Interview: Ellie Goulding

It’s very easy to dismiss Ellie Goulding as another artist manufactured by the major record labels. But this is a girl who, before a major record deal was even on the horizon, was driven to drop out of a successful degree to pursue a career in music. This is a girl who has gigged every week for years at Kent University and at home in Hereford, juggling two jobs while developing her style and waiting to be noticed.

It’s been a rapid few months of growth, culminating in her first studio album, which went straight to number one following its release in early March. Ellie’s style has since undergone huge transformation, from her fully acoustic iTunes Single of The Week ‘Wish I Stayed’ in late December, to the electro-pop reworked tang of her album, Lights.

Responding to criticism of transition in style, she says that she’s ‘written acoustic music for a long time, but always wanted to do something more exciting’. Soon after leaving Kent University, Ellie met the producer Finlay Dow-Smith (Starsmith). Both of them had been individually influenced and inspired by Frankmusik, and together they began working on Ellie’s new sound. The pair are now close friends, and each contributed significantly to both the composition and production of Lights. ‘We work very well together, and we agree on a lot’, Ellie claims. ‘Fin and I really connect, and the songs are now how I always wanted them to sound.’

Ellie, now 23, maintains that it’s very important for her to feel academically alive. ‘I was very engaged with my degree, and now I sometimes worry that I’m lacking stimulation’. The singer claims a steering hunger for what she’s passionate about, and a fixation on her goals and interests, perhaps explaining her courageous move away from university. ‘I get very into single artists. I have listened to the Noah & The Whale album almost every day since it was released’. Ellie says that nowadays, she and Starsmith write a lot during the recording process, sometimes writing, producing and completing songs within the space of three days. ‘Sometimes you get very caught up in the song that you’re writing, and it comes very easily’.

Related  Dispatches: Friends, Ulysses, and the value of a story’s ending

Ellie is not controlled by her manager or label. She insists that she has total musical freedom, despite criticism of Universal Music Group for frequently pushing young artists in a ‘more sellable’ direction. She adds, speaking genuinely, ‘Polydor are the best label in the world’. Her management are, on the most part, in awe of her musical drive: ‘the success is all down to Ellie’, said one of her promoters for gigs in the south. Ellie intends to keep writing with Starsmith in the near future, but hinted at perhaps also collaborating with band-mate Max Cooke, lead singer of the now defunct four-piece Goodbooks. Max is currently joining Ellie on tour to play keys and synths.

The songwriter thinks that she communicates significantly more effectively through music and performance, and sometimes worries that she comes across as tame in media interviews. Ellie is a very positive, friendly and down-to-earth girl; character which is evident in her attitude to where she is going with her career: ‘I don’t really think about the consequences; I just like writing songs’. If Ellie weren’t doing music, she’d like to be ‘a fitness instructor or a teacher: I love to give advice’, and hopes that life will one day lead her to having her own chicken farm in Powys. Were there to be an Ellie Goulding Machine, baring the Ellie Goulding seal of approval, it would not only ‘recommend books and films’, but would, like most important machines, ‘dispense Percy Pigs and fresh smoothies’, and perhaps ‘lend a full body workout from time to time’.


Read Cherwell‘s review of Ellie’s gig in Oxford last week.