By Megan McClure
Photos by Scott Trindle
Ellie Goulding believes in karma. “You should really treat others the way you want to be treated,” the British songbird said. “I use that as a general rule in my life.” Since breaking onto the music scene in 2010, Goulding knows how important it is to maintain a sense of graciousness toward the extraordinary life she’s currently living: “It seems my life is ever-changing.”
The last time she toured the U.S., both Goulding and her bandmates started to feel a little down. “We had been out for awhile, the tour was about six weeks long or so, and my voice had really reached its peak,” she said. “Being away for so long, we started to feel a bit homesick.”
Now she’s gained some perspective and is on the cusp of her second stateside tour in support of her debut, Lights. “I have all good memories, and I’m really excited to return.” she said.
Goulding hails from Hereford, England, and her lilting voice takes on a soft brogue when she sings. Most of her songs center around falling in love, being in love, then losing love. “Gossamer” is an adjective tossed around many a time by critics and fans when describing Goulding’s light and airy voice, and if it could be captured in one word, that would be it.
It is difficult, however, to relegate her sound to just one word. It is something that is very rare in the realm of pop culture–original. She somehow manages to combine pop, electronica and folk into a lovely blend that works well with her, admittedly, gossamer voice.
Goulding is present and aware, both in her songwriting and her daily life. Her writing takes on an old soul quality in the way she talks about loving whole-heartedly first, with the cautious optimism of someone who has had their share of heartbreak and emerged all the wiser as a result. She may be tip-toeing forward but both eyes are wide open, ready to devour the situation.
Her awareness of life is evident when she speaks about her music, and it’s obvious her feet are firmly planted. “I’m not the biggest singer in the world,” she said, “but I’ve been exceptionally lucky and amazing things have happened to me.”
In April, Goulding was asked to play the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, and while she’s unable to go into detail, she did dish that she and her band played a fourteen-song set. “It was awesome,” she said, “truly the biggest honor of my life.”
Another big honor was playing Saturday Night Live in May where she covered Elton John’s “Your Song,” which also appears on Lights. The song is about as stripped down as one can get – featuring only Goulding singing breathily as a piano plays along.
“Starry Eyed” is the first single off the album and conjures Bjork and Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine over a Le Roux backdrop. “Animal” is heavy on the electronica and makes you want to get up and dance, while “Your Biggest Mistake” is more subtle and appeals to her folksy, singer/
songwriter side. This is a woman who is just scratching the surface of what she is able to do.
Her next album will see Goulding getting back into writing. After all, she says, that’s why she’s here. “[To get inspired] I like to be by myself with a couple of drinks, my laptop and my headphones, sitting in a dark corner of a bar,” she said.
Goulding applies that same level of attention to the music she likes, too. “I listen with such intensity right now,” she said. “When I find something [I like,] I have a long-lasting affair.” Goulding said she doesn’t move on easily and chooses to latch on, listening and connecting for long stretches of time rather than flit from one artist to the next. Plus,
listening to others with such intensity allows her creative side to really come out.
Smother by Wild Beasts is an album Goulding is immersing herself in at the moment. “The actual music is stunning,” she gushed. Goulding is enamored with the band’s dreamy falsetto, claiming that it takes her to another time period. “They’re able to capture the future and the past so well, which is important for me. I like that a lot.”
As Wild Beasts have the ability to meld the past and future, Goulding is hoping to take what she’s learned thus far in her career and use it to propel her into whatever the future has in store. She’s in the early stages of writing her next album, but she’s not sure of it’s direction, and she’s okay with that. Her approach to her music has remained constant in that she lets it evolve naturally.
When she started out, her sound came about in a very organic way, strumming away on her guitar in her studio bedroom. “I never planned on it being one thing in particular.” she said. In addition to getting more heavily back into writing on the next album, Goulding also wants it to have a heavier guitar sound to it, since that’s what she sees as the core of her sound. “It’s important that things start with a guitar.” she said. “I really enjoy the sound of it – it gives an album a certain feel,” she laughed, awkwardly trying to change the subject. “I could talk about this forever.”
Bottom line: the next album is going to be on Goulding’s terms. She said she’s trying not to think about it and is instead reveling in the freedom to do what she wants to do. “I want to trust my instincts and see where it goes.”
With all her talk about love, Goulding said her relationship status has little bearing on the vibe and subject matter of her songs. “I have so much stored away in my head.” she said. “I like to tell stories.” And that means drawing from other people, her own story and even fairy tales.
One fairy tale dream come true dream would be to collaborate with Bon Iver front man Justin Vernon. She calls Vernon one of her favorites of all time and gets a bit swoony when she talks about him, “There’s a certain soul to his voice – it’s something very special,” said Goulding. “I’d like to play with that.”
The way her karma’s stacking up, it would come as no surprise that Goulding would make the collaboration happen. “I feel lucky to be alive, healthy and do what I do,” she said. Do good things and good things will happen to you. Ellie Goulding is living proof of that.