Justin Hawkins jokes he'll "blackmail" Ed Sheeran with a photo taken after their football match.

Justin Hawkins

Justin Hawkins

The Darkness teamed up against the 'Shape of You' hitmaker and members of his crew as they supported him during his run of hometown shows in Ipswich last month, and the 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' singer admitted the pair "swapped shirts" at the end and posed for a snap in their rival team's colours.

Reflecting on the shows, he exclusively told BANG Showbiz: "It started off as a lovely kickabout and then when the whistle went, it became quite a stern test! I think everybody was taking it very seriously!

"But I was grateful for the chance to play, because how many times do you get to play to tens of thousands of people in your home county, and have a good kickabout on the day as well? It was great day, I really enjoyed it.

"And the funny thing was me and Ed swapped shirts at the end too. There is a photo that's not been published - nor will ever be published - of me in an Ipswich shirt and him in a Norwich shirt.

"You'll never see that picture, it will never surface... I'm using it, I might use it to blackmail him!"

Justin and his bandmates - brother Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain and Rufus 'Tiger' Taylor - are just three weeks away from releasing new album 'Easter Is Cancelled' on October 4, and the 44-year-old rocker relished in the freedom of writing a more diverse record than ever.

He said: "It's kind of like a concept album. The only thread necessary is my voice and the guitar, the recognisable voice of our guitar playing.

"Beyond that, anything goes - so every time you get a song in keeping with the themes we wanted to explore on the album, you just take it to its natural conclusion."

The collection also features a lot of Justin's trademark worldplay, and he admitted he spends a lot of time obsessing over single words - such as new single 'Heart Explodes' which features the phrase "standing in the weather".

He added: "You can keep it vague, I think 'weather' is a good one because we're all subjected to it everyday. You're either observing it from the inside, or you're marking on it, or you're standing in it. The point of saying 'weather' and not saying 'rain' or 'a blizzard' or whatever is it doesn't matter what it is.

"The fact is, you're enduring it and the reason you're there rather than the thing itself. The focus has to be on why you're there, and not what's happening there - you know what I mean?"

The next challenge for The Darkness will be finding out how the new tracks fit into their live show, but Justin has reassured fans that some parts of their performance are here to stay.

He said: "We've got to provide the classic Darkness experience while finding a way to accommodate this new material so it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.

"We're having to decide how we'll present it - it definitely won't look the way it used to. Having said that, I will be wearing jumpsuits - there are some things that must remain."