] and I was like ‘F—, I’m 25 and haven’t really lived. I needed to have a year off and spend it with friends and family and Cherry and actually become a human being rather than a touring celebrity.”
Now, the star makes sure to fit in some play in between tour stops — like when he recently traveled to Napa Valley and dined at upscale restaurant The French Laundry.
“[We] bumped into Sam Smith there randomly! We were sat on the same table and went out for a drink after that. It was really weird because it’s such a small restaurant, so to bump into someone that you know really well, it was good,” he says about his quick getaway with Seaborn, 26.
Seaborn — whom the star is fiercely protective of — provided footage from her travels to Australia, Italy and Fiji with Sheeran for the documentary and is seen supporting her future husband during the recording of his most recent album.
“I was against having her in the documentary just because I like to keep my personal life private, but I think it’s such a split second of it and it does just capture what she’s like,” he says about including his Duke-educated fiancée in the documentary. “It’s nice for people to see a little bit of that.”