Singer Ellie Goulding enjoys playing festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella
Versatile British pop singer Ellie Goulding thrives on the intimacy that comes with the live dynamic
Text: Amy Russell
Summer is the season of the world's most famous music festivals, such as Glastonbury and Coachella. British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding has been hitting these locations in recent weeks, leaving crowds starry eyed with her energetic performances and her catchy indie synth-pop music, including her recent hit single which you have probably heard, Burn.
"Being able to do the festivals I do - that's success," says 27-year-old Goulding. "In the past, festivals to me were the cool bands and the cool singers, and now I get to play those festivals. I feel like I've travelled to different worlds in music and I get a lot of respect from musicians - people that I love.
"Festivals are fun, as you have to win over the crowd if they're not there to see you. I'm just happy that I've had a lot of success with my first and second albums. I never thought I would be a singer, so I've done all right," she says.
Goulding is coming to the end of a long tour, but not without making a stop in Hong Kong first. She is excited about her two-week Asian tour, as she hasn't had many opportunities to perform in the region.
Goulding's debut album, Lights, was released in 2010, and catapulted the artist to fame. More recently, she released her second studio album Halcyon (2012), had hit singles with Burn, Starry Eyes, Anything Could Happen and Lights, and supported acts such as Passion Pit, Dave Matthews Band, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry. Goulding also took home the gong for best British female artist at this year's Brit Awards.
Unfortunately, this is a flying visit for the singer, who has never been to Hong Kong before. Her whirlwind tour sounds like it leaves no time for Goulding to truly experience the cities she visits. "I have to remember that I'm in these places to do a show, and if we're lucky we get to be in a place for a day and explore," she says. So it's a good thing that her fans make up for it.
"I'm sure the Hong Kong gig will be special because what makes a show different from the last one is the crowd. I'm sure the crowd will make a huge difference, seeing as I've not been there before," she says.
"It could incite some different banter from me, because I always bounce off the crowd. I think my fans appreciate that I'm a bit dorky and stupid when I perform. I tend to just say the weirdest things. Part of the set can get pretty heavy with some of the songs and what I sing about, so I think it's a nice little break from that."
Goulding always has time for Instagram, having amassed over three million followers through her active presence on the social media platform. "My Instagram shows that I'm a very independent girl travelling the world and making the most of life. I always document things when me and my band do fun stuff. I'm definitely an adventure-seeker. I'm a bit like a tourist," she says.
"I have this jumper that says 'Tourist' on it because that's kind of what I am, really. I'm just constantly travelling and looking for adventures, but I get to work on the road and I'm pretty lucky in that respect. I think that's why so many people follow me on Instagram, because they want to be a part of that journey."
As a female artist who is active on social media, how does Goulding feel about the way stars present themselves to their fans, and about issues such as stars hyper-sexualising themselves for the media?
"Truthfully, it doesn't really bother me. I don't focus on someone's appearance, or how they dress or present themselves. I'm very interested in music and how things sound. If someone wants to wear very little clothing as a musician, that's fine, but I am generally more interested in the music people make. So if you're making good music, I think that anything else is your own prerogative."
Goulding does feel she makes for a decent role model. "I feel like if anyone's going to be a role model, I'm not really a bad place to look," she says. "My fans know that I do smoke occasionally and that I drink, and sometimes I wear something that's a bit more provocative, but I also dress down most of the time as well and I'm a real tomboy. I think that following me on Instagram is quite a clear indication that I'm pretty well balanced, really. I exercise a lot and I eat well. I don't eat any meat or fish."
Goulding often goes running to stay healthy, and keep her voice powerful and strong, despite its characteristic, slightly hoarse sound, which she uses to put her distinctive take on songs by other artists.
Her best known cover is that of Elton John's Your Song, which reached number two in the UK in the early days of the artist's career, in December 2010.
"I like covering songs," she says. "A lot of people don't like to, but if I really like a song and I can hear myself singing it, I like to do it. I like showing versatility, but mainly I do it for my own enjoyment, and then I think I may as well give it to my fans. I like to do things that are out of my comfort zone, or things I wouldn't normally do, which is good exercise for me as a singer.
"Obviously, it has nothing to do with emotion because the songs have already been done by someone else, so it's more about my voice when I do covers."
She's also remixed and collaborated with the likes of Alt-J ( Tesselate), Calvin Harris ( I Need Your Love) and, most recently, DJ Fresh ( Flashlight).
Goulding's career has been full of surprises and brought her a level of fame she did not expect. So far, so good. But what next? "I'm not a very good multitasker, so I'm just waiting to finish this tour before I start writing," she says.
She mentions that she has a few ideas for her next album, but she doesn't want to go into details.
"It's my album, and it's very precious, so I don't really want to jinx it or anything," she says.
Ellie Goulding, August 12, 7.30pm, Star Hall, Kitec, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$540 (advance), HK$640 (door), HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 2544 0477