Elena Jane Goulding was born on 30 December 1986 in Hereford and raised in Lyonshall, a small village near Kington, Herefordshire, the second of four children (she has a brother and two sisters).
At 9, she began playing the clarinet and at 14 began learning guitar. Goulding attended Lady Hawkins’ High School in Kington and started writing songs by the age of 15.[
After commencing drama, politics, and English courses at the University of Kent, she met Jamie Lillywhite who became her manager and introduced her to the producer Starsmith who would become her chief collaborator and the primary producer of Lights.
In 2010, she became the second artist to top the BBC’s annual Sound of… poll and win the Critics’ Choice Award at the Brit Awards in the same year. She released her debut studio album, Lights, in 2010; it debuted at number one on the UK Album Chart and has sold over 850,000 copies in the United Kingdom. In November 2010, the album was reissued as Bright Lights, which spawned two singles: a cover of Elton John’s “Your Song” which was selected for the first John Lewis Christmas advert, reached number two on the UK Singles Chart, and “Lights”, which became Goulding’s highest-charting single on the US Billboard Hot 100 to date, peaking at number two.
Goulding’s second studio album, Halcyon, was released in October 2012. “Anything Could Happen” preceded the album as the lead single. The album debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart, and after 65 weeks, it reached number one. Halcyon debuted at number nine on the US Billboard 200. Halcyon Days, a repackaged edition of Halcyon, was released in August 2013, generating singles, such as “Burn”, which became her first Number-One single in the UK. At the 2014 Brit Awards, she received the award for British Female Solo Artist. Goulding released her third studio album, titled Delirium, on 6 November 2015, with “On My Mind” as the album’s lead single. In December 2015, she received her first Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance for her single “Love Me
At the start of her career, Goulding started experiencing severe anxiety and panic attacks. Her mental health problems increased when her single “Lights” shot to fame in 2010. But then she worked to control anxiety with exercise, some boxing and kickboxing.
In an interview in 2017, she said she doubted her worth as a singer:
I think part of what sparked my panic attacks was not feeling confident enough to believe in myself […] I told myself that this was exactly where I was supposed to be and if other people believed in me, I had to start believing in myself.
My surroundings would trigger a panic attack, so I couldn’t go to the studio unless I was lying down in the car with a pillow over my face. I used to beat myself up about it […] There were a couple of times after I released Delirium when I was doing promo and thought, Oh god, it’s coming back, it’s
coming back, but it didn’t. I think my body has become quite good at controllinganxiety.
While she said in 2017 she still felt nerve flutters before her performances, she thinks it can now be easily managed. She stated:
It took time, but I’ve accepted that everyone feels nervous before they perform […] And now that I believe in myself more, that confidence comes through, whether I’m working out, singing onstage, or just hanging out by myself at home.