Friday 15 November 2019

Close encounters

Catriona Gray

She's played for Obama at the White House, she was William and Kate's musician of choice for the royal wedding celebrations, and her single Lights has been awarded multi-platinum status. Now, on the brink of releasing her second album, Ellie Goulding is looking remarkably unfazed for someone who's been through such a swift rise to success.

The 25-year-old is wearing very little make-up and is casually dressed in a distressed black top and denim shorts, her hair is coloured a faded shade of pink and still bears the traces of an undercut, and a half-finished hot chocolate sits next to a empty glass of Coke, evidence of the fact that she's just been through a gruelling day of interviews.

Somehow, she's still energetic.

This boundless energy seems to be the key to Goulding's success; she combines her career with a serious passion for running -- she does, on average, six miles a day, even when touring. She could even be described as giddy.

Being fit has its advantages; for her recent single Anything Could Happen, she opted to do her own stunts.

"I was strapped into a harness and a massive crane lifted me up over a cliff, so I was suspended over a beach in Malibu. It was really scary, but I was determined to do it," she says.

Recently, Goulding has been spending more and more time in America, having previously dated Greg James, a BBC Radio 1 DJ, she is now in a relationship with the electronic musician Skrillex, who is based in LA.

"I'm used to being in a long-distance relationship now. It's given me a type of independence that I haven't experienced in a long time.

"It suits me fine because we're both working really hard."

Music may be the driving force in Goulding's life at the moment, but the singer, who studied drama at Canterbury, admits that acting is still something that she'd like to pursue. "I've got an acting agent. I just haven't had time to do anything, I'd need some more training, but I've acted my whole life, since I was very young."

And her ideal role? "I'd like to be in a play; ideally something a bit surreal. I'd like to be in a really dark comedy, like Nighty Night [a BBC sitcom].

"I'd love to be a really dark character."

Goulding clearly has a strong interest in acting: "I love film; I adore it. Braveheart, I'm afraid to say, is my favourite film of all time. There's something about the story that just completely captures me; it's really historically inaccurate but I could watch it over and over. I know the whole script."

She's also got a bit of an addiction to period dramas. Following her split from then-boyfriend Greg in December, she went to Thailand over Christmas with friends, including fellow British singer Jessie J.

"I found The Forsyte Saga in one of the rooms and I was like 'see you guys' and watched the whole thing.

"In Thailand. In beautiful weather. Idiot."

Indeed, although it's easy to label Goulding as a cookie-cutout pop star; with her catalogue of upbeat, radio-friendly hits like Starry Eyed and Under the Sheets, in person, she comes across as earnest, and surprisingly reflective.

"I think so hard about the universe and things, but I don't want to freak people out by being too intense.

"But that's how I am as a writer, I think a lot. I wouldn't be able to be a writer if I didn't think a lot. It sounds really simple but it's true."

Ireland is one of Goulding's favourite places, offering her much-needed space to get some writing done.

"I love Ireland. I wrote the majority of the lyrical content for Halcyon in Dingle. I don't know why I haven't mentioned it before, it's such an important aspect of the album, but I wrote so much of it in Dingle.

"I told my manager that I wanted a trip away and just went. While I was there, I got into routine of going running, then coming back, having a bit of food, reading a book, writing, playing guitar and seeing friends who lived there. It was the best.

"I wish I could do that every day of my life and then write this insanely good album."

She breaks off and laughs, pushing a strand of hair away from her face. "Although I'm pretty pleased with Halcyon!"

Just last week, Goulding was in Dublin, performing a special gig for Arthur's Day, alongside Mika and Professor Green.

The singer has spent quite a bit of time in the capital over the past few years: "I love Dublin. It's my vibe; I love just chilling in pubs.

"The city is really beautiful, it's almost like a non-pressured London. I feel like there's a pressure coming down on London, everyone's just crazy. You're so aware of the rat race and how people don't communicate or even look at each other. Dublin seems really alive."

You get the impression that Goulding is uncomfortable with the trappings of fame.

It's clear that she has passion for electronic music but admits that she isn't able to go clubbing much: "I'd like to, but I get recognised."

Still, she's quick to admit how lucky she is: "I've got really good fans -- they're so nice. They know that I love sweets and tea so they've turned up at radio stations with stuff."

Goulding might seem down-to-earth, but that may be the wrong phrase to use, given the star's belief in the extraterrestrial.

"I'm supposedly Jewish, I'm supposedly part of the Illuminati, a scientologist, all this stuff, because I've got a red triangle tattooed on my wrist."

So what is the real meaning of her tattoo? "I'm not sure yet. When I got it, I thought 'why did I get that done?', but I think it will all make sense eventually. It's also the thing you get when you've been abducted by aliens, the mark you come back with."

When asked if she believes in aliens, Goulding is emphatic: "Yes. It's common sense. I believe in extraterrestrial life. I believe it's really ignorant to think that we're the only living things in the universe.

"It's just foolish. I've read up on it and I don't understand why people still don't believe.

"Maybe it's because the word 'aliens' scares people."

Although now her life is undeniably glamorous -- upcoming plans include a handful of US tour dates and shooting her next music video -- it couldn't be more different from her childhood, growing up in a tiny council house in Herefordshire, England.

Her parents divorced when she was five, and she never got on with her stepfather.

"I suppose I did have a rough childhood in many ways, but I've never seen it negatively, it's always been something that's made me the person I am.

"I have friends who had very privileged childhoods and I see things in them that I wouldn't perhaps want to have.

"Or perhaps they see things in me that they wouldn't want to have; I'm very vulgar, I swear, I smoke, things I've picked up from my parents. But I think I've gained qualities like being grateful, never taking anything for granted, being careful with money, stuff like that."

With her life currently an endless whirl of recording, promotion, and touring, these qualities are certainly coming in useful.

One thing's for sure, Goulding's career is showing no signs of slowing down.

Faced with so much uncertainty, the star seems content to just go with the flow; "My life turns corners all the time. I'm travelling the world for the next year, after that, who knows? I never know where things are going to take me."

Halcyon is released today

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