Ed Sheeran: The X Factor

In less than five years, pop singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran became a household name — and, in that time, he took the acoustic guitar to places it hadn’t seen since the rise of the Everlys. For this 2014 package first published in Acoustic Guitar magazine, I talked to Sheeran and others about his music and guitars, and he played a stirring, barebones rendition of “Thinking Out Loud.”

Ani DiFranco: Return of the Righteous Babe

Early on in the era of cancel culture, Ani DiFranco angered fans by planning an artist retreat at a former plantation. The irony was stunning: Here’s a woman who’d spent her entire career as a stanch political ally, not just of Black Americans, but of all people of color, all gender identifications, the poor — basically, all people marginalized by the dominant culture. DiFranco survived the controversy with her fanbase intact.