More than a year after Britain’s next big thing dropped her electro-pop single “Lights” in the U.S., it’s finally reached Billboard’s top tier—just in time for Goulding, 25, to put the finishing touches on her as-yet-untitled sophomore album, due out in October.
TIME: I heard “Lights” twice in my grocery store the other day. So clearly you have made it in America.
Goulding: Really? I still get plenty freaked out hearing my own songs play.
Well, for some reason, I always miss my song on the radio when it plays. Other people catch it all the time — I never do. But one night, I was by myself in a hotel in L.A., trying to sleep, and people were partying downstairs. And I got woken up by loud music. It was “Lights.”
Ha, that’s great.
And then I got woken up again when they played the Bassnectar remix! I guess I tapped into my own music or something.
Last year, you performed at the Royal Wedding. What was that like?
Pretty insane. It still feels like something that didn’t really happen, actually.
Yeah, I bet.
I’m always kind of at a loss for words when I talk about it. It was just a really surreal, exciting, beautiful thing to do. I never thought in a million years I’d be playing my album tracks to the future king of England.
Did you meet William and Kate?
Yeah, we did a rehearsal at Buckingham Palace, so we saw them there. And they’re really the sweetest, nicest, most wonderful couple. Real music lovers, too.
Do you guys keep in touch?
We did, yeah. They sent me some photos of me and the band and stuff. But I’m sure they are very busy now.
A lot of artists talk about how they like to unwind by eating or napping or traveling. But you run half-marathons.
I do! I wish I could run every single day, without fail. But I’m so busy at the moment traveling and getting my second album finished.
So you don’t have enough time?
No. I used to have a real good runner’s body, and I was super fit. And now I am fit, you know—I could go out tomorrow and run a half marathon if I really, really had to. But yeah, I’d like to be fitter than I am.
Yeah, you know what makes me really fit? When I’m touring constantly and I’m on stage. So once I’m touring again, I’ll be golden and it’ll be great. For the moment it’s like, sit in the studio, eating chocolate, pigging out. Well, not really. But the only thing that matters is getting these songs perfect. So running becomes the last thing on my mind.
Now that you’ve spent some quality time in the U.S., what’s surprised you most about Americans?
The reception that artists get in general is amazing. It’s very positive and polite. In the U.K., the press can be really brutal and very personal and very mean.
When I started running with fans in the U.K., because I wanted to get people out running, people were really cynical about it. Whereas here, it’s like the most amazing thing in the world, you know?
I love where I come from. But as much as I like that type of sarcastic, dry humor in British TV and movies and stuff, it can be, I don’t know, quite negative and not very nice. So it works both ways, I guess.
Sure, that makes sense. So, switching gears: You’ve been dating [dubstep artist] Skrillex for a couple months now, right?
How has he influenced your musical style? Or have you influenced his?
I think we influence each other—not necessarily in music, but in the way that any couple would influence each other. One of the reasons that we first liked each other is that we’re both very motivated and we work really hard. We just want to make good music and tour and I think, you know, we motivate each other.
Yeah, we were good mates before we became a couple, and we’re both really big fans of each other. So, like, I play him my new stuff he plays me his new stuff, and it probably has influenced me subconsciously. And maybe my stuff has influenced him subconsciously. I don’t know. But he’s a very talented producer. He’s really good at what he does.
Which other artists do you listen to? Besides your boyfriend, I mean.
Um… [laughs] I listen to a lot of electronic music. I like Grimes’ stuff. She was on this tour I was just on. I like Drake. And I listen to Bjork still. I like to listen to a lot of stuff.
Well, here’s hoping you finally get to hear “Lights” on the radio.
I know! Maybe it’ll be while I’m here in New York. I haven’t been in the car in ages, though.
You could always call and request it. “This is Ellie Goulding. I want you to play my song.”
Maybe I will. That’d be quite a funny little thing.