Chart-topping musician Ed Sheeran has released a single written in a touching tribute to his mentor and friend, the late Michael Gudinski.
The 30-year-old star first performed the emotional song, titled Visiting Hours, at a state funeral held in honour of Gudinski at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
Known to many as the father of the Australian music industry, Gudinski died from a heart attack in March 2021, he was just 68 years old.
A devastated Sheeran flew to Australia to attend the music promoter’s memorial service and wrote the heartfelt tribute while grieving in quarantine.
“I finished writing this song going through proper grief for the first time,” Sheeran said on Instagram.
He has described the Mushroom Records co-founder as a “father figure” and became emotional while debuting the tearful tribute to 8000 fellow mourners.
It is a lament to loss and poetically captures a wishful longing familiar to anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one.
“I wish that heaven had visiting hours, so I could just show up and bring you the news,” Sheeran’s lyrics say.
He was among a star-studded lineup, with performances from other famous friends of Gudinski, including Kylie Minogue, Paul Kelly and Jimmy Barnes.
Minogue and Barnes also provide backing vocals on the recorded version of the song.
The British singer-songwriter released Visiting Hours to the public on Thursday along with an announcement that his next album will drop on October 29 and will be dedicated to the industry heavyweight.
“Michael was a tornado of joy. You would know he arrived in the building just by hearing the chaotic bark of his, and you could feel the room get excited about the arrival of his presence,” Sheeran said.
“We were, first and foremost, friends. He was a father figure and mentor to me, but also we enjoyed the peaks of our touring career together in 2018, breaking the record for most tickets sold in Australia.”
The latest album is the fourth in Sheeran’s symbol series, released over a four-year period starting with ÷ (Divide) in 2017.
The artist said he thinks it is his best yet.
“= (Equals) is a really personal record and one that means a lot to me. My life changed greatly over the past few years – I got married, became a father, experienced loss, and I reflect on these topics over the course of the album,” Sheeran said.
“I see it as my coming-of-age record, and I can’t wait to share this next chapter with you.”
Visiting Hours is the second song from the album to be made public, with Bad Habits released in June.
The earlier single has spent seven weeks in the No.1 spot on the UK charts. Those already hooked on these first two can prepare to preview a third on September 10.
Sheeran said choosing just 14 songs for the newest album was a “painstaking process” as he had so much more material, but he is ultimately pleased with the result.
“They all have their place – I love it, I think it’s the best piece of work I’ve done, it’s cohesive and it feels great,” he said.
Sheeran is married to Cherry Seaborn and they have one daughter together, Lyra Antarctica Seaborn Sheeran – who is named after the lead character in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.
His most successful single so far, Shape of You, is the most streamed song of all time.
You can listen to Visiting Hours in full here.