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Another Ed Sheeran collaborator testifies in Shape Of You song-theft case

By | Published on Friday 11 March 2022

Ed Sheeran

Another co-writer of the Ed Sheeran hit ‘Shape Of You’ took to the witness stand in the high court in London yesterday as the song-theft case against Sheeran and his musical collaborators continues. Producer Steve Mac – real name Steven McCutcheon – said the writing of ‘Shape Of You’ was very rapid and very collaborative.

Sheeran and his songwriting collaborators – including McCutcheon – are accused of ripping off the earlier track ‘Oh Why’ by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue when they wrote their 2017 hit. But Sheeran et al deny having ever heard of ‘Oh Why’ before writing ‘Shape Of You’, and counter that the elements shared by the two songs are pretty commonplace in pop music.

In a written statement – and in court yesterday – McCutcheon recalled how quickly ‘Shape Of You’ had come together. That was, he said, mainly because Sheeran is an “extraordinary” songwriter who can craft and finish songs super fast, so much so he can “write 26 songs in a week”.

But, according to Sky News, the lawyer repping Chokri and O’Donoghue – Andrew Sutcliffe – suggested that ‘Shape Of You’ was actually written super fast because Sheeran arrived at the studio with the key elements already in his mind, having nabbed them from ‘Oh Why’.

But McCutcheon disputed that theory. Sheeran had not led the songwriting session, he argued, but instead it had been very collaborative, with him, Sheeran and fellow co-writer Johnny McDaid all inputting ideas throughout the process. He had initially supplied the marimba sound on the track and “was also chipping in with lyrics and melody on the day”, he added.

As when questioning Sheeran and McDaid earlier this week, Sutcliffe also brought up the deals that have been done by Sheeran’s team in the past with the writers of existing songs that have heavily influenced new Sheeran tracks. Such a deal was done in relation to ‘Shape Of You’ – with the writers of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ – and also for another song McCutcheon penned with Sheeran – Liam Payne’s ‘Strip That Down’ – which required clearance from the writers of Shaggy’s ‘It Wasn’t Me’.

But in his written statement, McCutcheon insisted those past deals did not mean he had “a habit of plagiarising other writers”. He added: “I always strive to create totally original songs unless I feel, in a particular case, that it would enhance a song to use a reference to another work. If I do so, I give credit where credit is due and inform my publisher so that clearance can be arranged. There is nothing wrong with referencing other songs in that way if clearance is obtained”.

Echoing what both Sheeran and McDaid previously said in court, McCutcheon added that as an “internationally successful writer of many years’ standing” it would be “totally unacceptable” to copy the work of others “and I would not have achieved the success I have if I did so”.

The case continues.