In a crowded New York courtroom, Ed Sheeran picked up his guitar on Thursday and began a tune that got him into a copyright dispute over the soul classic “Let’s Get it On.” by Marvin Gaye as the sole audience that mattered — a jury — look above.
Sheeran testified for an hour in Manhattan federal court when his attorney, Ilene Farkas, pressed him to tell him why he wrote “Thinking Out Loud” a decade ago.
He turned around, took his guitar from the rack behind the witness stand, and explained that writing a song was second nature to him. He says he uses his own phonetic version to create songs so quickly that he can write up to nine in a day. Even last weekend, Sheeran confirmed that he had written 10 songs.
Then he sang just a few words of the key tune, bringing smiles to the faces of some in the audience in Judge Louis L. Stanton’s courtroom.
“I’m singing loud,” he sings, loud enough for everyone to hear but without increasing decibels in court.
After he finished singing those words, he also said a few sentences, saying “and then the words fell in” as he tried to teach the judges his method of making music. He said he collaborated on the song with a co-writer, Amy Wadge, who wrote the opening chords.
Although he has performed with some of the world’s great artists and became a familiar face at music awards ceremonies at the age of 32, he spoke from the witness stand with his chair tilted towards the band. judge: “I’m not the most talented guitar player in the world.”
And when he banged his hand on the witness’s microphone, he quickly said “sorry”.
He then begins the song that the heirs of Ed Townsend, Gaye’s co-writer on “Let’s Get It On”, say there are “striking similarities” and “common elements” with Gaye’s famous 1973 musical treasure.
“When your feet don’t work the way they used to,” he sings earnestly, as if he were going to dive deeper into the song. Then, after just a few bars, he abruptly put the guitar back on the shelf when his lawyer told the judge it was the right time to postpone the trial for the week.
Two days earlier, he had been called in by an attorney to testify for the plaintiffs and adamantly told the jury that he and Wadge had come up with the song without copying anyone else’s music.
He also said that a video showing him making a distinction on stage between “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On” was not unusual, adding that it was “quite simple to intertwine.” between songs” with the same key.
On Thursday, his attorney posed friendly, suggestive questions from Sheeran about how he became interested in music after joining the church choir with his mother when he 4 years old.
Sheeran was self-deprecating when he told his story, saying: “I can’t read music. I’m not trained in anything.”
He said he dropped out of school at 17 so he could perform up to three times a night, playing anywhere he was, from bingo rooms to restaurants to “anywhere without anyone. “
Within a decade, he’d performed with some of the biggest names in music, from Taylor Swift to the Rolling Stones, 50 Cent to Eric Clapton.
Before long, he said, he was writing eight or nine songs a day, explaining: “When inspiration hits, you get excited and it just keeps coming.”
Near the end of her testimony, Sheeran was asked by her attorney why an expert called in by the plaintiffs was trying to show how the chords in “Thinking Out Loud” resembled “Let’s Get It On.” .
“He said that because it helped his argument,” Sheeran said.
The trial continues on Monday.