Ellie Goulding is a complicated thing in a seemingly simple package. On first hearing, she’s a bright and shiny 22 year old singer-songwriter, with her fingers on her guitar, her feet in a night-club and her head in the heavens. But very few singer-songwriters, young or old, can flip between dance-til-you-drop euphoria (“Starry Eyed”) and wistful, journeying space-folk (“Guns and Horses”), between lyrics that talk obliquely about sleeping around (“Under The Sheets”) and those that pin-point the love-hate relationship every leaver has about their home town (“Wish I Stayed”). Very few can do all that and leave us, the listeners, with enchantment, curious romance and, somehow, a sense of vastness, of travel, of space and time. It’s pop, Jim, but not as we know it.
Ellie’s songs are built around big proper tunes that lift you up and spin you round, yet there’s something off-centre about them, something sparkly, filmic, haunting, odd. She mixes heartfelt emotion with other-worldly atmospherics, spins cool electronica into dreamy warmth. Her insistence on putting her guitar in every song, whether an acoustic cover (she’s done some amazing versions of Passion Pit’s Sleepyhead, Wolves by Bon Iver and Roscoe by Midlake) or a gorgeous song about new love (“I try out a smile and aim it at you/You must have missed it, you always do”) gives her soaring electro-folk an earthed rootedness. We note that she hasn’t changed her name, that she doesn’t hide behind a stage persona. She is who she is. And in person, Ellie is direct. Honest to a fault.
“I like simplicity,” she says, “which is why I’m not afraid of pop, or dance music. I just look for the hook, the centre. And it can be the words or the melody, just the one thing that can relate to everyone. Even in alternative music, or classical, if it’s good, there will be something direct about it. But I also like to dig deep when it comes to lyrics. I’m aware of how I’m feeling all the time, so it’s impossible for me to write words that are contrived or meaningless.”