Ed Sheeran has surprised fans with a “Christmas present” new single as he takes a break from music following the birth of his first child.
The singer said he wrote the track Afterglow last year, before welcoming daughter Lyra Antarctica Seaborn Sheeran in August.
He is now in the running for the Christmas number one spot, taking on social media star LadBaby, Jess Glynne and Mariah Carey.
Sharing the new music on Instagram, he wrote: “Hey guys. Afterglow is a song I wrote last year that I wanted to release for you.
“It’s not the first single from the next album, it’s just a song I love, and hope you love too. Enjoy!
“Have a safe and happy festive break and New Year’s. Back to dad land for me now, ciao x”
Sheeran previously teased the release on Sunday, writing: “11am GMT tomorrow. A Christmas present.”
He announced he was taking a break in September to spend time with his wife Cherry and their new arrival.
He wrote: “Ello! A quick message from me as I have some personal news that I wanted to share with you… Last week, with the help of an amazing delivery team, Cherry gave birth to our beautiful and healthy daughter – Lyra Antarctica Seaborn Sheeran.
“We are completely in love with her. Both mum and baby are doing amazing and we are on cloud nine over here.
“We hope that you can respect our privacy at this time. Lots of love and I’ll see you when it’s time to come back, Ed x”
Sheeran faces stiff competition if he has his sights set on the Christmas number one spot.
LadBaby is currently tipped for the UK’s official Christmas number one with Don’t Stop Me Eatin’, according to The Official Charts Company.
The occupant of the number one slot will be revealed on BBC Radio One on Christmas Day but preliminary sales and early streaming reports put LadBaby in front.
LadBaby – YouTuber Mark Hoyle, and his wife Roxanne Hoyle – have topped the charts for the last two years at Christmas, with 2018’s We Built This City… On Sausage Rolls and last year’s I Love Sausage Rolls.
Proceeds this year will once again benefit food bank charity The Trussell Trust.
The official Christmas number one race kicked off on December 18, with sales and streams counting up until midnight on December 24.
Another possible contender for the festive top spot is Jess Glynne’s This Christmas.
The top five currently features Mariah Carey’s classic All I Want For Christmas Is You, Wham!’s Last Christmas and Liam Gallagher’s track All You’re Dreaming Of.