Glimpsing Ed Sheeran's magic: 'Songwriter' director Murray Cummings speaks

Cummings said being Sheeran's cousin helped during the filming, allowing him a more intimate take. — Facebook/Songwriter film pic
Cummings said being Sheeran's cousin helped during the filming, allowing him a more intimate take. — Facebook/Songwriter film pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 ― One of the more interesting things to come out of Apple’s foray into content is the premiere of the Ed Sheeran music documentary Songwriter on Apple Music.

Directed by Sheeran’s cousin Murray Cummings, it provides an intimate look at the daily life and creative process of one of popular music’s biggest stars.

First shown at the Berlin Film Festival and then Tribeca, it is now an Apple Music exclusive. Cummings in an email interview said of the collaboration: “I think it's great what Apple are doing. They’re definitely pushing the music documentary genre in a good direction and attracting some cool projects.”

He lauded Apple for working well with creatives ― saying the company “prides itself on that” and said that reputation means that film-makers would feel “understood and supported” should they choose to distribute their content via Apple’s platform.

Apple Music debut aside, Cummings said he found fans’ reaction to the film interesting ― one fan even coming to every screening during the festival.

The ultimate access

When asked if he thought being so personally connected to Sheeran had its drawbacks from a film-making perspective, Cummings said that wasn’t an issue as his focus in Songwriter was on the songwriting process.

“If I was making a film about Ed that wanted to find out about his personal life, his political views and what makes him tick, then maybe it would be better to be impartial,” he said.

He felt their relationship helped, while Sheeran isn’t one for personas, being the same person on and off camera, but his being more relaxed around Cummings let the latter capture intimate and personal details that might not have been seen otherwise.

“I wanted to show Ed’s fans what it is like to be there, when he writes,” though he adds that the documentary would also prove insightful to anyone curious about the artistic process.

Cummings took over 70 hours of footage from his time following Sheeran as he worked on his triple platinum 2017 album Divide.

“The film came together in the edit I treated it like an album, the scenes and sequences were the tracks and I worked on them one at a time.”

He already had a notion where he wanted the film to go from the beginning; “I knew i wanted him writing alone, writing with people, writing on a bus, with an orchestra, so it was piecing these moments together in a way that was interesting.”

While Dive was his personal favourite on the Divide album, in the documentary he found the “live” performance of the song Perfect at Abbey Road the most affecting.

On Sheeran, Cummings likened him to an open book. With nothing unrevealed. Cummings even said, “If it isn't already covered by a song, it's tattooed on his skin!”

While he has no current plans to work on any other Sheeran-related projects, Cummings did enjoy working with Jason Koenig who has directed many of Ed's music videos and wouldn’t rule out a collaboration.

In the meantime he hopes to focus on scripted projects, having studied screenwriting and following his interests in sitcom and comedy film writing.

The film Songwriter is available on Apple Music now for subscribers.

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