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Ellie Goulding talks new single ‘Easy Lover’ and the sound of her next album

‘It's definitely more veering towards a dance album, it’s got the 80s influences, and then it also has a bit of disco influence,’ the singer tells Rolling Stone UK

By Hollie Geraghty

A publicity photo of Ellie Goulding
Ellie Goulding (Picture: Madison Phipps)

Ellie Goulding has returned today with new single ‘Easy Lover’ featuring Big Sean, the first release since her chart-topping 2020 album Brightest Blue

The galactic dance anthem, written and produced in collaboration with Greg Kurstin and Julia Michaels, was first penned about five years ago to serve as the “antidote” to being infatuated with someone who doesn’t feel the same. “We must have been just moaning about boys or something, as we always do in the studio,” Goulding tells Rolling Stone UK of her creative process with Michaels. “And I think one of us was in a situation where there was this sort of toxicity in going back to the same person. Because you get this really passionate, temporary gratification of being with this person who makes you feel good in the moment. And then, the next day, you just feel awful.”

The music video, directed by Sophia Ray (Years & Years, Raye, Mabel) was filmed in a school in Bulgaria, and sees Goulding play several characters, including a teacher and an androgynous rocker, to take on an otherworldly creature. “I was really nervous that the video would just end up being a representation of the song. But I wanted it to be something else. I wanted it to be a bit trippy, like we’re living in some kind of parallel universe, or we’re all in some kind of simulation, like a video game.” She adds that she wanted to allude to characters that might return later in the campaign.

The singer also revealed what fans can expect from her forthcoming fifth album. “I’d say it’s definitely more veering towards a dance album, it’s got the eighties influences, and then it also has a bit of disco influence,” she says. “I worked with producers that I love for the way that they really appreciate music in the past, especially in that kind of eighties and early nineties era, but then also just have this really great sensibility of pop in the now and their interpretation of it.”

Goulding looks set to follow the lead of artists like Drake and Beyoncé, who are experimenting with their own dance records this year. “I now understand that people are wanting to bring out more dance records because it’s the best type of escapism, and for me, right now, I need to escape in that music. It’s something that I need to do for myself,” she says. “I don’t want to be up there singing ballads at the moment. I want to be out there moving, feeling good, feeling the endorphins of dancing. Sometimes you’ve just got to do it for yourself as well as the fans.”

At the beginning of this year, Goulding shared a candid Instagram post about her mental health, writing that over the past year she’d “struggled daily, nightly, hourly, with a kind of panic I didn’t even know existed.” But she says now is the right time to throw herself back into music. “When you know what anxiety is, you understand that it’s quite debilitating,” she says. “I really had to push myself to not be stuck in this rut of just overthinking. And once you get the fear in you about something, it spirals and you just get scared of everything.” She continues: “Everything gives you the fear, like social situations, being in the car, being on a plane — I literally can’t even fly anymore.”

But she says she had to “make that jump” back into making music as she continues to manage her mental wellbeing. “It’s still a struggle. Not a day goes by where I’m not anxious. So I do have to just play it day by day, which is fine. And I think that’s what I was probably not doing enough, actually.”

Check out a gallery of stills from the ‘Easy Lover’ music video exclusively on Rolling Stone UK above, and watch the video below.