Ellie Goulding is "tired… very tired." Her world tour kicks off in Europe tomorrow, and Goulding should be on the bus, but she's bought a plane ticket to give herself an extra day at home. Unfortunately, most of the day will be spent working… and talking to people like us. She hasn't had a chance to eat all day, she says, so she's tucking into "some random toastie thing" her stylist gave her as we chat, apologising for chewing on the phone. "I never eat bread… but this is quite appealing." She tells Time Out she's looking forward to the tour – which brings her to Australia this May-June – but, "I'm clinging to London as much as possible. It's daunting being away for so long, but I do always end up looking back fondly a lot of the time when I think about tours."
Her fond memories of Sydney, from her tour here in 2012, include running along the Harbour Bridge, around the Opera House and into the Botanic Gardens (the famously fit running enthusiast says it was "a small run, about 10km"). Goulding was able to get by relatively anonymously back then – while her hit 'Anything Could Happen' was a radio favourite and featured on the trailer for Offspring, Goulding was not yet a household name or face. This time, with the Calvin Harris collaboration 'I Need Your Love' hitting number three and her 'Goodness Gracious' climbing the charts, she might not be so lucky.
The day we speak is a pretty special one for Goulding: her album Halcyon has just reclaimed the top spot on the UK charts… some 68 weeks after its release ("the Grammys were today and I couldn't go to that so this was my own little accomplishment"). The album first reached the number one spot just three weeks earlier, in early January, off the back of singles like 'Burn' and 'Lights'; those two songs, in another strange twist of the album, were huge in the US but never made much of an impact in Australia. Why does Goulding think Halcyon has finally caught on? "I could make up some random answer for you," she says. "But the truth is I just think this is the time for it. Whatever is in that album is tapping into peoples' mood. It's like fashion: things change and people are connecting with it."
There's a lot to connect with, no matter what genre you favour. While Halcyon is undeniably a pop record, Goulding's sound takes in pure bubblegum ('Goodness Gracious', on which she collaborated with FUN.'s Nate Ruess), dream pop ('Anything Could Happen'), indie ('Lights') and, with 'I Need Your Love', pure EDM. It's a quality some point to when praising her work and others use to criticise. And lately she's using her voice – a chirpy but full instrument – for further experiments, singing with an orchestra for the score to teen action flick, Divergent. (If you're wondering, her own favourite soundtracks growing up were Braveheart – "so epic, so beautiful" – and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. "I was a teenage girl," she explains simply.)
Will she ever settle on just one sound? "I listen to a lot of music and my voice is the key," says Goulding, who lists artists as diverse as Fourtet, James Blake and Sigur Ros on her running playlist. "People think my voice is computerised, but it's just really weird. I can adapt my voice, it's a chameleon. I don't really need to think about genre. The next record could be hip hop. The next record could be anything."