TURN OFF THE BRIGHT LIGHTS “Mainly I’m drawn toward dark songs because I like songs with dark lyrics and really sad melodies,” says UK pop princess Ellie Goulding.
It's a tale as old as the ages: the artist who breaks big in England but never quite cracks the charts or the hearts of but a select few in the States. Chalk it up to a diet too high in sugar, hot dogs, and Lindsay Lohan, or whatever it is that keeps the Blurs, Pulps, and Verves virtual non-starters on this side of the Atlantic. Poppy London songstress Ellie Goulding could ultimately fall flatly into that pile as well, but that seems unlikely at the moment.
This spring Goulding brought her ethereal brand of dance-pop to Coachella, and was surprised at the turnout during her mid-afternoon Gobi tent slot, which came at the tail end of a stateside tour that was taking a toll on her band.
"I couldn't believe it — I was like, no one's gonna come, no one's gonna come," Goulding says from Londonwhile prepping to headline a US tour that touches down at the House of Blues July 27. "I felt like we were drawing more and more people toward the end, people were hearing my voice and going, 'Who's this chick?' and coming in, because my voice is unusual, and people were either like, 'What the fuck is this?' or 'This band's cool' — so either one of those."
She's still giddy from the California festival appearance. "It was awesome, it was really cool," she says. "My band got to a point halfway through [the tour] where we were really slagging and losing it a bit. Coachella was amazing, we really needed it; we needed the sunshine. I'd heard about Coachella loads, but I never thought I'd get to play it."
No disrespect to the royal family, but Goulding was more worried about Coachella than her much-talked-about slot as the handpicked musical talent at the April 29 wedding reception for Prince William and Kate Middleton. There, she performed tracks by the Killers and Bryan Adams in addition to "Lights," the catchy-as-hell title track to her 2010 debut record.
"Obviously I was nervous — it was nerve-wracking," she says of both experiences. "When you're told you have to do a show, it doesn't matter what it is, you have to be as professional as possible. Somehow I got it together and it was fine."
Goulding was a surprising choice for the reception, mainly because — though her beats are tailor-made to cut a rug to — the lyrics veer into the dark side. You wouldn't think lines like "You're as sharp as a knife and you fit like a glove/That is no way to live that is no way to love" (from "Salt Skin"), for example, would be royal wedding fare.
"I didn't intend it to be like that necessarily," she says. "It was a combination of my wanting the record to be honest but not down. As much as I don't over-think things I feel like there's a part of my brain which subconsciously makes everything sound happy, but the lyrics are quite sad. I make sure that I strike that balance."