Pop

Ellie Goulding Shares Her Juice WRLD Memories & Why Their Collaboration Made The 'Brightest Blue' Track List

“I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with him,” Goulding says of the late rapper.

Ellie Goulding has returned with her first album in five years, and her most personally revealing full-length to date. Ahead of the release of Brightest Blue on Friday (July 17), the veteran U.K. pop star chatted with Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz about the genesis of the album, and the special collaboration with Juice WRLD that made its track list.

After touring wrapped in support of Goulding’s 2015 album Delirium, “I came home and for the very first time had days off and weeks off,” she says. “It was so alien to me to have that time, that I had to kind of start reflecting on everything and unraveling my life for the past however many years, whether I wanted to or not. I knew it was time to confront everything I had been through, and then I was like, ‘Wow, I’m like a woman now.’”

Brightest Blue includes collaborations with Swae Lee and Diplo, Lauv, Blackbear and Juice WRLD; the lattermost passed away last December at the age of 20, after his collaboration with Goulding, “Hate Me,” had already been released. In a bittersweet twist, Juice WRLD’s first posthumous album, Legends Never Die, was released on July 10, one week before Brightest Blue.

“When I’d heard ‘Lucid Dreams’ for the first time, I was like, ‘Who is this?,’ and I don’t have that moment very often with artists,” says Goulding, nodding to Juice WRLD’s breakthrough smash. Goulding says that she immediately wanted to know “everything about him,” and after inquiring about Juice WRLD with Max Martin’s camp, she reached out about having the rapper collaborate on “Hate Me.”

“I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with him,” Goulding says. “I wish we’d gotten to live that song, together. ... He was on the beginning of some incredibly special journey, I think, and everyone was really excited for him, we were really excited for him, and, yeah, it’s just painfully sad.”

Watch the video above for more with Goulding, including a discussion of how much of her recent marriage is (or is not) explored on Brightest Blue.