Ask Ellie Goulding about what it’s like to be on the road and she’ll tell you, “It’s a very strange life, so it’s really important that I’ve got my friends with me and I’ve got a really good band.” Ask some of the inner circle among her crew, and they’ll instantly echo that sentiment. On a muggy July day in Pittsburgh, the rising singer and crew invited Billboard’s cameras onto her tour bus for an acoustic performance and conversation about that “strange life” just as she prepped for just the second date of her summer-long stint on tour on the bill with Bruno Mars — and as she watched her song with Calvin Harris, “I Need Your Love,” continue to climb the Hot 100 chart — and it was clear that friendship makes the hard work easier.
“Every single tour I’ve done is has been different from the last,” Goulding says. “Some tours can be really tough and some, like this, can be really easy, cool and relaxed.”
PHOTOS: Ellie Goulding Behind the Scenes on the Road in Pittsburgh.
Lauren Glucksman, Goulding’s personal assistant, says her duty is “to make Ellie’s job and day-to-day easier,” by helping with everything from scheduling interviews to helping Ellie make fashion choices. But in the dash from city to city and venue to venue, Glucksman shares that, “time becomes a massive luxury where you go, I have an hour free. Ellie and I will go shopping sometimes and it feels so fun, even though in normal life it would just be very regular. There’s something about carving out that time for yourself.”
For Ellie, an avid runner whose Pittsburgh performance was a kinetic 45 minute workout had the thousands of Bruno Mars fans in attendance dancing and singing along by set’s end, the small way she tries to pamper herself on tour is with beauty products. “The girlie side of me loves having expensive beauty products that actually last… and smell amazing.”
The past two years have been an ascendant whirlwind for Goulding as she saw her song “Lights” rise all the way to No. 2 on the Hot 100 and her 2012 album “Halcyon” hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200 as she took her effortless, energetic show to stages — theaters, clubs, massive festivals — on multiple continents.
Keeping that whirlwind from turning into chaos on Ellie’s trek with Bruno Mars, cool and calm tour manager Derek Fudge says that he turns to technology to make it all work — and to keep him connected. “My job is to organize everything really,” he says. It’s “all about the computer and the email. It has so many benefits [like] keeping in touch with family.”
Musical director and drummer Joe Clegg, who cites being able to go back and look at the photos of his U.K. home town that he’s Instagrammed, are an invaluable “aid to memory” of home “when I’m out in the middle of tour somewhere,” he says.
But Clegg, who says his job is “a fun position because it’s almost like storytelling,” is quick to point back to the music, and the people he works with on tour, as the magic that makes his job interesting. “Over the years I’ve known Ellie and have working with her, we’ve gone from the first tour we did… No crew, lugging all the gear ourselves and playing to five, six, 10 people to now where we come to the states and play huge shows. It’s a great team. It’s about the people and that’s all aided by Ellie and her attitude to how she wants to tour.”
As she perched on the black couch of her yet-to-be-decorated tour bus moments before soundcheck in Pittsburgh, Goulding seemed right at home. With new song “You My Everything” having just premiered on British TV and a fan-created video for her song “Burn” then on the horizon, she smiled and said, “I feel like I’m in such a good place at the moment and I’ve got an exciting year coming up… I’m in this place that I can take seven weeks on a tour to chill and maybe do some writing,” she said. “I think this came exactly at the right time. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good one.”