Ed Sheeran. Picture: AP

Ed Sheeran says Sir Elton John calmed his nerves at the Grammys by making a penis joke.

The 21-year-old singer performed a duet with the legendary musician for a rendition of his hit 'The A Team' at the American awards show earlier this month but admits he got an attack of stage fright when he walked out in front of the star-studded audience.

However, Elton, 65, put Ed at ease by making a gag about flashing his willy to try and relax him.

"I knew I was not going to win at the Grammys so I was focusing on the performance," Ed said.

"In the rehearsals it was fine but when I got onto the stage and there was a lot of people watching I was kind of a bit nervous. Then Elton called me over and said, 'This is the worst time to get your penis out.' That completely threw all of my nerves and I just played."

The singer/songwriter was at the BRITs at The O2 in London this week to present the British Male prize to winner Ben Howard and he finds that awards show more "nerve-racking" than any other because it's in his home country and his loved ones are all watching.

Speaking before the ceremony to UK station BBC Radio 1, Ed - who won two BRITs in 2012 - said: "I think the BRITs has been the most nerve-racking for me because it is my home country like all my friends are tuning into see it, the Grammys has less people staying up to 5 in the morning. Everyone I went to school with sits down and watches (the BRITs) on TV."

The West Australian

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