"Nobody expected it and that's the truth," Goulding says of her 2011 single becoming a U.S. hit
Ellie Goulding recognizes the precariousness of having a single that's currently at No. 2 of the U.S. Hot 100, but not among the tracks set to appear on the album she's releasing in two months' time.
"It's definitely weird and not necessarily a good thing, but I guess you can't moan about it," admits the 25-year-old singer-songwriter, whose opulent title track to her 2010 debut, "Lights," has firmly solidified its status as a surprise smash in recent weeks. But one day after "Lights" climbed into the runner-up spot on the Hot 100, Goulding unveiled "Anything Could Happen," a shimmering new single that previews her sophomore album, "Halcyon," due out Oct. 9 in the U.S.
For Goulding, the "Lights" phenomenon has been a joy to watch -- but it's time to move on to a new set of ideas. "To have a hit song in the U.S. is extremely difficult for a British artist," she says. "I think it's kind of a triumph. I have to feel that in a positive way. I'm just hoping that it will kind of die down a bit so I can introduce my next song, my next adventure."
Goulding says that she spent two years making "Halcyon" -- writing most of her material before going on her "Lights" tour in late 2010, and then recording the album with producer Jim Elliot in his country house in her native Herefordshire, England. Producer Billboard (Robyn, Ke$ha) also contributed to the new disc, but one producer who did not lend a hand on "Halcyon" was Goulding's boyfriend, dubstep star Skrillex.
The singer-songwriter chalks up the lack of a collaboration on her new full-length to "geography" -- Skrillex has spent most of 2012 on the road -- and not any stylistic decisions. "I've learned a lot from him and he's absolutely an incredible producer, one of the best producers I've ever come across," Goulding says of Skrillex (real name: Sonny Moore), whom she met last year. "I definitely wanted him to work with this record, and… there's no doubt that Sonny and I will work together, when we're both a little bit less busy -- because at the moment, his career is crazy."
The singer has had a whirlwind career herself since finishing "Lights," including a performance at Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding last year and a Critics' Choice trophy at the 2010 BRIT Awards, but says that the biggest difference in making "Halcyon" was her new studio prowess.
"The experience I've had and the people I've met over the past few years -- I think I'm less naïve and I'm less inexperienced," says Goulding. "Just learning about sound, about mixing and about the difference between something sounding amazing and not very good. I would always love writing pop songs on my guitar because I love pop music, but also I've become really passionate about the way things end up, and the way things will end up on stage."
As the singer-songwriter finished up "Halcyon," the title track to "Lights" kept growing in the U.S., despite being released as the sixth single from Goulding's debut album and receiving a music video that premiered in January 2011. Seventeen months after that video premiere, "Lights" rose into the Top 10 of the Hot 100 in its 27th week last June, completing the longest ascent to the region in the chart's history for a song by a female that was not aided by crossover airplay from country to pop radio.
So how did "Lights" become a stateside smash? Goulding has no idea. "Nobody expected it and that's the truth," she says. "I'll say to my manager, 'So, how did "Lights" get so big?' Because it's not a song that I wrote thinking, 'This is a smash hit.' I wrote the song because I wanted to write it and I wanted it on the record and when it was finished I was like, 'Yeah, this is a cool song, it's an Ellie Goulding song and my heart is with it.' So we had it as a bonus track on the first record and it's just kind of gone mental! I don't know why, because I never saw it as an obvious Top Five American song. I never imagined that at all."
"Anything Could Happen" premiered on Thursday (Aug. 9) in a beautifully rendered lyric video composed of fan-submitted Instagram photos, an idea that Goulding calls "a fun way to engage fans." The song will arrive on iTunes on Aug. 21, and Goulding shot a proper music video for the single last week in Los Angeles. And expect to see a lot of tour dates coming up in support of "Halcyon," with a more elaborate stage production this time around.
"The tour is going to be bigger for this record, and in terms of production, a lot more is going to go into it," she says. "It's gonna be a bit more advanced this time as I think about it a little bit more, trying to be more clever."