Brit sensation Ellie Goulding's magical run continues 

Pop Priestess in Sneakers

Pop Priestess in Sneakers

Just two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing, Ellie Goulding — avid runner and British electro-pop superstar — flew to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Nike Women's Half Marathon. For the 26-year-old, running had generally always been a form of escape — a way to clear her head. "It's the purest thing I can do," she tells the Scene. Preparing for this particular run, though, was a thoroughly different experience.

"Obviously, anybody that heard about [the Boston bombing] was absolutely devastated and mortified," Goulding explains. "But I think, as a runner, it maybe had just that little bit more of an effect on me. I just can't think of anything more tragic — especially those people coming in for the end of the marathon and how devastating that must have been for those families. It was such a horrible thing. It just really shook my confidence and made me feel quite anxious. But then, actually being in Washington with all those women — all those really badass women — running with me, it just really restored my faith in all things. I'm really glad I did it."

In the end, the only thing Goulding was disappointed with was her finishing time: 1:41:35, three minutes over her target. "I'll get it next time," she says. And no one with any sense would bet against it.

Since the release of her first EP, 2009's An Introduction to Ellie Goulding, Goulding's bio reads like a string of almost unrealistically escalating triumphs: from signing with Polydor straight out of a college talent contest, to having her debut album Lights reach No. 1 on the U.K. charts, to receiving a special invite from William and Kate to perform at the Royal Wedding (presumably putting her on the fast track to damehood). Goulding's sophomore album, 2012's Halcyon, revealed a much darker and more complex sound than her computer-pop debut, but still proved both a commercial and critical success.

For some, Halcyon was the confirmation of a genuine talent — a likable anti-diva — brave enough to venture into new waters rather than repeat the formula that had already earned her fame.

"Actually, it's kind of a lot more simple than that," Goulding says. "I just wrote Lights a long time ago, and I'd be a bit worried if I wrote another record that sounded exactly the same. Different things fascinate me and inspire me now. Those are the things I write about. I've seen a lot more of the world and met a lot of people since I wrote Lights, and I'm just a little bit more, I don't know, worldly [laughs]."

In the current pop landscape, hit singles like the Halcyon track "Anything Can Happen" feel unquestionably contemporary and yet appealingly out of step with its less thought-provoking dance floor competition. As a songwriter, Goulding may occasionally recall her fellow countrywomen Adele and Florence Welch, and she isn't opposed to dipping her toe into the dubstep pool. (She was romantically linked to Skrillex for a time.) But more times than not, Goulding's breathy, high-pitched vibrato is a wholly distinct, fully realized creation, honed over time as Goulding moved from singing cover songs to penning her own material.

"Early on, my voice sounded crazy," Goulding recalls. "I didn't have one. There were so many different styles and other people's little inflections and quirks — from The Cranberries to Beyoncé — that, yeah, I sounded mental. But eventually, I found it. And the first record is when it all sort of came together."

In the years since Lights, Goulding has had few reasons to doubt herself (her own rather telling example included a time she didn't win an award she expected to). But much like a distance runner, it's a steady approach that may explain much of her good fortune.

"I never get too ahead of myself, and my feet never leave the ground," Goulding says. "Like anybody, I deal with ups and downs constantly, but I sort of need those, really. I never take anything for granted that way."

Email music@nashvillescene.com.

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