Ed and I had been friends for quite a few years. His first ever London gig was with me and we were both part of a little bunch of songwriters who would always hang out and do gigs together. Back then, I was trying to diversify because I wanted to get more into co-writing. It was really hard to survive solely from gigging - paying rent in London is crippling!
Ed had just signed his record deal and was finishing off his first album. I asked if he wanted to write another song for it with me. He agreed and came around to my flat in Dalston, where we ate food, drank tea and wrote.
I remember we both wanted to write a love song and I had an idea from Virginia Woolf I wanted to play with. She always looks at the minutiae and emotion of a situation. I’d been thinking about that a lot, and how the little things really represent the big things. I told Ed the idea and he loved it.
We both began accessing loads of old memories and ideas from real life relationships. We were thinking of real people we loved, and the strange quirks and imperfections that made us love them. So everything in that song is real, which is a lovely thing to be able to say.
We worked really well together, even though it’s the only time we’ve ever written collaboratively. I was playing piano, he was on guitar and we were both singing and writing. At one point it was looking like it was going to be quite a happy song. I really fought him to get those minor chords into the chorus to give it a bit of emotional weight. Apart from that, the collaboration was very even - we were both writing lyrics, both writing music. It was great.
Back then, I didn’t own any microphones so we made a really crappy recording on his phone. I wrote the lyrics down on a big piece of paper. Then he went off into the sunset and had his phone stolen or lost! After that, the song disappeared for about a year, but it was always in my head so I ransacked the house to find the lyrics. I emailed them to him and luckily he remembered how it all went.
Ed made a demo on his tour bus using an iPad. At the time, he just happened to be playing at the London Olympics Opening Ceremony with One Direction. He met them backstage and they became friends. Ed ended up pitching about 10 songs to them, including Little Things.
For a few months there was a will-they-won’t-they thought hanging over me. I never let myself get my hopes up, but I really wanted the band to cut it and put it out. I kept hearing conflicting rumours from behind the scenes, and I didn’t really know it was going to be a single until they released the video.
They didn’t take the song off to a place where it felt wrong – it was quite stripped down and intimate, vulnerable and sensitive. I think that’s why people really loved it. It felt real.
It was just extraordinary when it went to number one. I cried because it was such a turning point in my life. I needed it so much and I had been working so hard for so long. It meant the world to me, really, and I’m so grateful to Ed for giving it to the boys.
Suddenly, I had my foot in the door of the music industry, which is so hard to do as a new songwriter. It was a game changer. I got my publishing deal and all sorts of people came out of the woodwork. It was my first cut and it went to number one in so many countries. It’s ridiculous! I suppose now I’m trying to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. I’m working hard every day to show I’m no one hit wonder!
Written by: Fiona Bevan and Ed Sheeran
Published by: Imagem and Sony ATV