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When Ellie Goulding was tapped to be the lone performer at Prince William and Kate Middleton's April 29 nuptials, nobody was more stunned than the folk-pop singer herself. "It was all so surreal!" says the 24-year-old, whose album, Lights, was the bestselling debut of 2010 in her native England (it's out stateside now!).
She talks to UsMagazine.com about her historic gig.
UsMagazine.com: It's been a busy, whirlwind couple of weeks for you!
Ellie Goulding: Yeah. I’ve been busier actually but doing SNL was really epic. It has more significance here, obviously, because you've grown up with it. We haven’t had it at all, and I was never aware of it. I understand it’s quite important.
Us: I love Lights, and it's been such a massive hit in England. Do you feel pressure to break America?
EG: I just know how to sing, and I feel no pressure whatsoever. If I do have a hit, that’s absolutely brilliant because I get to keep coming over and I love it here and I’ve already got a really dedicated fan base. I think times have changed from what it used to be. When I was younger I followed the story of Robbie Williams trying to make it here, but I think it's harder to break over here now. People aren't buying as many records as they used to, so I think the whole game has changed. I'm not naive to think I’m just going to come over here and do one performance and everybody is going to fall in love with me. I never intended to take over the world anyway. Anything I do conquer is a bonus.
Us: It's been a quick rise in England. Hasn't it only been a year or two?
EG: I feel like it really started happening for me when I released "Your Song" because it went to no. 1 and was there for ages. People were hearing my voice, and I feel like it energized the whole campaign. Now it seems busier than ever and it seems like more people know me now than before, which is partly due to the fact that the "Your Song" video is so up close. Now I get recognized, and I never used to! I feel like I’m in a really good place, like I’ve established myself and I have the freedom to breathe now.
Us: You're not one of the tabloid stars where paparazzi are following you all the time.
EG: I actually have a fear of being one of those. I watch reality TV shows and I’m weirdly obsessed with them. I'm so eager not to be that, but I like escaping in a weird world of tabloids and reality TV.
Us: What are your favorite shows?
EG: I love Katie Price and Peter Andre. I love loads of weird stuff. It would help if I wanted to have exposure and went out and wore little things but unfortunately I don't, so I have to make up for that by being a good musician.
Us: Obviously you had to deal with a different kind of attention by doing the royal wedding. What was it like being in that bubble and being part of such a big event?
EG: I knew about it for a while, but I couldn't tell anyone. It was a stressful tour, and at times I was down, but I just reminded myself that I was going to do this incredible thing and it was going to be a really special moment in my life. I was really honored to be part of such an incredible fairytale. Once in a lifetime.
Us: Who approached you?
EG: I met Prince William last year at festival. He and Katherine were watching my show and absolutely loved it. Then they contacted me about three or four months ago, and it went from there.
Us: Have you hung out with them on a friendly level or was it just meeting them?
EG: They're both wonderful, wonderful people, but no I haven't. Aside from being part of the day in itself, I'm really patriotic so I really enjoyed watching the ceremony on TV. And then I was like, 'I need to get ready at some point.' (laughs)
Us: What was the rest of that day like?
EG: The only word I can think of is very surreal. I honestly had to grip myself and come back to reality. Afterwards, I didn't believe that I'd actually done it. You have to be professional but you also have to realize it’s a remarkable thing to do. The nature of it was so relaxed so I was fine.
Us: No stage fright?
EG: No, no. I didn’t have any, which was good. I am a nervous person, and I get nervous on live TV, but there's one thing that I can give myself and that’s that I can compose myself eventually. For a country girl from the middle of nowhere to do certain things, it's scary and terrifying but I give myself credit.
Us: Did you get to talk to any of the Middletons?
EG: I did briefly. All of them were absolutely lovely and really friendly, and I can't stress that enough.
Us: Has Elton John given you his stamp of approval on your rendition of "Your Song"?
EG: There was a headline in the paper saying that he's a really big fan, and I was like 'phew!' You’ve got to do his songs well and give it your all.
Us: I know you're from a really small town. Were your family and friends blown away and asking a lot of questions?
EG: Actually my friends were just like, 'wow, that's pretty awesome.' I hid it away for a while, and I think I was just very relaxed about it. It's like the Super Bowl or something ridiculous. It's once in a lifetime.
Us: I have to ask this -- single? Dating?
EG: I've had a boyfriend, who's a radio DJ in England, for a year.
Us: How would you describe your sound?
EG: I would say it's pop music. People say I have an unusual voice, I play guitar and I really love the sound of tribal drums and crazy guitars. I always wanted to make pop music but I guess I'm lucky enough that I can stretch the imagination a little bit more and add a different element to it. It feels like pop music.
Us: What do you think of all of the other pop stars out there now? Like Gaga and Katy Perry?
EG: I love Katy, I love Gaga, I love Rihanna. I don’t think there is one high-profile female artist I don’t like because I'm influenced by everyone. I'm just blown away by them. It's important for female artists to get inspiration from each other. I guess in a way people would say it's a competition but at the same time, people like Lady Gaga are going to be like my generation's Lauryn Hill or Joni Mitchell or Bjork.
Us: Is there anyone surprising you like -- like gangster rap or something?
EG: I love Kanye West, I love Drake, I love Nicki Minaj. I love some kind of heavy metal stuff. There are a lot of crazy things floating around my iTunes but I’m a real sucker for R&B and hip-hop for sure.
Us: Are you also a fan of Adele and Florence and the Machine? I know they've sort of broken here.
EG: Yeah. Adele said in an interview that she's a fan, which is amazing, and one of my first gigs was supporting Florence and she was really lovely to me. Katy Perry Tweeted about me and Hayley Williams from Paramore and Kiley Minogue and Rihanna. Rihanna said in an interview that she wants to work with me. I feel like all of the female artists have this camaraderie and are proud of each others work.