The flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York’s JFK is 3,452 miles or approximately eight hours long. For many European musicians, it’s a journey on which their tour will never take them. And while it’s true that UK music sales in the US have increased in recent years, thanks largely in part to Coldplay, Radiohead, Adele, Leona Lewis, Estelle, and The Ting Tings, there’s still a huge divide.
There’s no need telling this to Ellie Goulding. The 24 year old UK sensation is the epitome of a shooting star. In 2010, she became only the second artist to top the BBC’s annual Sound of… poll and win the Critic’s Choice Award at the BRIT Awards in the same year (the first was Adele). We spoke to her days before she embarked on tour to play some of the largest venues in the US with its biggest star, Katy Perry, on her California Dreams tour.
“I’ve never played anything like this,” she replies to our question about having any butterflies before her performance at Madison Square Garden. Each venue along her tour has a capacity of approximately 20,000 people, which is almost half the population of Herefordshire where she grew up.
Ellie Goulding may have jumped the Atlantic quicker than most, but things haven’t always been that easy for her. She grew up in a poor family, the middle child of three siblings. Her father left her mother when she was five. Then she had a step-father, who’s now separated from her mother. He wasn’t the nicest and like many youth at one point, she considered running away. In an interview with The Sun she said if she saw her step-father again “she’d punch him in the face.” Enough said.
At 15, she began writing. At her first open mic, she sang covers of Lauryn Hill. “It was pretty terrible,” Goulding recounts, “there were only a few people listening.” At 19, she won a singing competition at her university, and people started taking notice – most notably, her first manager who helped her get signed to Polydor.
Then the success piled quickly, almost too quickly. She started having panic attacks. The panic attacks were “never about performing,” she explains, “my body just couldn’t keep up.” The attacks were serious enough that she went to therapy. “I don’t want anyone to ever get confused between being afraid or having anxiety and having a panic attack,” she emphasizes.
When considering this major tour she says “It’s scary, but also really exciting.” She later continues, without any hesitation, ‘The reason why I’ve come so far, and why I’ve done so much, is because I do find that confidence in some way.” While many shooting stars eventually burn out, I’d be surprised if this one did.