What can we learn from Ed Sheeran’s documentary, ‘The Sum of It All’?

Emily Whitton
By Emily Whitton,
updated on Jun 15, 2023

Ed Sheeran, singer-songwriter

Ed Sheeran’s latest docuseries explores the star’s rise to fame and the challenges he’s faced along the way, from love and loss to finding balance in life

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has had an incredibly successful career, with 14 number-one hits and five studio albums released. However, all has not been plain sailing as is revealed in his latest documentary titled, ‘The Sum of It All’, set to air two days before the launch of his new album, Subtract.

The four-part docuseries will explore how an “unlikely child with a stutter” became one of the greatest global music superstars and how his life experiences have inspired his music. The documentary is split into four episodes - ‘Love’, ‘Loss’,’ Focus’ and ‘Balance’ and will explore some of the most difficult times during Ed’s 19-year career.

From the impact of his wife’s tumour diagnosis in their second pregnancy to the devastating loss of his best friend, Jamal Edwards, in 2022, the documentary draws on Ed’s journey and his struggles with mental health.

“Ginger hair, really short, he stutters: that guy doesn’t become a pop star,” Ed’s voice echoes at the beginning of the first episode. Produced by Fulwell 73 Productions, the Disney+ original explores some of the complex mental health challenges that the pop star faced.

What can we learn from the docuseries?


The first episode of the documentary explores Ed’s determination to succeed in his music career. After being ignored by the industry, he finds himself in contact with Jamal Edwards - a music entrepreneur. Following the heartwarming story behind his song, ‘Perfect’ and how he went on to marry his old school friend, Cherry, things take a life-changing turn as she is diagnosed with a tumour during their second pregnancy.


Grief is the prominent emotion explored in episode two as Ed learns of Jamal’s passing. The singer opens up about how the event that so closely followed his wife’s health scare left him “spiralling through fear, depression and anxiety,” he says. “It just took over my life.”

Using music as therapy, Ed explains how the series of events changed his life, his mental health and the way he viewed his art. “Writing songs is my therapy. It helps me make sense of my feelings. I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out. And in just over a week I replaced a decade’s worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts,” Ed says in an extract taken from Disney+.

I felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air.


Whilst still mourning the loss of his best friend, Ed continues putting in his efforts to create his sixth album, Subtract, but his emotions get the better of him. “He hasn't had the time to process and be at peace with his thoughts,” says his wife.


In the final episode, both Ed and Cherry reflect on the challenges of the past year and how they manage to balance work and family life. After Cherry is told that her surgery was successful, the couple looks towards the future with a more cherished outlook on life. “Ed expresses his deeper thoughts as he reassesses life and explores what he thinks of the world, of himself and how this difficult time has influenced him and his new music,” Disney+ comments.

Whilst the documentary takes a very personal look at the singer’s life, Ed faces common themes and experiences faced by many people.

“We’ve created something truly authentic and personal that will not only entertain audiences but also inspire them to dream big and pursue their passions,” says Disney Branded Television president, Ayo Davis.

If you've been affected by any of the above themes, know that you are not alone and support is available. You can reach out to a counsellor or coach on Happiful. 

Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All’ will be released on Disney+ on 3rd May.

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