Ed Sheeran gives inspiring, irreverent speech on stuttering: "Embrace your weirdness"

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Ed Sheeran is cool with his uncool childhood.

"Having things that make you different help you become an interesting person," he told The Hollywood Reporter before being honored at the American Institute for Stuttering's Freeing Voices Changing Lives Benefit Gala on Monday. "Most of the people I knew that were normal in school are all pretty dull right now — they go to the gym four times a week and look at themselves in the mirror a lot, but they don't really have a lot to say. Most of the people that are successful started life off as a weird kid with no friends."

The musician was commended at the New York City fundraiser for his openness about overcoming his stutter, an oft-shamed disorder that Emily Bluntalso conquered when a teacher first suggested she try out for a school play. "It can be mistaken for a learning disability, an anxious sensibility or a weakness," the actress, emceeing the evening in an Elisabetta Franchi jumpsuit, told THR. "It's not true to your real character; it's just that you're limited in your ability to speak. I wanted people to understand that it wasn't that I didn't know who I was or what I wanted to say or who I wanted to be."

In his speech, Sheeran proudly noted all of his childhood's rougher edges. "I was a very, very weird child. I had a port-wine stain birthmark on my face that I got lasered off when I was very young; one day, they forgot to put the anesthetic on, and ever since then, I had a stutter. I also had very big, blue NHS glasses — NHS is the National Health Service, one day I hope you'll have the same! And I lacked an eardrum on one side of my ear, so stuttering was actually the least of my problems!

"But it was still quite a difficult thing. The thing I found most difficult was knowing what to say but not really being able to express it the right way," he continued. Though speech therapies and homeopathy didn't work, rap music became an effective remedy. "My Uncle Jim told my dad that Eminemwas the next Bob Dylan — it's pretty similar, it's all just storytelling — so my dad bought me The Marshall Mathers LP when I was nine years old, not knowing what was on it. I learned every word of it, back to front, by the time I was ten. He raps very fast and melodically and percussively, and it helped me get rid of the stutter."

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Ed Sheeran through the years
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Ed Sheeran gives inspiring, irreverent speech on stuttering: "Embrace your weirdness"
Ed Sheeran performs at Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America at the Shrine Auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP)
LONDON, UK - FEBRUARY 28: Ed Sheeran poses in Camden on February 28, 2008 in London, UK. (Photo by Christie Goodwin/Redferns)
Ed Sheeran live onstage at The Stratford Circus, 19th November 2010. (Photo by: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)
NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 29: Ed Sheeran performs on stage during Dot To Dot Festival at Rock City on May 29, 2011 in Nottingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: (UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS OUT) Musician Ed Sheeran performs for a Biz Session in a Wapping recording studio on June 21, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Claire R Greenway/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: (UK TABLOID NEWSPAPERS OUT) Musician Ed Sheeran poses during a Biz Session in a Wapping recording studio on June 21, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Claire R Greenway/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: Ed Sheeran performs on stage at Scala on July 6, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 15: Ed Sheeran performs on stage during the first day of Lovebox at Victoria Park on July 15, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Gus Stewart/Redferns)
Bt Digital Music Awards At The Roundhouse, London, Britain - 29 Sep 2011, Ed Sheeran (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
Ed Sheeran accepts the British Male Solo Artist award at the BRIT Awards 2012 in London on February 21, 2012. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
British singer Ed Sheeran (L) performs the Olympic stadium during the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games in London on August 12, 2012. Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympic Games. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/GettyImages)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 07: Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran perform onstage during Z100's Jingle Ball 2012, presented by Aeropostale, at Madison Square Garden on December 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Jingle Ball 2012)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 09: Musician Ed Sheeran performs onstage during 93.3 FLZ's Jingle Ball 2012 at Tampa Bay Times Forum on December 9, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Jingle Ball 2012)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 09: Musician Ed Sheeran performs onstage during 93.3 FLZ's Jingle Ball 2012 at Tampa Bay Times Forum on December 9, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Jingle Ball 2012)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30: Ed Sheeran visits the Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show at Z100 Studio on January 30, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28: Singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs during the grand opening celebration of the world's first Nobu Hotel Restaurant and Lounge Caesars Palace on April 28, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Nobu Hotel)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 23: Ed Sheeran performs as Delta Air Lines and Fuse celebrate the opening of the airline's newly transformed JFK Terminal 4 with a live performance from Ed Sheeran at Delta's T4X pop-up experience in SoHo on May 23, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Delta Air Lines)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 19: Singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs onstage during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 19, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 05: Singer Ed Sheeran poses at the Wonderwall portrait studio during the 2013 CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on June 5, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Wonderwall)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12: Singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran performs on NBC's 'Today' at the NBC's TODAY Show on July 12, 2013 in New York, New York. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
BURBANK, CA - JUNE 17: Musician Ed Sheeran performs onstage during the iHeartRadio Album Release Party with Ed Sheeran hosted by Mario Lopez and presented by Pepsi at the iHeartRadio Theater on June 17, 2014 in Burbank, California. Streaming live on Yahoo Screen and Clear Channel stations across the country on June 23rd, 2014. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Ed Sheeran speaks to the media during a press conference ahead of the AFL Grand Final at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 25, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
Singer Ed Sheeran (TOP) and director Emil Nava (BOTTOM) celebrate in the press room after Sheeran won Best Male Video for 'Sing' at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA), August 24, 2014 at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. Brown (Photo credit should read FERDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 09: Ed Sheeran performs on stage during the MTV EMA's 2014 at The Hydro on November 9, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images for MTV)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Singer Ed Sheeran (L) performs on stage as models Adriana Lima (C) and Alessandra Ambrosio walk the runway during the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at Earl's Court Exhibition Centre on December 2, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Victoria's Secret)
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 15: Ed Sheeran performs live during the Telekom Street Gig at Zugspitze at 2962 Meters above sealevel on December 15, 2014 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Joerg Koch/Getty Images)
British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran poses with his British album of the year award for 'X' and his British male solo artist award at the BRIT Awards 2015 in London on February 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION, NO USE IN PUBLICATION DEVOTED TO SINGLE PERFORMER (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 15: Recording artist Ed Sheeran performs onstage during Rock in Rio USA at the MGM Resorts Festival Grounds on May 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28: Singer Ed Sheeran unveils his never-before-seen Madame Tussauds wax figure at Madame Tussauds New York on May 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds New York)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 17: Recording artist Ed Sheeran performs onstage during the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 08: Ed Sheeran attends 9th Annual American Institute for Stuttering Freeing Voices Changing Lives Gala on June 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for American Institute for Stuttering)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Recording artist Ed Sheeran performs onstage at A+E Networks 'Shining A Light' concert at The Shrine Auditorium on November 18, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for A+E Networks)
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"Stuttering is not a thing you have to be worried about at all. Even if you have quirks and weirdness, you shouldn't be worried about that," he told the younger attendees. "The people I went to school with that were the most normal and were the coolest when we grew up — I was telling Emily earlier that one of the cool kids from school now does my plumbing! That's a fact!"

"I wanted to not necessarily to shed light on stuttering or make it a thing, but stress to kids in general to just be yourself, because there's no one in the world that can be a better you than you," he continued onstage at the The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. "If you try to be the cool kid in class, you'll end up very boring and doing plumbing for someone who apparently wasn't that cool. Be yourself. Embrace your quirks. Being weird is a wonderful thing. — I have a f***ing football team now, that's pretty cool!"

"Embrace your weirdness," he concluded. "From a stuttering point of view, don't treat it as an issue. Work through it and get the treatment you want to get, but don't ever see it as a plight on your life. Carry on pushing forward."

Sheeran spoke after remarks from previous honoree and vice-president Joe Biden(via video) and gala co-chair and Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank. He didn't realize he was being honored until an hour before the event — plenty of time for the musician and Blunt to meet and grow chummy, to the point where he called her "not quite a cougar" on the red carpet and she jokingly told the audience that he was a "son of a b***h."

He ended the evening by performing "Thinking Out Loud," and when the audience asked for more, he donated $20,000 more to the institute — "I didn't actually realize how drunk I was until I stepped onstage!" he admitted — and sang his now-signature "Don't/Loyal/No Diggity" mash-up and Irish traditional song "The Parting Glass."

More from The Hollywood Reporter: John Legend, Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz among top artists to play at a wedding, says Spotify

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