Ellie Goulding (©Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)
The U.K. pop songstress reaps a sleeper hit and a new album
By Kathy Iandoli
Special to MSN Music
Ellie Goulding has had quite a year. The U.K.-bred songstress, born Elena Jane Goulding, hit a milestone in her career when the title track off her debut album, "Lights," rose to the top of the Billboard charts a year and a half after its release. From there it was smooth sailing, as Ellie continued work on her follow-up full-length, "Halcyon," while savoring the belated success of its predecessor.
"Halcyon," which came out Oct. 9, affords a deeper glimpse into Ellie's life even as her career heats up. A new Beats by Dre ad premiered its flagship single, "Anything Could Happen," and she's playing selected live showcase dates before a worldwide tour. MSN Music caught up with her at HP's Artist#Talk with ArjanWrites in New York, where she elaborated on the creation of her new album, (while taking in the wins with her last one) along with her relationship with dubstep producer Skrillex. It's a tough job being a star, but Ellie's up for the challenge.
MSN Music: While you were writing the new album, "Lights" suddenly blew up. That was crazy.
Ellie Goulding: Yeah! I mean, while I was writing ["Halcyon"], I saw this thing with "Lights" was bubbling in America. Such a weird ... is dichotomy the word? Just everything was like & so many different things happening. I had so much emotional baggage in my head, so much stuff. I don't know where the drive came from, but it must have come from somewhere. Obviously, last year I went through some weird times and that prompted the beginning of the record. I think "Halcyon" was the first track that I wrote. Actually, that's a lie. I wrote "Explosions," which was a long time ago, about my dad. Then "Anything Could Happen" was just prompted by like, all the weird stuff. I don't know; my life has changed so much. It started, like, the end of last year, actually. All this weird change.
Did you name the album "Halcyon" after Orbital's song "Halcyon and On and On"?
It's so funny how it came together because -- first off, I f---ing love the Orbital song, but I didn't name my album after the Orbital song. Me and Jim [Eliot] were listening to Orbital for a couple of days, but then I already had a song called "Halcyon," but then I was like -- it's just the idea that there's gonna be bad days and, like, halcyon days of peace and happiness. Even if those days aren't in existence at the moment, it's just the idea that one day everyone will be enlightened and just be, like, in this amazing place. And then also there's the theme of the ocean and halcyon kingfisher is a bird that watches over the sea, so it all started to make sense.
Where did you write this album?
For this one, I went to Ireland to write a lot of my content. I was reading poetry and reading books, and just playing guitar and just walking around. It's such a beautiful place that you can't help but pick up on things. So a lot of my content was from that. And then I would just go into the studio and I'd have, you know, documents and documents of lyrics and ideas and stuff. So, some of the songs are so simple. It sounds like, you know, I could have just written it in five seconds, but actually, I spend a lot of time thinking about my lyrics and what's going to go where.
So you and Skrillex are like the Jay-Z and Beyonce of electronic music now ...
Yeah, but have you looked at any of the message boards? You guys are like royalty.
Kate and William.
Oh dear, I don't know about that.
Creatively, that's got to be so cool. How do you get inspired by Skrillex?
I mean, I say this a lot, but he inspires me as like, a boyfriend, I guess. Like when you're with someone who's your friend and your best friend, it's obvious that you're going to end up influencing each other, regardless of what you do. But I mean, he motivates me because he works so hard. He's the hardest worker I know, and he's so clever as well. I'm, like, constantly in awe of what he does. In fact I just put on my Facebook, I'm like, "Damn." He plays me new stuff and it just blows me away. I'm like, "Too clever!" He's just a clever guy; he makes the most insane things. He's got everyone trying to work with him, and I can see why.
He has an interesting fan base like you do, too.
So, your creeper fan level has gone up. Remember that guy that tweeted you, wanting to eat your hair?
Yeah & I think that was a girl.
Yeah! [Giggles] That was a girl, yeah.
How do you balance all of this fame?
I'm waiting to see how different it is now because I just haven't done many shows recently. But I'm seriously dying to do shows. It's really killing me, and I need to be doing festivals, I need to be back on tour. And you know, I want it to be the best show as well. And, unfortunately, mainly because of time, I'm going to have to build up the show over the next couple of years because I just can't do it all in one sweep, you know? I have to really start building it up. We use samples and stuff already, but we're going to go one step further and really going to, like, use so much stuff. We're going to remix our tracks together and use peoples' remixes and use tracks I've done with other people, like Sonny [Skrillex] and Calvin [Harris] and even Chiddy Bang and whoever else. We want it to be a nod to music as well as obviously being an Ellie Goulding show. I like the idea that it can be a show where we can also give our nods of respect to people that we really love, myself and my band. But we'll see. We'll see. It'll just take a while to build up.
Where will you spend what little holiday you have?
I think I'm going to be maybe in Mexico. Yeah, I'll be wherever my boy is, I guess.
Kathy Iandoli has written for publications including The Source, YRB, BUST, XXL, VIBE, RIME and Vapors, and her work has appeared online at MTV, AOL and MSN Music sites. She is the former Alternatives editor of AllHipHop.com and the current music editor of HipHopDX.com.