Halcyon days for Ellie with tour and album
Ellie Goulding released her second album Halcyon, the follow-up to critically-acclaimed debut Lights, in October, and has just embarked on a UK tour. The singer talks to Andy Welch about the shows, her new electronic sound and the heartbreak that inspired it....
Ellie Goulding doesn't know what day it is. That's not a slight on her – she actually doesn't.
"Friday?" she shrieks when she discovers it's almost the weekend. "I've been so busy recently I'm not even sure which month it is."
After a relentless round of media engagements to promote her latest album and tour, she's entitled to feel a little mixed-up.
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Nevertheless, she's as bright as a button while answering more questions, chewing through a big pile of sweets to keep her going.
"I am tired, but I'm feeling really positive," she says. " As long as I look after myself and my voice, the tour will be brilliant."
Goulding released her second album Halcyon in October. It's the follow-up to her debut, Lights, which was released in March 2010, shortly after she'd topped the BBC's Sound Of 2010, the annual poll of industry tipsters on who they think will succeed in the coming year.
As predictions go, it wasn't too far of the mark either, with Lights reaching No 1 in its first week of release. To date it's sold just under one million copies in the UK and 1.6 million worldwide.
Halcyon is a very different album, however. In a brave move, Goulding ditched the gentle folky electronica for a harder, more dance-based sound.
"Figure 8 is the new single," she says proudly. "People are saying it's a real banger!"
With two such contrasting albums, there was a worry her forthcoming shows could feel like gigs of two halves. Goulding has wisely taken measures to prevent this and is confident the tour will be her best yet.
"I don't just want it to be one song after another, up and down in tempo and all over the place. It's going to be like a DJ set where the DJ is mixing songs to match one another.
"It'll all run very smoothly and there'll be room for everything in the set, gentler songs like Your Song and I Know You Care alongside Figure 8 and whatever. And I want to play remixes and maybe a cover or two."
I Know You Care was written with Lincoln song-writer Justin Parker. As you might imagine from the involvement of the man who co-wrote Bat For Lashes' recent single Laura, and Lana Del Rey's Video Games, it's a stripped-back, piano-led ballad and among the album's only downbeat moments.
Despite the remaining songs from Halcyon being more frenetic than those from Lights, Goulding maintains they're actually easier to arrange for performance, with the likes of Starry Eyed and Under The Sheets from the latter proving quite challenging when she first stepped out on tour in 2010.
There was also the worry that her distinctive voice could become lost under the masses of electronic beats and heavy basslines of Halcyon.
"I actually feel stuff gets lost more on Lights, because my voice isn't very high in the mix, whereas on Halcyon I intentionally wanted my voice to be the leading instrument on the album," she explains.
Much of Halcyon was inspired by her break-up with BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James. The two are still on good terms, although she won't say much more than that on the matter. She will say, however, that performing the personal songs of heartbreak each night is easy. As long as she acts her way through them.
"I just put up a barrier before I perform those songs," she says. "It's just like acting. Sometimes that slips and I'll go back to feeling how I did when I wrote the song, feeling vulnerable.
"The feeling is always there, I just have to avoid it so I can perform the songs every night."
Catch Ellie at Nottingham's Rock City on December 11 and Leeds Academy on December 15.