INTERVIEW: ELLIE GOULDING
Mar 22, 2011 - by Alex Kazemi
Ellie Goulding created a viral frenzy when friend/producer Starsmith posted a video snippet of her singing a potential single from her upcoming record. The video looked like it was all for fun but the song was a ridiculously catch lush pop tune, catchy enough to break the replay button.
A couple months later "Under The Sheets" was released. With its break out on the UK pop charts, Ellie started working on her debut albumLights, featuring productions from Frankmusik, Starsmith and Fraser T. Smith. It seemed to Ellie that people were getting hungry for more music, so a couple months after the Lights release, Bright Lights was released and shook up another storm on the charts and the blogosphere. With all the fast paced success, Ellie has decided to join the U.K crossover to America pop movement and release her debut record in North America. Moments before her SXSW set, we spoke about PJ Harvey, how I cracked the code to her sophomore album, and how her UK single strategy differs to the US.
Alex Kazemi: Are you in texas right now? SXSW?
Ellie Goulding: Yeah, I am.
Kazemi: Have you put together your Coachella set list yet?
Ellie: We kind of got a setlist, an idea of what we are going to do. God, that seems ages away!
Kazemi: Are you excited to perform for the majority of the american hipster community and passionate music fans, lots of people fly out around all the world for Coachella.
Ellie: Yeah! There is a little bit of pressure but I have quite a bit of experience playing festivals in the US and the UK, I am excited and hopefully it will go really well. If people like it, they like it.. If not, it doesn't really matter that much.
Kazemi: It is good to not get sad over those things. So, you re-released your album in the UK entitled Bright Lights. The track "Home" has more of an intense folk tone, more then any of your other folk tracks. While "Animal," Lights" and "Human" could be considered as your most pop orientated tracks to date. Were these songs written around the Lights sessions with Starsmith or was it the kind of situation where you intentionally went to the studio and wrote new songs for the re-release?
Ellie: There were two songs that didn't get put on the original album and then we realized they were good songs that people needed to hear, it was a good balance of new and old really. I did "Home" in France with Fred Falke who is a really amazing remixer. I went back to london and did "Human" and "Animal" with Starsmith."Little Dreams" and "Believe Me" were written and originally suppose to be on Lights.
Kazemi: Was it intentional to show off the more folk/pop sound on Bright Lights that isn't found on Lights or did things just happen that way?
Ellie: Its just how it worked out, it was rather nice that happened. We wanted to release new songs, my album is still around and it has been out for over a year. It has been really fun and good. I just felt lucky, that I was able to give my fans new songs. I knew, they wanted to hear new stuff.
Kazemi: Would you agree that "Under The Sheets" is the hit?
Ellie: I'd like to think so, it was very innocent when it got released, I had just got signed and Starsmith posted this really cute, dorky video on YouTube. "Under The Sheets" wasn't meant to be popular but it ended up getting really popular with remixes from Chiddy Bang, Jakwob. We are really pleased with how it went considering it was built to be a introduction/setup song or whatever.
Kazemi: I remember in 2009 when your MySpace first went up and "Starry Eyed" was the hip/pop gem of the summer, what is "Starry Eyed" about?
Ellie: It is about being in a euphoric state without being under the influence of anything, a innocence high from loving music. I wanted to make a fun dance song, that for once wasn't about something really emotional. I wanted "Starry Eyed" to be one of my first songs out there.
Kazemi: Is it weird to know, that some of your songs were once the "OMG, I know this song but you don't know and it isn't even charted on Hypem yet." People take their Music, blogosphere subcultures way too seriously.
Ellie: Yes! I feel a lot of people discover me in different ways, I'm in this stage in the U.K where I am not cool anymore.
Kazemi: It's because everyone in the U.K get over things sickeningly fast, I think it is rather crazy.
Ellie: I think its not that, its just not cool to post an Ellie Goulding song anymore but then again, someone will blog a remix, thinking to themselves "I have to post this remix!" There have been so many remixes, they all go to number one on Hype Machine. I seem to be the remix girl.
Kazemi: [laughs] Starry Eyed has been "Dubstepped" like a thousand times.
Ellie: [laughs] Yes! It is so funny.
Kazemi: Do you think, you will play with Dubstep at one point on your second album.
Ellie: Ah! Maybe! It is definitely something I love! There is definitely a lot of Dubstep going on in the U.K, very huge.
Kazemi: And in America with the Britney song..
Ellie: Yeah... [laughs]
Kazemi: How does your U.S single strategy differ to your U.K single strategy?
Ellie: I honestly don't know if it does. Except maybe that "Your Song" is being released in America. "Your Song" was kind of an unexpected thing, that wasn't suppose to happen then it did. I don't know how much it is going to differ really, I haven't surely decided on what the single is going to be yet.
Kazemi: You have a non-stop collaboration with Starsmith, I understand you both understand each other musically because it reflects in the music but for Album 2, will you explore more and work with other producers?
Ellie: Oh! Definitely! The second album is going to be about finding someone else that I can have that kind of bond with, I kind of want to give myself a challenge, I don't want to go through that easy route. I'm going to try hard to find someone else like Starsmith that I can relate to.
Kazemi: You worked with Fraser. T smith on Lights, did you guys cut anything other then "Your Biggest Mistake."
Ellie: No, we didn't actually! Maybe, I will try doing something with him again. I kind of want to find someone who is underground maybe.
Kazemi: Ah! Basically how you and Starsmith blew up together.
Ellie: Exactly. I don't know what this means but the second album is going to be a bit more pure. I am really into big epic Piano songs at the moment, I have been listening to Beach House, Warpaint. Who knows, what is going to happen.
Kazemi: [Laughs] Are you honestly going for an emo sound or by that, do you mean that the undertones are a bit more dark in the lyricism?
Ellie: Did you read that somewhere?
Kazemi: Yes, everyone on Pop Justice is freaking out. You freaked everyone out.
Ellie:[Laughs] What I meant by that is that it is going to literally be more emotional, I don't think anyone uses it in that context.
Kazemi: You could probably do the rock thing but later on, album four or three! Your voice would suit in a way, quirky!
Ellie: Oh! No, no no..
Ellie: I was a bit weirded out when I read that too, it just means the album is going to be a bit more dark.
Kazemi: Will you expand the folk sound heard on "Home" and contrast it with the dark lyrics you are aiming for?
Ellie: There you go, you just made my album for me.
Kazemi: I cracked the code.
Ellie: I'm going to do that.
Kazemi: Is there any mystique in some of the songs you've written and that are on the two records, obviously when you listen to "The Writer" you can tell that it is deep but are there any more anthemic songs like "Lights" , that could also be considered meaningful but the meaning covered up with a big beat?
Ellie: Definitely, if you think of the oldest kind of dance tunes.. [Ellie starts singing "Finally" by CeCe Peniston] or "You've Got The Love" "Hide Away" "Right On Time." Old old anthems, that people can dance to in the club but if you listen to the lyrics, they are really dark and deep.
Kazemi: Do you think there will be a 90s feel on album two, the 90s have basically come back to life. It is more then just a trend now.
Ellie: I don't think I will go back to a certain era but like I said I've been listening to bands like Warpaint, The National. I'm liking the Piano and guitar feel.
Kazemi: Catpower? PJ Harvey?
Ellie: I love PJ Harvey, I haven't got a chance to listen to her new record. I listened to some previews, very pleased. I'm very excited to hear the album, in its entirety.
Kazemi: PJ's "Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea" from 2001 is incredible.
Ellie: It is amazing.
Kazemi: Where did the folk inspiration come from, have you have been a fan of Folk music growing up or has your voice always fit the acoustic/folk sound naturally.
Ellie: I have always liked Folk music, it depends on how you define Folk really. There are some people that I listen to that would probably be in the Folk bracket. When I was in University, it was a big time for me discovering music, Midlake, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Noah and The Whale... Lots of inspiring and quality music.
Kazemi: I guess there might be a Lyyke Li feel on album two, if you cite Bon Iver as one of the influences.
Ellie: I like Lykke Li.. People compare her to Bon Iver? I don't get that, I don't understand that comparison.
Kazemi: It is just a common instinct, they performed a song called "Dance, Dance, Dance" together and i guess the video went viral and the unknown comparison blew up from there.
Ellie: Weird. Well, I haven't really committed to the second album massively yet. When this whole American tour is done, I will begin album two.
Kazemi: It takes time. Did you enjoy playing thehook-girl part with Tinie on "Wonder Woman."
Ellie: I loved it, I was very lucky to do that. It was a different pop experience for me, working with Tinie was awesome.
Kazemi: One day, would you ever take a peek into the super-pop world and work with producers like Bloodshy & Avant, Paul Epworth, Greg Kurstin? Or is it simply "not your thing." Maybe even outside writing.
Ellie: Honestly, I'm not going to rule out a song for being mainstream or too obscure, I am just going to see what happens.
Kazemi: I liked your Rihanna cover and I know she commented on it, if you were in the studio with her for a full day writing, what do you think the song would end up being about?
Ellie: I am a massive Rihanna fan, who knows what would come out of it. Pop music crazy!
Kazemi: When you are sitting in the studio and your writing a song, how do you know if it ends up being pop or folk? Do you just figure it out at the end? Are they intentionally written to fit a certain genre.
Ellie:Never intentional, always organic. It is the bonus at the end when it sounds like a pop song.
Kazemi: October will fit the self-made Dark/Folk genre we talked about, maybe you should release the sophomore album then?
Ellie: I will bare that in mind.