Ellie Goulding on her new album, self-discovery and the perils of fame for young artists
The UK pop star's latest album, Brightest Blue, comes after a five-year hiatus from music
Originally published on July 17, 2020
It's been five years since Ellie Goulding last released an album, but now the wait is over.
The award-winning British hitmaker, who has amassed more than 20 billion streams worldwide with songs like Burn and Love Me Like You Do (from the Fifty Shades of Grey movie), made the decision to step away from music in early 2016 after her last tour ended.
The break was an important period of self-discovery and reflection for Goulding, who's now 33, because she says it helped her understand the vulnerability of becoming famous in her early 20s. It was just what she needed to finish writing her long-awaited fourth studio album, Brightest Blue, which is out today.
"I got to spend time in one place for more than one week and so I could just really reflect on things and unravel them," Goulding says in an interview with q guest host Talia Schlanger. "I really started to understand who I've become. And I was proud of myself."
WATCH | Goulding's single Power:
With this new album, Goulding writes from a place of strength, but is still very open about her struggles with self-confidence and feelings of impostor syndrome (where people who are seen as being successful from the outside feel that they are actually frauds).
"With the impostor syndrome thing, you start doubting all the things that come with your songwriting. I've always believed in myself as a songwriter. I think that there have been things I've been less comfortable with — like performing and the clothes I wear, or the way I look — just all those things that come with being a singer that I didn't ever expect to have to deal with."
"I think I'm pretty open about that stuff on the album," says Goulding.
This kind of honesty and introspection define the first half of Brightest Blue, which is split into two sides, while the second shorter half is full of collaborations, including the hypnotic song Hate Me, featuring the late rapper Juice Wrld, who died unexpectedly last year at age 21 from an accidental overdose of powerful painkillers.
WATCH | Goulding and Juice Wrld's song Hate Me:
As someone who rose to fame in her 20s, Goulding has some thoughts about Juice Wrld's death, and how young artists' mental health is affected by the music industry and social media.
"He was so talented and had so much more to offer," says Goulding of Juice Wrld.
"There's just so many more factors to consider now as a new artist. I hope that they have more help than I did. I know my record label has started a new thing where when they sign an artist, they offer a counsellor, or to pay for counsellor, or somebody that they can talk to that's impartial.... With so much talk about mental health, I think record labels are having to pay attention and be way more considerate."
Goulding goes on to say that it's also crucial that young artists don't surround themselves with "yes people."
"It's so important that you are with people that you trust, people that really care, not just care about you because you can make money or because you are a product. I think that has been so important to me."
While Goulding doesn't know who the rapper was with at the time of his death, she hopes that "every new artist has the right people around them."
"You have to be realistic about your health," says Goulding. "I lost my voice so many times because I wasn't able to look after my voice properly, I was flying too much, I was in too many different places at once. So I just hope now that when there's free time in an artist's diary that they're encouraged to take time for themselves."
Written by Vivian Rashotte. Produced by Danielle Grogan.