Elena Jane "Ellie" Goulding (// GOHL-ding; born 30 December 1986) is an English singer and songwriter. Her career began when she met record producers Starsmith and Frankmusik, and she was later spotted by Jamie Lillywhite, who later became her manager and A&R. After signing to Polydor Records in July 2009, Goulding released her debut extended play, An Introduction to Ellie Goulding, later that year.
In 2010, she became the second artist to top the BBC's annual Sound of... poll and win the Critics' Choice Award at the Brit Awards in the same year. She released her debut studio album, Lights, in 2010; it debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and has sold over 850,000 copies in the UK. Her cover of Elton John's "Your Song" reached number two in the UK in December 2010 and on 29 April 2011 she performed the song at the wedding reception of Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Buckingham Palace. The album's title track, "Lights", was released in the US in March 2011, and peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Goulding's second studio album, Halcyon, was released in October 2012. "Anything Could Happen" preceded the album as the lead single. Halcyon debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart and after 65 weeks reached number one. Halcyon debuted at number nine on the US Billboard 200. Halcyon Days, a repackaged edition of Halcyon, was released on 23 August 2013; it included new singles including "Burn", which became her first UK number-one single. At the 2014 Brit Awards she received the award for British Female Solo Artist. Goulding released her third studio album, titled Delirium, on 6 November 2015, with "On My Mind" as the album's lead single. In December 2015, she received her first Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance for her single "Love Me like You Do".
Elena Jane Goulding was born on 30 December 1986 in Hereford and raised in Lyonshall, a small village near Kington, Herefordshire, the second of four children (she has a brother and two sisters). Her father, Arthur Goulding, came from a family of undertakers, while her mother, Tracy (née Clark), used to work at a supermarket. When she was 5, her parents separated; later she had a stepfather who was a lorry driver, whom she considered "horrible". At 9, she began playing the clarinet and at 14 began learning guitar. She attended Lady Hawkins' High School in Kington where she won the role of the Scarecrow in a school production of The Wizard of Oz. At 15, she started songwriting and while at Hereford Sixth Form College entered a singing competition and won.
After commencing drama, politics, and English courses at the University of Kent, where she was exposed to electronic music, she was spotted by Jamie Lillywhite of Turn First Artists at a university talent contest. After she successfully showcased for Turn First head Sarah Stennett, she was told to leave university and was set up in a house in West London. Lillywhite became her manager and introduced her to the producer Starsmith who would become her chief collaborator and the primary producer of Lights.
2009–10: Early releases
Although Ellie Goulding signed to Polydor Records in July 2009, her debut single, "Under the Sheets", was released through the independent label Neon Gold Records as a deliberately low-key debut, appearing digitally in the United Kingdom on 15 November 2009. The single peaked at number 53 on the UK Singles Chart following a successful appearance on Later... with Jools Holland (performing "Under the Sheets" and "Guns and Horses") and a UK tour supporting Little Boots. "Wish I Stayed" was available as a free download as Single of the Week on iTunes Store UK from 22–28 December 2009.
Before the release of her debut album, Goulding won the BBC Sound of 2010 poll, which showcases the music industry's top choices for rising stars. She additionally won the Critics' Choice Award at the 2010 Brit Awards, making her the second artist to win both in the same year. Goulding co-wrote "Love Me 'Cause You Want To" for Gabriella Cilmi's second album, Ten, and three songs ("Remake Me + You", "Notice", "Jumping into Rivers") for Diana Vickers's debut album, Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree. Her song "Not Following" was used by German singer Lena on her debut album My Cassette Player. Goulding was featured on rapper Tinie Tempah's single "Wonderman" from his debut studio album Disc-Overy (2010).
2010–11: Lights and Bright Lights
Goulding's debut album Lights was released in March 2010, reaching number one on the UK Albums Chart and number six on the Irish Albums Chart. Its singles "Starry Eyed", "Guns and Horses", and "The Writer" peaked at numbers 4, 26, and 19. As of June 2012, the album had sold over 850,000 copies in the UK and 1.6 million copies worldwide. In August 2010, she released a second EP, Run into the Light, containing remixes of songs from Lights. The album was supported by Nike and was released through Polydor as a running soundtrack in an effort to get her music taken up by the running subculture. In November 2010, Lights was re-released as Bright Lights, with six new tracks added. It was originally announced that the lead single from Bright Lights would be the new edit of the title track with a release scheduled for 1 November 2010. This plan was ultimately scrapped to allow her cover of Elton John's "Your Song" to be released in conjunction with the John Lewis Christmas advert in the UK in 2010. The single became her second highest-charting single to date, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart. It additionally charted in a few European countries. In January 2011, it was announced that the title track from Lights would serve as the second single from Bright Lights.
Goulding toured in support of Lights and supported Passion Pit in March 2010 and John Mayer throughout his British tour in May 2010. Throughout the summer she performed at a number of festivals. On 29 May she performed at the Dot to Dot Festival in Bristol. She performed a set on 25 June at the Glastonbury Festival 2010 on the John Peel Stage. Her third EP was a live recording of part of her set at the iTunes Festival 2010. The whole set was ultimately included as bonus content on the iTunes version of Bright Lights. She made her T in the Park debut on 11 July. In early 2011, she recorded an original song for the film Life in a Day. Ellie Goulding was number five on Rolling Stone's annual hot list in February 2011. In February 2011, she returned to the Brit Awards where she was nominated for Best British Female and Best British Breakthrough Act, but lost out to Laura Marling and to Tinie Tempah.
In August/September 2010, she was an opening act for U2 on the U2 360 Tour in Zurich (two nights), Munich, and Vienna. She additionally played live at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April 2011. She made her American television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on 7 April 2011 performing "Starry Eyed". She appeared as the musical guest on the 700th episode of the Saturday Night Live, broadcast 7 May 2011 and hosted by Tina Fey. She performed at the wedding reception of Prince William and Kate Middleton on 29 April 2011, and performed what she recalled as "about 14 songs", including the Elton John-Bernie Taupin 1970s hit "Your Song". She was introduced to Prince William by Tinie Tempah at Radio 1's Big Weekend in 2010.
Goulding collaborated with American electronic artist and producer Skrillex on a song titled "Summit", included on his 2011 EP Bangarang. She travelled with Skrillex on his South American tour She headlined the 2011 Wakestock Festival in Wales, performing on 8 July. In August, she performed at the V Festival for her second year in a row. Following the re-release of Lights and the American release of the album, Goulding said she would soon begin work on a second studio album with an expected release of September 2011. On 6 August 2011, she performed at Lollapalooza in Chicago. She performed at the annual Nobel Peace Prize Concert on 11 December 2011 in Oslo, Norway, where she additionally served on a panel discussion with Amy Lee of Evanescence and Janelle Monáe. On 1 December 2011, she performed at the White House throughout the National Christmas Tree lighting, alongside Big Time Rush and will.i.am. In February 2011, she told the Daily Star that she had plans to release a follow-up to Lights in 2011. On 19 September 2011, it was announced that she would open for Katy Perry's California Dreams Tour, replacing Jessie J due to a foot injury.
2012–14: Halcyon and Halcyon Days
In 2012, Goulding appeared on "Fall into the Sky" from Zedd's debut album Clarity and on Calvin Harris's song "I Need Your Love" which is included on Halcyon and additionally Harris's album 18 Months. On 10 July 2012, Goulding released a cover of Active Child's song "Hanging On", featuring Tinie Tempah, as a free download on her SoundCloud page. In late July 2012, it was announced that Goulding's second album is titled Halcyon and it would be released on 8 October 2012. The album was preceded by the lead single "Anything Could Happen" on 21 August. The lyric video for "Anything Could Happen" premiered on 9 August 2012, consisting of a series of fan-submitted Instagram pictures. On 19 November 2012, the music video for Goulding's second single from Halcyon, titled "Figure 8" was released. The single was released digitally in the UK on 12 December 2012. The song charted before it was released, and made its way into the Top 40 in the UK, peaking at number 33.
Goulding contributed a track titled "Bittersweet" (produced by Skrillex) to the soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, released on 13 November 2012. It was announced on 12 February 2013, that in May 2013, she would be supporting Bruno Mars on his Moonshine Jungle World Tour on selected dates. On 20 May 2013, Goulding announced she would embark on a seven-date tour in the UK throughout October that year. On 28 May 2013, Goulding's cover of Alt-J's song "Tessellate" was released via her SoundCloud page. Goulding has additionally been reported to have filmed a music video for this track in Paris earlier that month. She claimed to be "making a video for a song that isn't on my record." In June 2013, Goulding performed at previous festivals and concerts including RockNess festival in Inverness, and Firefly Music Festival at The Woodlands in Dover, Delaware. On 2 July 2013, Goulding premiered a song titled "You My Everything" in the first episode of Skins Fire and that same day Goulding confirmed to Elle magazine that Halcyon would be re-released later that year.
On 5 July 2013, Digital Spy confirmed the release of Halcyon Days, a repackaged edition of Halcyon, which was released on 23 August 2013. The re-release, featuring ten additional tracks, was preceded by the single "Burn", which had been uploaded to Goulding's SoundCloud page the previous day. On 7 July 2013, the official music video for "Burn" premiered on Goulding's Vevo channel on YouTube. "Burn" became Goulding's first single to top the UK's Official Singles Chart. Goulding was performing at V Festival Chelmsford when news of her first UK number one broke; Rita Ora surprised Goulding with her Official Number 1 Award. On 9 September 2013, Goulding released a music video for "How Long Will I Love You" for the film About Time. Goulding appeared on the soundtrack for the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with the track "Mirror". On 15 October 2013, Goulding confirmed on Fearne Cotton's radio show that "How Long Will I Love You" would be the next single for BBC's Children in Need. On the same day, the Active Child song "Silhouette", on which Goulding features, was additionally released. On 28 October 2013, Goulding posted an alternative video of "How Long Will I Love You" on her Vevo channel for the short film Tom & Issy, in which she additionally stars. On the final episode of The X Factor on 14 December, Goulding performed a duet with finalist Luke Friend.
On 5 January 2014, Goulding premiered the music video for her song "Goodness Gracious" on her Vevo channel, later confirming that it would be her sixth single released from Halcyon Days. On 22 January 2014, Goulding confirmed through her Facebook page that she had contributed the song "Beating Heart" to the soundtrack for the film Divergent, based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth. On 3 February 2014, Goulding released a cover of the James Blake song "Life Round Here" featuring rapper Angel Haze through her SoundCloud page. On 19 February, Goulding won Best British Female Solo Artist at the 2014 Brit Awards. On 20 October 2014, she stated via Facebook that she'll appear on the new Calvin Harris album, Motion, with a new song called "Outside". The song was released as the album's fourth single on 20 October 2014.
In November 2014, Goulding announced that she was focusing on a third studio album. In early 2015, Goulding released the song "Love Me like You Do" which was featured in the soundtrack to the movie adaptation of the hit novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The video was released to YouTube on 22 January, to precede an official release date of 15 February. The single has been a commercial success, spending four weeks at number one on the UK Singles Chart, topping the charts in a large number of additional nations including Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, and reaching number three on the US Billboard Hot 100. The single held the record for the most-streamed track in a single week in the United Kingdom (streamed 2.58 million times), and worldwide (streamed 15.5 million times). On 7 December 2015, "Love Me like You Do" earned Goulding a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance. In the nominations for the 2016 Brit Awards announced on 14 January 2016, the song was amongst the nominees for British Single of the Year, and Best British Video.
Goulding appeared on the upcoming Major Lazer album Peace Is the Mission on the track "Powerful", alongside Tarrus Riley. The track was released together with the album on 1 June 2015. A preview of the single was revealed on 23 April 2015. Having finished recording new material on 27 July 2015, Goulding tweeted a link to an Instagram post of her leaving Abbey Road Studios captioned, "That's a wrap!". On 5 August 2015 at the iHeartRadio Music Summit, Interscope unveiled the title of Goulding's new single, "On My Mind". A preview of the new track was released online via Goulding's Facebook page on 15 September 2015, with a confirmed single release date of 17 September 2015. The following day, another video teaser was uploaded revealing the title and cover art for Goulding's third studio album, Delirium.
On 7 September 2015, it was announced that Goulding would be performing at the 2015 AFL Grand Final, along with Canadian musician Bryan Adams and American musician Chris Isaak. On 17 September, Goulding debuted her single, "On My Mind", the lead track from Delirium, on BBC Radio 1's Breakfast Show. She additionally announced that Delirium would be released on 6 November. Goulding subsequently performed "On My Mind" at the Apple Music Festival later that week.
Goulding then travelled to Sydney where she performed a one-off show at the Enmore Theatre on 4 October. She performed a variety of songs similar to her Apple Music Festival setlist. She additionally appeared on the Australian X Factor on 6 October where she performed "On My Mind". On 9 October, the song "Something In the Way You Move" was released as a promotional single from the album. On 15 October 2015, it was announced that "Army" would serve as the second official single from the album; the song's music video was later released on 14 January 2016.
Artistry and influences
Goulding possesses the vocal range of a light-lyric soprano that spans 3.5 octaves, and is noted for her high piercing vibrato, breathy tone and emotive delivery. In a review for Halcyon, Neil McComick of The Daily Telegraph described her voice as "something special", continuing; "Her tremulous vibrato and slightly hoarse timbre have the feel of something primal and folky, her birdlike high notes conveying a childlike wonder while darker tones imply ancient depths of sorrow. She sings like she's strung out on the melody, warbling from a place of desperate emotion. It really is that rarest and perhaps most accidental of gifts: an original voice". He then continued in regards to her vocal layering stating, "producer Jim Eliot puts her voice front, back and centre, banking up choral walls of vibrato, fashioning hooks from cut up samples of chirrups and chants, and creating unusual textures from trills and warbles". Throughout an interview with Carson Daly, Goulding described her own voice saying;
I think at times it sounds like my voice is like, out of control... I have to really control it because it just kind of goes everywhere. Like, at times stuff comes out that I don't expect. A lot, actually [...]. It's so funny because my favourite thing to do is imitate opera singers, but I've never had a singing lesson. Oh, I had a lesson just to teach me how to breathe better, but I never really had a singing lesson.
Will Hermes of Rolling Stone compared her voice to that of Dolly Parton, stating that her upper register was dazzling whilst additionally complimenting her skill in vocal multi layering. Megan Farokhmanesh of Paste magazine stated "Goulding has a lovely voice, but occasionally her soprano-strung vocals hit a note that rubs the eardrums the wrong way" although she praised Goulding overall for her "talent for gorgeous high heart-tugging vocals".
Goulding has listed Joni Mitchell and Björk as influences, as well as contemporaries like Amy Winehouse, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Burial, Taylor Swift, Bon Iver, and Rihanna. She additionally expressed admiration for rappers Kanye West, Drake and Nicki Minaj. Goulding's musical style has been compared to that of Kate Nash, Lykke Li and Tracey Thorn.
Goulding's debut album Lights (2010) experimented with genres including indie pop, synthpop, folktronica and indietronica. The album contained "sparkling pop with a folky heart and an electronic edge" and was noted as being infectious. The album incorporated "acoustic guitar" and "retro-synthpop" compared to that of Little Boots and La Roux, while the production contained "folkie origins under a welter of busily cycling synths and programmed beats". Goulding's second album Halcyon followed in the same vein, including genres like indie pop, synthpop and dream pop. She stepped away from the electronic sound of her previous album and moved to a more tribal and anthemic sound containing a bit more piano and vocal.
Goulding is a keen runner, aiming to run six miles every day and in 2010 announced plans to run a marathon. In support of her second EP, Run into the Light, she invited a small number of fans through her Facebook pages to run with her in seven different cities on her UK tour, and said that she would be doing the same across Europe and the US. Goulding ran the inaugural Nike Women Half Marathon in Washington, D.C. on 28 April 2013, earning a time of 1:41:35. She additionally follows a vegan diet.
Goulding is close friends with American folk singer Lissie. The two toured the United Kingdom together in 2010. She is additionally good friends with New Zealand indie pop singer Lorde and American pop singers Katy Perry and Taylor Swift; she appeared in the music video for the latter's song "Bad Blood," which was released in May 2015.
Goulding supports the Labour Party.
She supported Vote Remain at the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. In the aftermath of the Brexit result, she said on Twitter:
I truly believe this is one of the most devastating things to happen throughout my lifetime. I felt a fear I've never felt this morning.
In 2010, Goulding participated in the Bupa Great North Run for the British Heart Foundation. In 2011, Goulding ran the She Runs LA event for charity Students Run LA, which aims to increase access to sport for less privileged children across the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In 2012, she partnered with Pandora Radio, one dollar for each sale of her mixtape was donated to the Free the Children charity. On 1 June 2013, Goulding performed at Gucci's global concert event in London whose campaign "Chime for Change" aims to raise awareness of women's issues in terms of education, health and justice.
On 15 November 2014, Goulding joined the charity group Band Aid 30 along with additional British and Irish pop acts, recording the latest version of the track "Do They Know It's Christmas?" at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill, London, to raise money for the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa.
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