Ellie Goulding on sad songs and moving on
- 21 August 2012
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
After winning the BBC's Sound of 2010, Ellie Goulding delivered a UK number one album and turned Royal Wedding singer. Now she's back with an "experimental break-up album" and an unexpected US chart hit.
Dressed all in black on a rare sweltering summer's day in London, the singer is feeling reassured about the release of her second album, Halcyon, in October.
New single Anything Could Happen got what she calls "a good reaction" after its first play on Radio 1 - the 25-year-old's name trended worldwide on Twitter.
"I was nervous, understandably, because it's been such a long time here since anyone's heard anything original," she explains.
Goulding has just jetted in from the US where she's been spending "a lot" of time.
"Pretty much on and off for a year and a half," she says. "People think I've moved there!"
It seems her home from home is pretty keen too, with the title track from her 2010 debut Lights currently at number two in the US Billboard chart.
"It's going really well out there. Nobody expected Lights to be anywhere near number one. It's really old, I wrote it way before my first album came out in a hotel in Brighton. It's been on a really crazy journey."
Released as the album's sixth single here, it failed to reach the top 40, peaking at number 49 last March. but it has been rising up the US charts for several months.
"Maybe there's something to do with the lyrics or the melody that has appealed more to an American audience?" suggests Goulding.
"It didn't do anything here. If I had made it and thought 'this is quite a strong song, it might do well in some commercial capacity'... but I didn't.
"I mean I love it, obviously, I wrote it. You've got to love your own songs otherwise it defeats the object, but I can't explain it."
A support slot on Katy Perry's tour and the 'Royal Wedding effect' - she sang her cover of Elton John's Your Song for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first dance - have no doubt helped boost her US profile.
But now she must focus on her new album.
Goulding swapped the Bromley bedroom where she recorded her debut for the English countryside and the home studio of producer Jim Elliot, who has previously worked with Kylie and Ladyhawke.
She reckons the more experimental and "darker record" is a big risk, but it seems there is no getting away from a certain subject.
"I was determined to make it not about love, because the last one was so much about that," she explains.
"But when I did start writing it, I went through a break up and it was really difficult, and so the record ended up being about that.
"I couldn't help it. Every time I went to the studio I ended up writing quite sad songs. But even when I'm in quite a happy state of mind, I like writing really sad songs. I think a lot of people do," says Goulding.
After splitting from Radio 1 DJ Greg James, she is now dating US dubstep producer Skrillex - a "good person" who was himself tipped in this year's Sound of 2012.
Clearly he has also had an influence on the record's glitching, electronic sounds (the couple also happen to have cute matching haircuts).
"Yeah, it's something that I can't explain very well," admits Goulding. "But I guess Anything Could Happen is about that, because I didn't know what was around the corner".
Goulding says Anything Could Happen is probably the happiest song she has ever written in her life.
"I think being close to someone who is also a musician, and one I really respect and I'm a big fan of, all it does is motivate me and makes me want to work harder and be better," she says.
Despite being championed by the BBC and the Brits before even releasing an album, Goulding still feels she has done things "the hard way".
"It took time to really build myself a reputation as a good live performer, a musician and an artist," she reveals.
"I think around the time I played Glastonbury was a turning point. Then I started getting quite a lot of respect as a musician as opposed to just someone who'd had lots of hype and won things."
Goulding has made no secret of her initial struggles with fame and success, which caused her to suffer panic attacks that felt "like having a heart attack".
"It's a really scary, solitary, lonely thing. So I just want other people in that to know they're not alone," she says.
But Goulding agrees she is not exactly the "no personal questions" type of artist.
"I just don't like going, 'I don't want to answer that'. I think I'm just too nice," she explains.
"I find it hard not to be honest. I can't imagine making a record and people not knowing the back story.
"Maybe one day I'll make a record that's really mysterious and no one knows where it came from or what I wrote it about. But thus far, I've just wanted to explain everything properly."
With the back story to Halcyon explained, Goulding's now preparing for what her manager tells her will be "the busiest couple of years of my life".
But unlike last time, she is ready.
"I used to make my manager Jamie not tell me where I was going to be the next day, because I was so afraid of flying and of anything," she says.
"But now I love flying, I love working hard, I love being around the world. So much has changed, I think it's going to make a big difference."
However, she is glad to be stationed back in London before touring starts in December.
"Rehearsals are the most important thing in my world at the moment. The live show is going to be bigger, crazier, so we've got a lot of work to do.
"I'm just thinking about it now and suddenly I'm really stressed out!"
It is just as well she has put her old training regime, running and working out for two hours a day, on the back burner.
"It's not as crazy. I used to train a lot, really hard," she admits, before an injury forced her to slow down.
"I feel like maybe I went too hard too soon and now I need to chill out a bit?
"But I was on the treadmill watching the Olympics the other night and it couldn't be a bigger motivation for me. I saw Bolt win and just suddenly upped my speed!"
Anything Can Happen is out on 30 September. Halcyon follows on 8 October.