A version of this article originally appeared on Noisey Netherlands.
The life of an international pop star isn't always easy. Sure, you have an infinite budget, regularly date supermodels, and have impossibly smooth skin. But what's the meaning of all that when you're sitting all alone in an Amsterdam dressing room, while thousands of Dutch fans with names like Gert and Klazien are waiting to catch a glimpse of you? Poor Ed Sheeran.
Ros, a member of the Dutch hip-hop collective Black Acid, tweeted that the British pop star has "some really crazy thing on his rider": the presence of a dog at his show. Pablo—Ros' cute Maltese—was chosen to provide emotional support during Sheeran's shows at the Amsterdam Arena in late June. This sounds so incredibly reasonable that it almost seems plausible. I mean, just look at Pablo. I can't imagine any artist hitting a high note without the support of this loving, adorable pup.
Just to be clear: my relationship with the Black Acid crew is anything but unfriendly. But I'm also a professional music journalist and it's my duty to thoroughly investigate such a tip. That process started with me sending a text that says "LOL, is this real?" to Darina, Black Acid's manager. She confirmed that it actually happened. But who knows if she's involved in the whole conspiracy herself? Is this an elaborate publicity stunt that I fell for by writing this article? Was I being played?
In the Netherlands, Warner Music takes care of Sheeran's interests, and "interest" is the only label befitting of requesting the presence of a dog to cuddle backstage. When I contacted a PR spokesperson from Warner whether Sheeran's rider genuinely stipulates this, she denied it. She said she was backstage that night and didn't see a happy Maltese let alone hear any barking sounds. But she also expressed understanding for the situation and remarked that, were she in Sheeran's shoes, she would've opted for a Labrador puppy. Understandable and touching, yes, but not what I was looking for.
Next, I hit up Mojo, the promoter that handles Sheeran's bookings in the Netherlands. After being put on a lengthy, waiting music-less hold, I was connected with an employee who couldn't give me confirmation. She said this was such a remarkable rider request that she'd probably know if it was actually true. She told me she'd call back if she heard any new developments in the case, but I didn't expect to hear from her again.
Two industry professionals weren't able to confirm the news and my journalistic skepticism was growing considerable. I wasn't convinced. So what do you do when you have animal-related inquiry? You call up Martin Gaus: a former baseball player and TV personality known in the Netherlands for his animal programs and his dog training school.
Gaus understood my question and was empathetic to Sheeran's alleged request. "What's important in a situation like this is that the dog is extremely friendly and stable. If I had to pick a specific breed for something like this, I'd go with the Labradoodle. They're real assistance dogs and specifically bred for that purposes. And they're quick learners," he said.
Alright. So Mojo and Warner Music were doubtful and Gaus recommended a different breed. It was time to ask Sheeran himself.
How stupid of me: Sheeran isn't on Twitter anymore. But his manager is!
I've yet to receive a response. Given that I was already online, I figured I'd hop on over to Sheeran's Instagram too; he's most active on that platform anyway. I saw Stormzy:
Sheeran in a cricket suit:
And a red cat named Dorito:
But I couldn't find a photo of a dog. Sorry, Ros: I don't believe your story. If Warner, Mojo, Martin Gaus, and Sheeran's own Instagram don't offer any proof, I have no choice but to file this news as an urban legend in the name of music journalism. What a bummer.
UPDATE: Ros left me the following voicemail in Dutch:
Yeah man, a friend of my lil' bro [asked] and his father came to pick up my dog. So I asked why and he said, 'for the fans! For Ed Sheeran's fans!' and I said 'oh nice'. You know? So, when the dog came back my mom asked 'Yo, did they take any pictures?'. But they said no pics where taken. Those dogs were alone with Ed and nobody was allowed to be there, not even the owners or fans. So I don't know what [the deal] is, bro.