It’s just a year since Howard was promoted to MD at Atlantic imprint Asylum, as revealed exclusively by Music Week at the time. To mark his new appointment at Atlantic, here we revisit that interview, including unpublished extracts.
Howard reflected on that partnership as well as the label’s run of hits when Music Week last interviewed him.
“I am very proud of that success,” he said. “I am hoping that we can continue it and looking forward very much to replicating that and building on that.”
In September 2010, Howard got chatting to Sheeran at Bruno Mars’ Notting Hill Arts Club show. The singer ended up crashing at Howard’s place and playing songs to Miranda Cooper of Xenomania, who is now married to Howard.
It was only later that manager Stuart Camp informed Sheeran that Howard was A&R head at Asylum.
“It’s very precious,” said Howard of his working relationship with Sheeran. “It’s been an amazing honour to watch somebody that is as talented as he is, and works as hard as he does, grow that much. [The relationship] remains, I’d like to think, close. Obviously, we talk a lot and interact a lot. We’ve built a very tight team and it’s lovely to see that functioning as it has for the last seven, eight years, so we’re very proud and happy with that.”
I don’t think he could stop making music even if he wanted to
Famously, of course, Sheeran had been rejected a number of times by the time he signed with Asylum/Atlantic.
“At the time, we weren’t in a fight for Ed Sheeran, which is a strange thing, retrospectively, to realise,” said Howard. “So on that level we showed him belief, attention and faith – and we’ve done that through the years. Maybe our biggest contribution and partnership was to give him the confidence to dial up things that other people were maybe telling him to dispense with.
“Together, we decided that the first album cover should be orange when other people were telling him to dye his hair. We certainly encouraged him to stay performing live as a solo artist, whereas he was toying with a band at the time that we came in contact with him. We were able to collectively focus on the things that we thought would make him stand out.”
Despite the global domination of Sheeran, Howard suggested the singer-songwriter remains hungry for further success.
“He’s pretty unstoppable, so I don’t think he could stop making music even if he wanted to,” Howard told Music Week. “I don’t think he’s a human being that could sit still for too long, and also not one that could ever not make music. I think music is very much in his future.”
Howard suggested that his star signing has a rare work commitment, as well as an understanding of the streaming landscape.
“He is hugely alive to everything in the music business,” said Howard. “He is a student of it, a student of music, a student of other artists, a student of what’s going on in the business. If he’s got spare time, he’s normally writing a song rather than just kicking back. That is his hobby, his release and his reason for being, it’s not just a profession.”
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