London's hot soprano crooner Ellie Goulding found a lot of success with her debut album, Lights, especially Stateside with her single by the same name. But that kind of multiplatinum, worldwide success doesn't come easy.
To thrive like Ellie, an artist must approach their career with tons of determination and honesty. Thankfully, Goulding's got that in droves.
Crossfade: So you were at university and took some time off to pursue your career. Why did you decide to leave school?
Goulding: It was just getting too hectic because I was really trying to balance performing and recording in London with my studies. It started proving to not work and I was concentrating less and less on my work, and wanting to focus completely on music. It just became really tough. I wanted to do everything. And I couldn't.
Well, it seems you made the right decision. But would you advise other artists to follow their dreams so resolutely? Or do you consider yourself rather lucky?
No, I mean, I did a lot of writing. I did have to do a lot. You should never go into it thinking that it's going to be easy, I guess. Because it's not. [Laughs] I absolutely endorse people following their dreams, but people should be prepared that it's not that easy.
I heard you're kind of obsessive in the studio. Can it sometimes be difficult to work with others?
No, I like working with other people. Usually one other person is good enough for me. It actually helps me to bounce ideas off someone.
How long did it take you working on Halcyon?
It was a couple of years, but on and off. I took my time with it. I didn't want to rush it. I just let things come naturally.
You recorded it in a converted barn near where you grew up. How did that happen?
That was where Jim Elliot lived, my producer, and I also believed that it would add something else, some sort of extra life to the record.
I am so attached to where I come from, so I have so much nostalgia and good memories that when I recorded, I could actually look out onto fields, the kind of fields I grew up around. Nostalgia has a real effect on my writing.
It seems like your writing is very personal. To be surrounded by the place you grew up, does that make it easier to open yourself up?
Yeah, I'm just very honest with how I write. It's how I've always written, I suppose. I've never really held that much back.
Is it nerve-racking sometimes when you put so much of yourself into your art to release it? Or are you beyond that now?
I've just realized that my hand writes very honestly. Maybe there'll be a time when I'm not as honest, or I write about things that perhaps aren't as personal to me. Maybe that will be a next venture.
Is it nice when you hear from fans that they can relate to these things that you're going through?
Yeah, I like it. I like the idea that girls, even particularly teenage girls will see that it's kind of OK to feel like they are in love with someone. Or it's OK to feel like their heart's broken. Or it's OK to feel like they hate someone. I like making my music to sort of help with that stuff.
Before making this album, you were experiencing some massive writer's block. How did you overcome that?
I think when I met Jim Elliot and he caught the way that I wrote and he kind of eased me back into it. I didn't feel judged. I suppose he just made me feel really comfortable and I felt like I could write what I wanted to write. And slowly but surely, it kind of came back to me.
This record is a little sadder in its sound than your debut, and though it comes out positive, what do you think it is about trying emotional times that seem to open creative floodgates.
It's a way of alleviating the pain by writing it out and it makes you feel better that you've kind of validated it. When you write things down, you can just figure it out a bit more. And sadness really does make the best songs.
So, you must have been to Miami at least for vacation before, right?
Yeah, I've never played. But I've done radio stuff and I did actually do two random things: I performed for Richard Branson at his Virgin birthday party and I did this documentary a couple of years ago for Sobe, a drink like Vitamin Water, and I did a documentary about the beach and fitness and tattoos and all of this sort of, like, plastic Miami stuff. And yeah, it was good fun.
What was it like at Branson's party? That sounds crazy.
Yeah, it was insane. I thought that they were the best fireworks I'd ever seen in my life, but then I performed in Dubai on New Year's Eve and I realized that nothing was ever going to beat those ever again.
What do you think of Miami? You mentioned our plastic culture, for sure. But what about the music scene?
I don't know. When I was at the beach there were these dudes handing out CDs and like rapping in the street and stuff. I thought that was pretty cool. Something you wouldn't see in London, anyway. It's cool, like, Miami's got a really nice side. I spent time there during Ultra with some good friends of mine and, I guess, now ex-boyfriend, we hung out there. And actually, it was an amazing time. I want to be at Ultra, but I guess I have to be a DJ.
Nah, they've been incorporating more live acts. You should get at them.
Yeah, maybe. I'd like that. I'll ask my manager and see what he says. "I want to DJ Ultra, I want to be on the big stage." And he'll be like, "No, everyone will think you're like Paris Hilton all over again."
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Well, what can we expect from your show at the Fillmore?
I guess a combination of old and new songs is all I can say really, but it's pretty energetic show. We don't like to let anyone down. We go for it. My shows are always fun in some shape or form, something always happens. It's a different show every night. I'm excited.
Ellie Goulding. Wednesday, January 16. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets cost $28 plus fees via livenation.com. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.