The 32-year-old chart-topping singer recently spoke about suffering with his mental health after his wife was diagnosed with a tumour and his close friend Jamal Edwards died.
After originally writing Eyes Closed as a break-up track, Sheeran revisited the song after experiencing personal loss and discovered the lyrics took on “a whole new meaning”.
Speaking about the new song, Sheeran said: “This song is about losing someone, feeling like every time you go out and you expect to just bump into them, and everything just reminds you of them and the things you did together.
“You sort of have to take yourself out of reality sometimes to numb the pain of loss, but certain things just bring you right back into it.”
Earlier this month Sheeran revealed that his wife, Cherry Seaborn, who he married in 2019, was told by doctors she had a tumour while pregnant with their second child, who was born in May 2022.
Music entrepreneur Edwards, who founded the music platform SBTV in 2006 that helped launch Sheeran’s career, died in February last year at the age of 31.
Sheeran explained the idea behind the Eyes Closed official music video, which was directed by Mia Barnes and sees Sheeran being followed by a blue monster, serving as a metaphor for grief.
“When I was thinking of concepts for the Eyes Closed music video, I wanted to make a video inspired by movies like Harvey, where the main character has an imaginary friend who’s a giant rabbit that no-one can see,” said Sheeran.
“There’s also a book I read my daughters where sadness is encapsulated by an imaginary creature. Often sadness is something that follows you around, engulfing the rooms you’re in, and you can feel and see it, but no-one else around you can.
“So, I decided to create my own big blue monster for the video. He gets bigger and bigger as the video goes on, until he takes up whole rooms, and is all I can see, just like sadness.”
Sheeran’s sixth studio album called – (the mathematical symbol for subtract), is billed for release on May 5 and will feature 14 tracks written and recorded with The National’s Aaron Dessner in February last year.
While creating the album Sheeran and Dessner, who collaborated on Taylor Swift’s lockdown records Folklore and Evermore, wrote more than 30 songs during a month of studio time.
Subtract is the latest instalment in Sheeran’s mathematical symbol series, which has progressed through albums including = (Equals) and ÷ (Divide).
A portrait shot to accompany Eyes Closed has been taken by acclaimed US photographer Annie Leibovitz.