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U.K. pop breakout Ellie Goulding on her (really, really) slow rise to fame

It’s taken more than a year, but the 25-year-old’s single ”Lights” has finally hit the Billboard top 10. She talks to EW about taking the scenic route up the charts, performing for royalty, and fanning out on Tina Fey.

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She’s still trying to figure out why America has embraced ”Lights” more than a year after its release

”I’d already released six singles in England [where her debut album, Lights, topped the charts], and though I love all my songs, it was never my favorite. So when I took ‘Lights’ around the States to radio stations and did performances, I’d been singing it for so long that I kept wanting to change it. By the end of the radio tour, it sounded like an entirely different song. [Laughs] It’s really interesting to see this crazy reaction, but I can’t think of a single moment [to explain it]. Loads of people tweeted me that it’s just jumped from number 12 to number 6 or whatever, and it’s like, ‘Cool!’… I feel insanely lucky, because I know that I work hard, but a lot of people work hard.”

Yes, she sang at last year’s royal-wedding reception — by special invitation from the groom…

”Prince William saw me performing at a festival — actually, I came straight off stage all sweaty and disgusting, and he was just there telling me that he loved the show and stuff, and then I had the camera straight in my face saying, ‘You just met Prince William! How was that?’ I didn’t know what to say. I was completely shocked. But I guess [William and Kate] both became big fans, and they had followed my progress.”

….but she may have been even more starstruck by Tina Fey

”When I got the call to come over and do SNL [in May 2011] I was like, ‘Hell, yeah,’ especially when I found out that Tina Fey was hosting. I just died — she is one of my favorite people in the world. Honestly, it was the most awesome, most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever done. So scary. It’s hard to go on that show, man! It’s really hard.”

She’s learned a lot from her boyfriend, dance-music kingpin Skrillex

”I’m his biggest fan. If I could, I’d be in the studio with him every week. I don’t wanna be gushing, but he’s not only a great electronic producer, he’s just generally an insane producer. The things that he makes and the way he thinks are remarkable, and I think that’s why he’s gotten to where he has — he’s extremely clever.”

Sometimes her own success keeps her from a good night’s sleep

”I was in a hotel in L.A. and there was a late-night party going on downstairs at the bar, and I was woken up by my own song two times — they played the original and then the Bassnectar remix. It’s really weird to be woken up by yourself!”

5 Other Slow-Growing Hits
”Red Red Wine,” UB40

Their reggae-pop remake of the Neil Diamond weepie hit No. 34 in 1984 — and No. 1 four years later.

”Macarena,” Los del Rio

The bane of a thousand bar mitzvahs was recorded in 1993, but its Bayside Boys remix didn’t peak till ’96.

”This Love,” Maroon 5

The second single from their 2002 debut, Songs About Jane, left its heart at No. 5 in May 2004.

”I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz

First released on a 2005 EP as a demo, his jaunty earworm noodled all the way to No. 6 in September ’08.

”Just Dance,” Lady Gaga

The dance charts quickly heeded her command, but the Hot 100 made her wait 22 weeks for No. 1 in 2009.