By Alice Farrell

How it’s New York: At Tribeca Film Festival in New York
How it’s Irish: Features Irish musicians Beoga and Foy Vance who collaborated on the songs Nancy Mulligan and Galway Girl on the album

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m an Ed Sheeran fan!  Do I fit his demographic?  Well if that is music-lovers then count me in!  I’ve always appreciated his talent, voice and songwriting skills, and having the chance to have a peek behind the curtain was too tempting to resist.

Monday night I was treated to exactly what I expected, with the lovingly crafted documentary Songwriter at Tribeca.  Written/directed and produced by Ed’s cousin Murray Cummings, the film chronicals the writing and recording of Ed’s acclaimed album “÷” .

The trust and closeness of their relationship allowed Cummings access that few other filmmakers could have achieved.  Whether it was the intimate moments of creation, a playful exchange with his collaborators, or the difficult decision making moments there was always a sense of comfort in the room and respect for the subjects.

Murray Cummings shooting at Abbey Road Studios in London

Given the theme of family throughout the record, it’s only fitting to have someone so close entrusted with capturing the process on film.  As Cumming himself said, “I was there anyway, so he might as well film it.”

I had a great interview with Cummings, producer Kimmie Kim, singer/songwriter Foy Vance, and the members of Irish traditional group Beoga (Irish for “lively”), who collaborated with him on the songs Nancy Mulligan and Galway Girl.  Our discussion, which you will be able to hear parts of soon in our podcast, went to the amazing day that Galway Girl was written.

Beoga had come to finish the recording of Nancy Mulligan, and while they were recording, Foy and Ed were outside, riffing on ideas for a new song, which became Galway Girl.  Foy had turned Ed onto Beoga’s music and particularly their track Minute 5 from the CD “How to Tune A Fish,” a very catchy tune, which lent itself beautifully to the melody he and Ed had crafted.  Cummings captures the palpable joy in the room as Ed lay in the vocals over the members of Beoga: Niamh Dunne on fiddle, Liam Bradley on keyboards, Sean Graham on accordion and guitar, Eamon Murray on bodhran, and Damian McKee on accordion.  Cummings agreed that this was his favorite moment in the film too, as the smile on Ed’s face was so pure and real.  Here they are playing it together on the Late Late Show in December 2017:

 

The smile hardly leaves Cumming’s face as he recounts his own contributions to the recording of Nancy Mulligan, for which Ed insisted on giving him a royalty, and that became the seed money for this film!

Beoga – Photography by Ruth Medjber www.ruthlessimagery.com

Word just came in that Beoga will be supporting Sheeran on his upcoming tour of Ireland this summer and they release their new single We Don’t Have to Run with singer Ryan McMullen on May 4th.  Here’s a link to Letting Go for A Little While:

You can find updates on their website here: beogamusic.com

 

In talking with Foy, he said that “what you see is exactly the way that Ed is, the ease and flow of his songwriting is amazing, and his is just as real as he seems.”  It was wonderful to watch the camaraderie between him and his songwriting partners, and the fun that they had working together.

Here’s a clip of Ed, Foy and Johnny McDaid of Snow Patrol working on Galway Girl

Ed and Benny Blanco in deep musical thoughtComic relief is added in with his collaborator and jester Benny Blanco, pictured here, who waxes philosophical or just brings Ed down to earth when obsessing over getting something just right!  Blanco is hilarious and they are as at ease writing in the back of the bus, laying across a bed, or wandering around the patio of the house where they are writing in Los Angeles.

There’s a travelogue to the film as well, complete with a trip to Ed’s old school, a collage of his travels during his year off, driving around his hometown, recording while crossing the ocean to England on the QE2 and in the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London.  One beautiful sequence is the full orchestra recording session for Perfect, orchestrated by Ed’s brother Matthew, with their folks watching on from the booth.

Fans will get their money’s worth of inside tidbits, and a real sense of the mastery and drive of Sheeran’s creative process.  It’s amazing to see him collaborating on the songwriting, when in his live performances all the layers are built by him and his effects.  Cummings layers the film in much the same way, peeling back the curtain to let see inside each part of the proces.  At the end he brings it full circle as Ed puts the finishing touches on the record and prepares to take it on the road.

Jubilant at the end of the screening on Monday night, Cummings shared the news that they have just struck a deal with Apple, so watch their site at songwriterfilm.com for news on the release on their platform and hopefully at a theatre near you!

Left to Right back row: Murray Cummings, Sean Graham, Niamh Dunne, Foy Vance, Eamon Murray, seated Left to Right Sarah Casey, Kimmie Kim, Liam Bradley, Damian McKee at Beekman Hotel, NYC

About the Author

Alice Farrell