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Ellie s Halcyon ways
Ellie's Halcyon ways

There is a curious duality to Ellie Goulding. Sometimes the helium-voiced English songbird is a musical sponge, soaking up influences from the sounds and people that surround her. Then the 25-year-old will withdraw into total seclusion to write or record her music.

She loves socialising at big music festivals but also cherishes time alone running long distances to a private soundtrack ranging from classical to dubstep.

Reviews of her second album, Halcyon, have invoked mystic Irish singer/multi-instrumentalist Enya and idiosyncratic English songstress Kate Bush, as well as contemporary chart favourites Adele and Florence and the Machine - something old, something new.

The recording swings from real choirs and string ensembles to walls of electronic noise in keeping with the dubstep du jour - an influence, perhaps, of her boyfriend, US electro-king Skrillex.

"I've met a lot of people in the past year or so," Goulding says from Sydney during a visit for east coast showcases, promotion and some surfing.

"And I feel like I've been lucky to have met the people that I have because they've all, in different ways, given me a lot of ideas and given me a lot more scope within what I do. I've always had an affinity with electronic music since I was really young, and I think that is something that will always be present in everything that I do."

Goulding doesn't mention Skrillex by name but insists working and mingling with the likes of Calvin Harris, Tinie Tempah and Swedish House Mafia was just as influential.

The BBC Sound of 2010 winner has had plenty of input since releasing her UK chart-topping debut, Lights, two years ago. The album has sold 1.6 million copies and the title track became a sleeper hit, crawling to No. 2 and triple platinum sales 15 months after entering the US Billboard charts.

The success led to high-profile performances at the White House, Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Norway and the Ellen DeGeneres show. But the biggest gig of all came in April last year when Goulding had the daunting task of performing her version of Elton John's Your Song at the wedding reception of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. In fact, that was the bridal waltz.

"It was amazing - very surreal, very nerve-wracking, very bizarre," Goulding says, adding that she managed to slip in some originals among a set leaning heavily on covers of 80s hits by Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. "It's something that I'll remember forever."

When it came time to start work on the follow-up to Lights, Goulding left the bright lights of her home in London behind to write in the south-west Irish coastal town of Dingle.

"My writing is a very solitary thing," she says. "Even when I'm around lots of people, there's still this feeling (of loneliness). It's not like I'm an unhappy person all the time, it's just a tool I use to write. It takes me being alone to really focus."

Melancholy underpins songs such as Dead in the Water, hot current single Anything Could Happen and potential next single Figure 8.

While she has worked with a wide range of producers on both her albums, Halcyon is primarily a collaboration with Jim Elliot (Kylie Minogue, Ladyhawke).

"I never thought he was going to be the main producer," Goulding begins. "It was actually my manager who suggested him. I was dubious . . . so I went down to the country to meet him and back to my home town (in Herefordshire).

"We made Anything Can Happen the very first day . . . and then I realised that I didn't want to work with anybody else."

Goulding says that the month or so she spent working on Halcyon in Herefordshire with Elliot was a strange homecoming.

"It was actually nice. I was in my home town in a way that I'd never been there before," she says. "I was driving for the first time around by myself. I wasn't seeing anyone, I was just by myself. It was very lonely but something I needed to do. I was by myself in a hotel and, yeah, I kind of needed that alone time to focus on this record."

Now Halcyon is out, Goulding won't get much alone time. Not that she minds. Any sombre tones in her voice disappear when discussing her return trip to Australia next year to appear at the Future Music Festival alongside the Stone Roses, Prodigy, Korean mega-star Psy and others.

"I'd like to work with Prodigy," she bubbles, before adding that she is really looking forward to the festival. "I really am. It's my first confirmed festival (of next year) and it's put me in the mood already for festival season and I'm really excited."

Halcyon is out now. Ellie Goulding plays Future Music Festival at Arena Joondalup on March 3. Tickets from Ticketmaster outlets.