Ellie Goulding on the story behind 'Worry About Me' and what to expect from the new album
Ellie Goulding is just like anyone else in quarantine. She’s binged Tiger King, claps for healthcare heroes at 8 p.m. every Thursday (as is practice in the U.K.), and agrees that, even though we’re all cooped up indoors, now is not the time to hear from our exes.
In fact, the "no exes" concept is at the heart of the British pop star’s new track “Worry About Me” featuring rapper blackbear. From her home in the picturesque English countryside, where she is isolating with her husband of eight months (“He’s quite nice!”) and her guitar, Goulding hopped on the phone with EW to chat about the new single and her upcoming album, which is set to drop this summer.
Released (prematurely, after a leak) in March 2020, “Worry About Me” tells the story of a content singleton who doesn’t need to hear from her ex — something Goulding, though happily married, wanted to take the opportunity to explore in a fun way. “The fact is, sometimes people who are single are actually some of the happiest,” says Goulding. “Then somebody keeps hitting you up, knowing that you're happy, sabotaging it for their own gain. Sometimes we think too much about making ourselves happy and then it ends up impeding someone else's happiness. That’s what it’s about.”
With the theme in place lyrically, Goulding was delighted to collaborate once again with producers and songwriters Ilya Salmanzadeh, Peter Svensson, and Savan Kotecha. “I love working with them and I feel like we're kindred spirits in some weird way,” she says. “We all grew up listening to the same kind of stuff and appreciate the same pop music. When I write with them it's kind of formulaic, but it's also just as giving. They allow pop singers the opportunity to get that fierce side out. I've seen it with singers like Sam Smith, Taylor Swift, and Ariana [Grande]. It gives them the opportunity to really explore something they've always wanted to write about or that note they've always wanted to hit. They just bring out a different part of my personality.”
Also bringing out another side to Goulding's personality was the addition of blackbear to the track. “When I heard [his song] ‘Hot Girl Bummer’ I just felt, this guy's got something fun, a great voice and great lyrics,” says Goulding. “I just have a feeling about people. He's got the right personality and he's extremely talented. When he sent his files back, I was so impressed that he managed to capture the essence of the song — better than I did myself. I knew that my instincts had served me well with him.”
While the lead single introduces an R&B flavor to Goulding’s music, she says the new album is more in line with her signature sound. “It's much closer to home,” say admits. “The album's a lot of nostalgia and stories about becoming a woman. I play all the instruments and the arrangements are all mine. The chords that I was using were out of my comfort zone — they were less pop chords and slightly more soulful.” Goulding also cites Francis and the Lights, Bon Iver, Kanye West, Christine and the Queens, and a French duo named the Blaze as her influences on this record. “The Blaze are the coolest thing to come out of France since Daft Punk,” she says. “Overall, this record is much more in the world of my second album which my fans always say is my ‘iconic album.’”
It’s been eight years since said-iconic album Halcyon landed, and nearly five since Goulding’s last installment, Delirium. “When I released my last album in 2015, I would have laughed if someone had said that I was going to be releasing my next one in 2020," she says. "That was not the plan, but I went through a few things.” That included having to find a manager, after Goulding and her old one amicably parted ways. However, the transitional moment gave Goulding the time to do what she really needed to. “I had phone calls from people every day being like, ‘Let's meet up! I'd love to chat. I'd love to work with you!’ but I just wanted to block it out,” she says. “All I wanted to do was write music. It was an opportunity for me to just turn my phone off, get in the studio, and write about the past few years ,which have been a crazy journey of touring and just a total roller coaster of madness.” All that internal reflection allowed the singer to grow up in a way she hadn’t even realized she needed to — and the new music reflects that growth. “The album became very centered around having this newfound independence without needing someone else, and becoming a woman — as corny as it sounds.” In doing some personal soul-searching, Goulding might’ve unwittingly created a perfect pandemic soundtrack. “I want my music to be hopeful,” she explains. “I like to provide people with some kind of remedy, but also just show that everyone goes through the same thing."