Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon Days

For female singer-songwriters, revenge is an album best served platinum. Just ask Adele, whose split-inspired record, 21, earned a whopping six Grammy Awards—not to mention worldwide praise from “it’s not you, it’s me” recipients. Thankfully, while there’s no bad blood between pink-haired pop-star Ellie Goulding and BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James, Goulding’s sophomore album, Halcyon, still manages to tug on all the right heartstrings.

Following her 2010 debut album Lights, the 25 year-old UK native has enjoyed a steady—albeit delayed—rise to superstardom. The album’s title track of the same name climbed the Billboard Hot 100 for over a year before reaching its peak at number two on the chart in August 2012. Still, despite her newfound fame, the siren songstress still wants to feel on the same level as the “Goulddiggers” who listen to her music. Embracing a darker edge with Halcyon, the 19-track deluxe album has found its stride early—and if Ellie’s jaw-dropping performance of “Anything Could Happen” on Jimmy Fallon is any indication, she won’t let the (spot)light stop her any time soon.  

JAMIE LINCOLN: In collaboration with producer Jim Eliot, I understand you recorded the majority of Halcyon in a converted barn in your hometown of West England.

ELLIE GOULDING: I did. And how lucky am I to do that? Yeah, I was lucky enough to go back to my hometown and record my album, which I honestly did not expect. For me, I think it added a lot to the record because it was so nostalgic and so wonderful to be back home. It just brought out these different emotions and feelings—all sorts of stuff. I would have chosen that over a studio in London any day.

LINCOLN: Prior to its release, you confessed Halcyon didn’t necessarily start out as a break-up record, but it turned into one. Is it painful or liberating to sing lyrics strongly associated with a break-up night after night?

GOULDING: It’s liberating, because I honestly feel better when I write stuff down and when I get it out. It’s way better for me to document stuff and then read back over it. I just feel like it’s a sort of clarifying, cleansing thing to get stuff out. And I’ve always been like that, since I was young. I was a kind of angsty teenager and I would write diaries and write stuff down all the time. Sometimes I get to the level on stage where I’m singing and it feels heavy, but not always.

LINCOLN: “Halcyon” is defined as “calm, peaceful, or tranquil,” though. Is “halcyon” meant to characterize your current state of mind?

GOULDING: I mean, I guess. The idea behind Halcyon is also days of youth and happiness and joy, and I like the idea that there can be days that are really happy and really peaceful. I don’t know, I suppose Halcyon relates to hopefulness. I like the idea of one day there being peacefulness and happiness.

LINCOLN: I’m interested to hear the reasoning behind your creative choices in the “Anything Could Happen” video. For a song that offers such hope and possibility, why the car crash and nosebleeds?

GOULDING: For that very reason—the song is so happy and so hopeful, I guess I wanted to emphasize that also “anything could happen” in a bad way. Someone close to you could get ill, or, anything really. I guess I wanted to have a serious point to the song as well. It’s supposed to be surreal—I enjoyed making the video a lot, it was good fun, and I was really pleased with how it ended up.

LINCOLN: In past interviews you’ve described yourself as an “absolute rebel.” Have you always been rebellious, or did you create that image to brand yourself in the music industry?

GOULDING: [laughs] I would never create an image for myself, I’m not that clever. Someone said, “What were you like when you were young?” And I said I was an absolute rebel; I had face piercings by the time I was 14, I was a pretty rebellious teenager. It was a phase I went through, I wouldn’t say I’m like that anymore.

LINCOLN: Does that include disobeying your parents?

GOULDING: I don’t want to get into too much detail, because people look up to me, but I got into certain groups of people and I had a kind of rave period. It was kind of a scene I got myself into, but it’s just funny because I think that the image I gave off for such a long time was not that of a rebellious person, but that of quite an angelic person. And so, I think I wanted to confirm that, actually, I had a pretty rebellious teenage time.

LINCOLN: You attribute a big chunk of your success to your best friend and manager, Jamie Lillywhite. Is he a best friend first and a manager second, or the other way around?

GOULDING: It’s an interesting relationship, because we’re like brother and sister; we fight and we get on and we love each other and we hate each other. He’s been there from the very beginning, and he knows everything about me. I tell him everything, he tells me everything. He’s the only person I’ve been 100% comfortable in front of with everything. Not only that, he’s an amazing business manager as well, and he knows my vision. He knows what I want to do, what I don’t want to do. We’re a team—power comes from both of us. He’s just always been around, and I’m sure he’ll be around for a long time.

LINCOLN: Speaking of interesting relationships, you’re currently dating American electronic musician, Skrillex. I don’t mean this to come off as offensive in any way, but he has quite the intimidating persona. Does he have a softer side fans don’t get to see?

GOULDING: Oh, he’s the sweetest human being in the world! I don’t understand why he has that intimidating vibe, but no, he’s not intimidating in the slightest.

LINCOLN: That’s great to hear, especially coming from you. Sticking in the love domain, tell me about your experience performing at the Royal Wedding—hailing from England, I can imagine it was extra special to be included in Will and Kate’s big day.

GOULDING: It was. I still don’t feel like it actually happened. I was very honored to be asked. I really still can’t believe it, and I think me and my band will have that as one of the best nights of our lives.

LINCOLN: Did you have to dress more conservatively for that crowd?

GOULDING: [laughs] No, no, I wore a nice dress and some heels though, and I got my hair done.

LINCOLN: I was so glad to read that you’re interested in physical fitness—particularly running. You’ve even included fans in your running routine.

GOULDING: I did at one point, I don’t anymore. For awhile, I thought it was a really good way of meeting fans and hanging out with them in a really normal way.

LINCOLN: Are you still able to run every day, given your hectic schedule?

GOULDING: Exactly—my schedule is just so intense. I try. I’m going to try going soon. Maybe take a nap and then go for a little run.

LINCOLN: Do you run with an iPod, or do you let your mind drift?

GOULDING: I listen to some tunes on my phone, yeah.

LINCOLN: I was hoping you’d say that. What’s your favorite pump-up tune to listen to while running?

GOULDING: I love this DJ Fresh song—”Hypercaine,” it’s called, and it’s a Nero remix. It’s just the best running song.

LINCOLN: This is a tough one, but if you could summarize Ellie Goulding in just three words, what would they be?

GOULDING: My friends have said “vibe-y.”

LINCOLN: [laughs] Vibe-y?

GOULDING: No, let’s not go with that. That’s really difficult, and the kind of question to ask someone else. Apparently I’m introspective … levelheaded … but at the same time, absolutely insane.

LINCOLN: Are you now? I actually read an article in which you said something along the lines of not wanting to be described as better than anyone else.

GOULDING: I mean, the reason why I like interacting with my fans, and doing fun stuff with my fans and meeting up with them and taking them to dinner—I mean, not that I’ve taken them to dinner—but I did a competition thing once where a bunch of my fans came to lunch with me and we were just all chilling and having fun. We also had an album listening party thing with my fans, and it was just good fun, good banter. I don’t know, I like to feel on the same level as the people who listen to my music.

LINCOLN: Is there anything you’d like to leave your fans with in terms of your creative vision behind Halcyon? Or perhaps where your head was at when you wrote it?

GOULDING: By the time I got writing Halcyon, I was on a roll, and I realized I had so much to write about, I realized I had so much built up inside that I couldn’t really alleviate before, and then all of a sudden it was like reservoir burst. Like I said, I was on a roll—I couldn’t stop after that. Everything was making a lot of sense, and everything started coming together and Halcyon was made.