Starry-eyed 26-year-old singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding has been on a roll since her 2010 debut, Lights, and its international-chart-topping single of the same name. Her signature blend of angelic vocals over electro-leaning melodies has led to collaborations with Skrillex, Zedd and fellow Brit Calvin Harris—accomplishments all trumped by her performance at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Goulding was in town July 26 to do a rare DJ set at Surrender. Before taking the helm, she took some time out from touring with Bruno Mars to answer a few questions.
In 2010 your Lights album became a massive commercial success. In retrospect, what was special about Lights?
I think that at the time it was a refreshing thing for a singer-songwriter to be so heavily into electronic music. It’s a very honest album about everything. I think people found that appealing because there was so much music around at the time that wasn’t honest enough.
You recently told Elle, “I have such an affinity with electronic music that I can’t step away from it.” How did you get into electronic music, and where do you see the genre evolving?
I grew up on electronic music because my mum listened to it constantly. It was [her] escape from everything. It was very much in my system, and everything I listened to, I started to compare it to electronic music. So it became a big reference point for me. I feel like there was a big burst of EDM in the last couple of years, but in the same way that we had a big burst of garage music in the U.K. at one point, I think EDM is now a solidified genre, whether it’s combined with pop or alternative music or standing alone.
What do you think accounts for the recent British Invasion of female pop singers like yourself, Adele, Lily Allen, etc., and how is your sound different from American singers who are working in similar genres?
People always tell me that my voice is unique and that separates my music most of the time. Also, I see everyone’s efforts in music as being individual. No one has the same upbringing. I had a very poor upbringing and then went to university, and all of those experiences have shaped my sound.
How was performing at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding, and what experience could ever possibly top that?
You’re re-releasing your Halcyon album—what will be different about it?
It’s coming out with quite a few extra tracks. I’m really excited about the additions, and hope my fans will be, too.
You’ve done some unique social media contests. What’s been the most interesting?
The Vine contest for “Burn” was really great—my fans are so cute and creative. I loved watching everything they came up with.
Your new music video for “Burn” got more than 8 million YouTube views in the first few weeks. What are the meanings and emotions behind that track?
It’s the first song that I’ve done that I really feel like is anthemic in the sense that people interpret it for their own situation. I think it has a really positive feeling to it; it’s about coming together, as cheesy as that sounds.
What have been the most exciting and challenging aspects of your summer tour with Bruno Mars?
The only challenge is that it’s hard to adjust to playing in such a big room, sound-wise. It changes the ambiance dramatically. However, that has been the only real challenge—everything else about it has been incredible, so there are no complaints here!