From his training in classical music to the songs he’s arranged for Lizzo and Dua Lipa, here’s everything to know about Ed Sheeran’s older brother, Matthew Sheeran
Ed Sheeran isn’t the only musical star in his family.
The English singer-songwriter has an older brother, Matthew Sheeran, who is a successful composer, orchestrator and arranger. The two have collaborated on several songs together, with Matthew, who goes by Matt, arranging a brilliant symphonic version of the singer’s hit song “Perfect.”
The brothers were born in West Yorkshire and raised in Suffolk by mom Imogen and dad John Sheeran, who encouraged the boys’ creative talents from a young age — so much so that Ed and Matt even co-wrote a song inspired by their father called “Chasing Stars,” about how he was “supportive to us when we were younger with our music,” Ed wrote at the time of the song’s release.
So who is Ed Sheeran’s brother? From his own musical career to their shared aversion to technology, here’s everything to know about Matthew Sheeran and his relationship with the “Shape of You” singer.
He grew up in a creative and musical family
Matt was born on March 17, 1989, to Imogen and John Sheeran. He was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and became a big brother two years later, when Ed was born on Feb. 17, 1991. The family later moved to Framlingham, Suffolk, where both boys were raised.
Their mom was an art consultant and worked at Manchester City Art Gallery. She later launched her own jewelry business, Made in Suffolk, which focused on selling necklaces and other accessories inspired by her son Ed. John also had a flourishing career in the arts, managing a consulting business called Sheeran Lock alongside Imogen, and also working as a curator, exhibition organizer and arts lecturer.
Both Matt and Ed’s musical talents took hold in their childhood, when they each began singing in the local church choir. Matt took up the violin and viola as a teenager, according to Little Black Book, and began composing soon after.
He studied music in college
The composer continued to pursue his love of music through his studies, going on to receive a Bachelors in Music from the University of Sussex in 2010.
He was later invited to speak at his alma mater in 2023 at their annual School of Media, Arts and Humanities Undergraduate Showcase. After graduating, he also earned a Master’s degree in Composition from King’s College in London.
He’s a talented composer
From film scores to hit singles, Matt has tackled a wide range of projects across both commercial and production. Speaking to Little Black Book about how he approaches the variety of projects, he explained, “It really varies depending on the project. You don’t always have the luxury of looking at visuals, so you have to imagine them or find something visually similar, or I can do it in sheet music or using samples,” he said. “It’s much easier with musically trained directors, as they already have the right vocabulary to ask for what they want. But even if they’re not, you always get there in the end through trial and error.”
Matt has written or arranged a number of reversions of hit songs, from Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” to Lizzo’s “Juice,” KT Tunstall’s “Little Red Thread,” and more. He’s also teamed up with composer Dean Valentine for a handful of projects, including reversioning music for Nelly Furtado and orchestrating the trailer music for Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water. In 2018, he signed with BMG, a publishing and record company.
He doesn’t own a smartphone
Much like his brother, Matthew has separated from his smartphone — a decision that he’s said has helped him find more time to nurture his creativity.
“I don’t have a smartphone so I spend a lot of time thinking,” he told Little Black Book. “Situations like when I’m waiting for a bus can actually be helpful for getting musical ideas.” He was inspired to toss his technology by fellow creatives, including writer Zadie Smith and his own brother.
“I was listening to a really interesting interview with Zadie Smith recently on a BBC podcast. She doesn’t own a smartphone either, for similar reasons, so she can focus on her writing and not get distracted by Twitter,” he explained. “Ed doesn’t even have a phone so he can spend more time thinking. He loves it because he doesn’t get hassled.”
Ed opened up about his decision to swap out his smartphone back in 2017. “I got rid of my phone! I don’t have a phone,” he explained to iHeartRadio host Elvis Duran. “I just bought an iPad so I have all my socials on the iPad, but no one can ring or text me,” he explained, adding that his reason for unplugging was “I was an unsociable guy who would always be glued to my screen, and I needed to change that.”
He’s collaborated with Ed on several songs
The musically-inclined brothers have teamed up on several occasions, from co-writing songs together to arranging Ed’s albums. Most notably, the pair collaborated on an updated version of “Perfect,” Ed’s 2017 chart-topping single. Matt created an orchestral version, resulting in “Perfect Symphony” — the making of which was captured in Songwriter, a 2018 documentary about Ed’s life and music. The video shows Matt and Ed at Abbey Road Studios together, watching the orchestra perform the piece while Ed puts an arm around his older brother.
They later were joined by legendary Italian opera singer, Andrea Bocelli, who lent his voice to the updated track. The brothers have since worked with Bocelli once again, on his song “Amo Soltanto Te.” They also wrote and composed a single for Bocelli’s son, Matteo, called “Chasing Stars.”
Speaking to Matteo about what it’s like to work with his brother, Matt explained that collaborations are rare in classical music — and that he very much enjoys the opportunity to co-write songs when he can. “In classical music, collaborating isn’t very common at all. None of the major composers would have co-written anything with another composer,” he said in a recorded FaceTime video. “But when you co-write with someone, it’s really, really inspiring — you’re not just by yourself the whole time.”
He and Ed co-wrote a song inspired by their dad
Among the songs that Ed and Matt have co-written, “Chasing Stars” holds a special significance, given that the track was inspired by their dad and how he nurtured their budding musical talent as they grew up. “‘Chasing Stars’ was written by me and my brother Matthew about our father, and how he was supportive to us when we were younger with our music,” Ed said of the song, which was performed by Matteo Bocelli. “I love the finished version with Matteo, he’s such a talent. I hope everyone else enjoys it!”
Getting to sing a song written by Ed and Matt was a highlight for Matteo while recording his eponymous debut album, he told PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “[Ed] sent me a few songs, but the one that really, really, really I loved so much was 'Chasing Stars,' " he said. "The story was fitting so much to myself because, of course, we both had in common the fact that we were born in a family that loved music, and this passion was given from our parents."
Ed addresses Matt in his music
While Ed’s album Subtract is his most candid and diaristic yet, he’s drawn on his family life for inspiration before in his music — notably in Castle on the Hill, a nostalgic tune about growing up in Framlingham, Suffolk, England.
The lyrics open with a nod to his brother: “When I was six years old, I broke my leg / When I was running from my brother and his friends / And tasted the sweet perfume of the mountain grass I rolled down / Well, I was younger then, take me back.”
He lives in Bristol
Matt moved to Bristol, one of England’s historic music capitals, back in 2018. The city has famously been the backdrop for several breakout musical groups, including Massive Attack and Portishead.
Matt chatted about the city’s heritage with Little Black Book at the time, calling it “such a cool place.” He added that beyond the “legendary bands” that had formed locally, the area is also home to BBC’s Natural History Unit, which handles programming including Planet Earth II.
While he doesn’t have social media and rarely shares updates about his home life, he confirmed that he’s still based in Bristol during an August 2023 chat with Matteo Bocelli.
He’s won major awards for his compositions
Matt’s work has been recognized a number of times through the years.
In 2010, he was awarded the Presteigne Festival Competition for British Composers Under 35, a festival dedicated to highlighting up-and-coming composers. That same year, he also took home the Chairman of the Jury Award at the Shipley Arts Festival, according to his website.
In 2015, he wrote the music for Carmilla, an Audible Original audiobook starring David Tennant and Rose Leslie, which was then nominated for an Audie award.
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.