Yesterday, The Hobbit director Peter Jackson pulled back the curtain on “I See Fire,” the Ed Sheeran song that will play over the closing credits of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. As Jackson explained on his Facebook page, the process began when the two had lunch during Sheeran’s tour through New Zealand, and continued after Jackson brought Sheeran in to view the movie and work on the song.
Sheeran has worked with a number of high-profile musicians—including Taylor Swift and Lupe Fiasco—but “I See Fire” was his first collaboration with a filmmaker. “He was fantastic,” Sheeran tells EW. “At every point where I’d be adding something, I’d play him the song afterwards. I was there for three days, and at the end of every day he would come and listen to the song and give me notes.”
“He knows what he wants,” he continued, “but he doesn’t pretend to be musical in any way. He let me go on with it, but he also knows his movie, so he would tell me something needs to be less energetic, or more relaxed, or whatever. He knows the colors and templates of what the song should be rather than how the melody should go.”
Sheeran’s also a longtime devotee of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien—The Hobbit was the first book his dad read to him as a child, and Sheeran’s grandfather owns a first edition of the novel. His work on The Desolation of Smaug had to fit into a tight schedule; Sheeran will wrap his world tour on Thursday night with a third sold-out concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Even for a Brit, that’s a big deal: “My dad grew up watching boxing, and he always said that once you played Madison Square Garden, you know you’ve made it,” he says.
Sheeran is also nearly finished with his new Rick Rubin-produced album, due next year. In the meantime, check out the video for “I See Fire,” which includes some clips from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as well as some behind-the-scenes clips of Sheeran and Jackson hanging out in the studio.