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Ones To Watch: Ellie Goulding

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Ones To Watch: Ellie Goulding
She's already made an arresting TV debut on Later, given pop fans a pleasing tingle in their pants with 'Under The Sheets', and nabbed this year's Brits Critics' Choice prize. Next comes bound-to-be breakthrough single 'Starry Eyed', the sort of folky/poppy/dancey thing that makes us want to dance around like a loon in a candelit barn in the middle of the countryside. But what makes Ellie Goulding tick? We met up with the lady herself to find out.

How would you describe the Ellie Goulding sound?
"Oh God, this is so hard! I'd call what I do pop music, but it's folky and electronic and it doesn't really sound like much else."

When did you begin making music?
"I started making demos when I was about 15, but I wasn't particularly proud of what I was doing then. I guess I only really started making music when I was about 18 or 19. Since I met Starsmith, my producer, I really feel like I'm making music because we write it together and produce it together. I've got a proper involvement in the end product as opposed to just writing a song and finding someone else to produce it."

Did you ever have a "Eureka!" moment about becoming a singer?
"Ha! I don't think there was ever a moment when I was like, 'Yeah, I want to be a singer!' I guess it just happened. I performed a lot when I was younger and stuff, but I remember getting to the point where I thought I might have to get a normal job. I remember planning a gap year that involved going home and working in the theatre to save up money for travelling. I had no idea my life would turn out like this."

What was the turning point?
"I guess when I signed my publishing deal. When I was at uni I had literally no money at all - a fiver would have to last me one or two days. Signing my publishing deal changed everything because it meant I wasn't doing a degree any more and I didn't have to worry about money so much. You know, I still budget everything really carefully now. I guess I haven't really taken in what's happening to me."

How are you finding all the attention you're getting now?
"All of this is really weird! I find it strange that people are interested in me so much. My day consists of doing loads of music things like live gigs, interviews and getting cabs... a lot. I wouldn't change it, but it's just so surreal. It's obviously what I was meant to do though because everything has pushed me in this direction and people seem to be connecting with my songs."

Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?
"It's usually a big kind of vent of frustration or anger or sadness that puts me in the right frame of mind to write. It's such a cliche to say that artists write when they're down, but it's true for me. It's a relief to get out what's eating away at my heart or my soul or my head. I can still write songs when I'm in a normal mood, but the best songs come out when something's really gripping me. The best song would come if someone had fallen out of love with me. I would totally abuse that and write about it."

Do you often find yourself in that frame of mind?
"Yeah, because things do get me down - not just love and that kind of thing, but the world generally. Also I'm a complete hypochondriac and every day I think I'm going to die. Today I can hear this noise in my jaw, and it's probably nothing, but a friend of mine had an operation on her jaw once so I immediately thought of that. Yesterday I thought I might have bowel cancer because I felt uncomfortable down there and instantly thought the worst."

Does being a hypochondriac interfere with what you want to achieve each day?
"Honestly, it controls my life completely and I just have to hope that the feeling goes away. I'll say to my manager, 'I can't do this today because I'm feeling ill and I know that there's something wrong. I just know it.' It's weird because in so many ways I'm a strong person - I train and I'm tough and I'm agile - but any hint that there's something wrong with me and it brings me down. I'm putting all this into a song actually - that's definitely one to listen out for."

The new single, 'Starry Eyed', seems rather more positive. What's it about?
"It's about letting go. As opposed to all the sad and depressing things I write about, I decided to write something about the joining together of people in some kind of euphoric state - be it at a festival, at a show or in a club. I wanted a song that would reach out to people of every background and every enjoyment, whether you enjoy a natural high, taking drugs, drinking or whatever. Because I'm essentially a pop artist I wanted to write a song that everyone can relate to."

How's the album coming along?
"It's getting there. I've done eight songs with Starsmith and one with Frankmusik, who I met through MySpace - he's just the nicest guy. I'm at the point now where I'm feeling a bit scared because I'd hate for my album to be slightly less good than it could be. Everything's so unpredictable at the moment, isn't it? I could write the most amazing album in the world and everyone could just download it illegally. We'll see!"

How important is selling a lot of records to you?
"Well, when my label did a few things to my MySpace, it did make me gasp because I wanted to keep it completely personal and me. But at the same time this is my career and I have to do well and sell records. I have to do a certain amount of publicity and things like giving away free songs. I know that I can't have it both ways."

Which artist's career path would you hope to follow?
"Someone like Bjork. She's not had a straightforward career, but she's one of the most celebrated artists on the planet and she's carried herself with dignity. She's not afraid of being different and she grows and grows and grows. I want to last a long time and to do that you have to keep your integrity, which is what Bjork has done. Some artists see that their last album didn't sell very well and consciously decide to make their next one really mainstream and poppy. I think it's a shame when that happens."

Do you feel an affinity with the current crop of female singer-songwriters?
"Well, at first I was like, 'Oh my God, there's so many female artists coming out', but now I admire them for their strength and ability to deal with everything this industry throws at them. I think Elly Jackson's handled it really well actually. As much as she's made out to be bitchy because she speaks out about other artists, at least she's being honest and she's often very right about things. You've got someone like her who's an outspoken artist, which I prefer to someone like Pixie Lott who's a fantastic singer but doesn't say anything her label doesn't want her to say."

Ellie Goulding releases new single 'Starry Eyed' on February 22.

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