You may not know Ellie Goulding by name, but there’s a very good chance you’d recognize her voice. The English songstress is behind hits like “Close to Me,” “Lights” and “Love Me Like You Do” ― and is a bonafide star in the U.K., one who’s often subject of tabloid fodder.
Some people, including Goulding herself, would argue that she has yet to reach that same kind of “pop star” status in the United States.
“I like that sense of ‘there’s this girl singing on my radio. I don’t know who she is, but I like it,’” Goulding told HuffPost.
One thing is for sure, though. Ellie Goulding is nearly everywhere. Since hitting the scene a decade ago, Goulding has amassed 300 million streams globally, played for then-President Barack Obama and counts the British royal family among her friends.
“Every single time I walk on stage, there’s this feeling and kind of everything floods me at once and I realize how lucky I am and how grateful I am,” she said. “I’ve had moments in my career where I have to really go back to my hotel room and think, ‘Did that really just fucking happen?’ That happens a lot.”
Goulding is now gearing up for the release of her fourth album and has been dropping new songs since the beginning of the year. Her latest is a collaboration with rapper Juice Wrld on “Hate Me.”
We caught up about her new music and upcoming wedding, along with her relationship with social media and her body.
Tell me how the song “Hate Me” and the collaboration with Juice Wrld came about.
I love to sing things completely out of my comfort zone ― and that was one song where I was like, “This will be interesting to do.” I feel like I’ve always let myself do that and obviously I’m very specific about what I put my voice to. But at the same time, I like the idea of doing something that is not comfortably me. I’ve never really written a diss song or anything like that before and I didn’t like to be overtly revengeful in my music, so it was different for me. Then the second I heard Juice Wrld on the radio whenever it was, a year ago, I knew he was something special. I was a fan of him immediately. He was my first choice to be on this song and thankfully, he said yes, so I was very happy.
With social media at our fingertips, relationships are out there for all to see and we can just delete them with the click of a button. How much were you you channeling that in the song and video?
Yeah, it feels like social media has got to a point where it can destroy relationships, which is just crazy to me that there’s this whole other fake world that honestly becomes one of the factors of the downfall of relationships. I find it hard to get my head around that. It’s that kind of defensiveness that I think people have when they’ve broken up and I think that there’s some kind of defense mechanism that we adopt to deal with breaking up because breaking up with someone is really like grieving for someone. It’s like you lose someone, you’re never going to have someone with that kind of intimacy again … You’re never going to be able to replicate what you have with that person, whether it was bad or good. There’s some kind of grieving. That relates to a lot of things that I write about. I find the idea of two people separating, having been together for a period of time, just so … another thing I can’t get my head around. I like to write about the things that confuse me.
What’s your own relationship with social media?
I go between having a healthy and unhealthy relationship with social media. Some days, I don’t feel the urge to go on it at all, and other days I have to wake up and go straight on Instagram to see what other people are doing. The more you realize that people are living lives and you’re not, the more you just want to get out and do those things and not feel like you have to validate them with a picture or proof that you were doing them. I went to an exhibition the other day and it was a beautiful exhibition at the Tate in London and I couldn’t really see the exhibition because of the sea of phones. That kind of … I don’t know. Not upset me, but it definitely said something because I realized that no one is really living in the moment.
I think people are even aware of it. Sometimes it becomes peoples’ business or becomes someone’s livelihood to be an Instagram model or whatever, but for music … I like to use it to connect with my fans. I like them to know that I’m there and that I see them and I see their opinion and I see their energy and I see their love for me or their disappointment in something. It’s a lonely game. It’s a lonely world and it’s weird because your fans become very comforting to you.
You’ve been releasing songs off of your upcoming fourth album. What can we expect on your first album in almost four years?
Well, it’s definitely going to be two separate themes. I’m kind of toying with the idea of releasing two different things, but only because I feel as though it is a time in music at the moment for freedom and not feeling bound to one thing … Especially in the pop world, it’s gone just crazy. I feel like there’s countless collaborations, countless double releases, and sampling other songs. It’s a bit mad at the moment, so I’m taking advantage of that somewhat because I’m enjoying taking the time to really perfect the album. In the meantime, I feel like I’m allowed to have a bit of fun with what I do.
I’ve been doing this a long time. I think people forget that, and my fans, sometimes they might not like a new song, they might not understand it. But everything I do is for a reason and for a purpose. And whether it’s for my own sanity, my own enjoyment, entertainment ― that’s kind of what I’ve always done. It’s not like I’ve changed my format in any way. I’ve always done whatever I wanted and I’ve always made sure that I have my own rules for things.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since you’ve released your first song. Does it feel like that long for you? How would you sum up this journey if you had to?
That’s a good question. It’s definitely been a very colorful and bumpy ride. I can’t lie and say that it’s been really smooth sailing and really fun the whole time. There’s been some dark moments, there have been some tricky times, but there’s also been some just incredible moments that I won’t ever forget. But it’s gone so quick that when I finally kind of decided a couple of years ago that I was going to chill out for a bit and kind of take a backseat and just kind of watch, let everyone else carry on and do their thing. I moved to New York and I met my fiancé and I got to reflect on everything that’s happened to me and I had to really take it all in. I don’t think I’d ever sat back and taken everything in. At first it was very overwhelming. I realized I’d had this extraordinary journey from where I came from until now and so, I kind of have to appreciate that sometimes.
What’s it like planning a wedding while simultaneously creating an album?
I’m really enjoying it and I never imagined myself really getting married. I’ve been kind of open about that, so then when it does happen, it doesn’t really require much overthinking. It’s just happening and life is happening. And I’m 32 now and I never knew what age I was going to be when I found the one, inverted commas, but turns out it’s 32, yeah … It’s funny because when you find that person, it all kind of just falls into place with no… I never imagined finding someone and let alone marrying them. When it does happen, it’s just so annoyingly easy how easy it is to make that decision. I’ve based all my songs on complications and confusion and then suddenly, there’s none of that.
I just have to go to a different place when I’m in the studio because I certainly can’t write songs using the troubles and times in my life, because currently I don’t really have any.
So, is it challenging to get to that space where you’re writing that kind of music?
Yeah, a little bit because you kind of have to … You have to be an actor, really … Some of my biggest idols in the world ― singers ― have taken on many different characters and many different alter egos. I think that’s fine. To be honest, I’m happy to be in this place. I’m happy to not have to be crying to the studio or opening up to complete strangers about what I’m going through … I’ve always appreciated the honest, and we always got a good song out of it, but you can’t wish to be in that bad place for the sake of songs. You have to accept when you’re in a happy place and then if you’re a good enough songwriter, you can generally find your way back there just for the sake of writing a good song.
Congratulations on all the success with “Close to Me.” Could you have ever imagined that song becoming such a big hit?
There were moments in the session where I was like, “This is kind of a catchy song,” but I didn’t expect it to do what it did and to be honest, I’m just appreciative of the States because my music does well there and I’m just this random English girl that has this voice. Most people in America have heard my voice at some point somewhere and I like that mystery. I like that kind of sense of there’s this girl singing on my radio, I don’t know who she is but I like it. I’d happily do that forever it meant that people could hear my music and I could have some kind of effect on people without having to be a celebrity or be somebody in the public eye. I love that and I think I’m in a very lucky position to have that. In the U.K., obviously, we have a different tabloid situation over here and I swear I’ve been told by so many different people that press is just different here. I’ve been through that kind of stuff here and I have to say, it was not really that enjoyable for me. So, to be able to give my music to people separated from anything else and I just get to do that, it’s a pretty good situation.
Your music was in “Game of Thrones” this last season. I heard that you really wanted to sync up with the HBO series for a long time.
I really wanted to be a part of “Game of Thrones” in some way. I kind of begged them to be in it, but they didn’t need a female extra (laughs). I was very happy to just even be a part of anything to do with “Game of Thrones” and love that song [“Hollow Crown”].
We talked a little bit about social media at the start with “Hate Me.” To loop it back around, what’s your take on using it to talk about yourself and promoting body positivity?
To be honest, I spent many years yo-yoing with my diets and not exercising in the right way … I know everyone says every woman, every person has insecurities but I’ve definitely got friends who don’t have problems with their self-esteem and their body and their physical appearance, but I struggled with thinking about my body weight and things like that for a long time. But really it’s the same thing as finding this kind of happiness where the second I accept myself as who I was, I felt like I gained this different kind of strength and naturally, that made me train, exercise the right way, eating the right way, be a bit healthier, and I think I’ve just got a really good balance now. I feel very happy in myself at the moment. I’ll always have things I don’t like about myself, but I train really hard, I exercise regularly. It’s so much better for you to get up and do something and get the blood pumping.