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Interview by Clare Youell. First published February 11, 2017 at Essexlive

Did you know that superstar Ed Sheeran once played a gig in Chelmsford for a fee of just £20?

The Grammy award-winning singer played a short set at the old Barhouse pub in Victoria Road in 2010 - and no one in the room knew who he was.

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Shakey with Ed Sheeran at SXSW

Ed, who grew up in Suffolk, sang some of his early songs in front of a crowd of just 20 to 30 people in the bar which is now BackTrack. Not only that, but the organiser only booked him as a favour to another act on the bill.

At the Shakster RnR gig, the first act was a singer called Benjamin Bloom from Suffolk. He asked the event organiser, Shakey from Shakster Records, if his mate from home could sing a few songs on the night too.

I knew Benjamin a bit and I said 'yeah tell him to come along', Shakey remembered. The first thing I thought was a bit odd was that Benjamin told me I had better put Ed on after him. Normally an act would want to be on as late as possible.

Also on the bill that night were Stealing Signs and Essex act, Venkman.

When I saw Ed Sheeran setting up with his two mics and his pedals and looping, I thought to myself this is a bit different, Shakey said. I texted a few of my mates and told them they'd better get down to the Barhouse quickly because this guy Ed Sheeran was going to be pretty good.

Ed played a short set which included an early version of The A Team in front of the small crowd.

I knew straight away that he was amazing. Shakey said. Of course I had no idea just how successful he would become. He's definitely the most successful act I've ever booked. His show was great and his voice was wonderful.

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Shakster Records Ed Sheeran poster 2010

The audience were only charged £3 entry to see him - whereas fans now have to pay between £50 and £85 to see the star play live. We only used to pay acts around £20 towards their travelling expenses, Shakey laughed.

Ed was very polite and friendly and told me he had to shoot off to play two gigs in London. So I paid him his travel money and he gave me a copy of his first promo CD, which included The A Team. I still have it now.

Shakey also records all of his gigs on his camcorder, so he even has a copy of Ed's early live show in Chelmsford.

Shakey then met Ed again a year later at the SXSW festival in Texas. We had a good chat and I gave him a copy of the Barhouse gig DVD and he seemed to like it, Shakey said.

Everyone was buzzing around him by then as he'd had a few hits, but he still took the time for a chat and even recorded a voicemail message for my wife's birthday. A few years later, Ed performed at V Festival in 2012. He obviously still remembered the Barhouse gig as he referenced it during his set, Shakey said.

He basically said 'it's nice to see the crowds here in Chelmsford as there weren't many of you around the last time I played here', Shakey recalled.

We all thought he was amazing at the Barhouse gig but we couldn't have guessed how he would go on to become such a household name...


Shakey is the man. Everywhere needs a Shakey, especially given the 'support' that the local council gives local music. Keep doing it for the kids, Shakey! Best wishes to you.
Andy McKay - The White Gospel