While promoting his May album, Subtract, Ed Sheeran let the cat out of the bag that he and that project’s producer, the National‘s Aaron Dessner, already had a second collaborative LP percolating. In a social media post today (Aug. 24), Sheeran confirmed it was coming a lot sooner than many may have thought.
The 14-song Autumn Variations will be released Sept. 29, just short of five months after the arrival of Subtract. It includes several songs Sheeran previewed for Rolling Stone earlier this year, including “England,” which was described as “a surging Bruce Springsteen-inspired track,” and “Magical,” said to be “an airy ballad.”
“Last autumn, I found that my friends and I were going through so many life changes. After the heat of the summer, everything either calmed, settled, fell apart, came to a head or imploded,” Sheeran says. “When I went through a difficult time at the start of last year, writing songs helped me understand my feelings and come to terms with what was going on, and when I learned about my friends’ different situations, I wrote songs, some from their perspectives, some from mine, to capture how they and I viewed the world at that time. There were highs of falling in love and new friendships among lows of heartbreak, depression, loneliness and confusion.”
He continued, “my dad and brother told me about a composer called Elgar, who composed Enigma Variations, where each of the 14 compositions were about a different one of his friends. This is what inspired me to make this album. When I recorded Subtract with Aaron Dessner, we clicked immediately. We wrote and recorded non-stop and this album was born out of that partnership. I feel he has captured the feeling of autumn so wonderfully in his sonics and I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.”
Indeed, three of the songs were removed from Subtract since, per Rolling Stone, Sheeran found them “too joyous” and because “it was very quickly seen that we were making two different things,” much in the way Dessner’s work on Taylor Swift’s folklore quickly led to a second album, evermore. In fact, it was Swift who match-made Sheeran with Dessner back in 2021.
“So excited for everyone to hear the second record [Sheeran] and I made, which is like a wider, eccentric, autumnal cousin of Subtract,” Dessner wrote on his Instagram Stroy. Extending the theme, the album cover for Autumn Variations comprises drawings of fall-inspired objects or experiences, such as “old coats,” “football,” “nights getting longer,” “pumpkins + squash,” and “harvest season.”
In an odd twist of timing, Sheeran’s extensive 2023 world tour concludes just before the release of Autumn Variations on Sept. 23 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. It is unknown if he plans to support the project with a separate run of dates in the months ahead.
Here is the track list for Autumn Variations:
That’s on Me
When Will I Be Alright
The Day I Was Born
Head > Heels