“It’s been such an amazing year,” says Hereford-born, London-based troubadour Ellie Goulding, who finally issued her smash U.K. debut, “Lights,” in the U.S. “But I’ve been through some really horrible times to get here.” For months, she couch-surfed at her manager’s apartment, and spent what little money she earned on a gym membership. “So basically I wrote songs and went to the gym, and that was pretty much my life for a while,” she says. But the BRIT Awards winner had an even stranger existence before that.
So you actually taught yourself to speak differently? I was about 14, and I just decided that I really hated my accent a lot. It wasn’t like Eliza Doolittle or anything — it was Herefordian, and for some reason I really hated the sound of it. So I taught myself to speak by listening to the television and to my other friends. So now my accent is kind of generic, like a standard English one.
When you get drunk, does your Hereford heritage boomerang back? Oh, yeah, definitely. Whenever I’ve had a few drinks, you can tell — especially when I’m onstage, talking to my band in Herefordian. They don’t pronounce their G’s, so it’s like, “I did’n’ say anythin’.” So it does fully come out when I get a bit drunk and lose my inhibitions.
While you were studying performing arts in Canterbury, did you enter a talent contest on a whim? Pretty much. I thought I’d give it a go and see what happened, and I ended up actually winning. I went up and played a few songs and won, which was really bizarre. But then I thought, “Well, maybe I have got something!” I’d never really believed it before that.
Then your school actually insisted you take a year off? That year, I was doing so many different things. I was commuting to London to do little shows, then coming back for my drama lectures, and I had two jobs as well, in the theater department’s clothes shop. So I went before the drama board and said, “Do you want to check out my MySpace page? I’ve got a few songs together. What do you think?” And they were insanely clever, incredible people, so they listened to them and got back to me, saying, “We think you should leave. Leave and go pursue this.”
What did you win, by the way, at that talent show? That’s the really sad thing. There wasn’t actually a prize. Which is rubbish!
Where: Popscene, Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., San Francisco
When: 10 p.m. today
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.popscene-sf.com