Techno-pop singer Ellie Goulding is familiar with the 19th-century fable of a depressed gentleman who is advised by his physician to see Grimaldi, Britain’s most famous clown of the era, and sighs, “But doctor, I am Grimaldi!”
She can relate.
“That’s such a sad story, but it’s quite interesting, because it was like that for me for a bit,” says the English vocalist, who plays the Fox Theater in Oakland on Friday.
A year ago, she seemed to be coasting on easy street, with her Brit Award-winning 2010 debut “Lights” and its triple-platinum title single, which reached No. 1 in the U.S. more than a year after its March 2011 release.
But her personal life was a different story.
That’s why her new sophomore recording, “Halcyon,” sounds grim, with sinewy, delicate confessionals such as “My Blood,” “Hanging On” and “Dead in the Water. ”
Even the gorgeous piano ballad “Joy” feels forlorn, as she keens: “Stood in the rain and watched you go … I think of dying all the time/But I’ve got joy to take my side/Fear is my favorite ride.”
She might have played the wedding reception of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Buckingham Palace, at the couple’s personal request. But her relationship with BBC Radio DJ Greg James was simultaneously crumbling.
When it, and her “Lights” tour, ended, she was shaken to the core.
Goulding was successful. But she wasn’t happy.
“I suddenly was back home, writing a new record, and it was all very quiet and lonely,” recalls the singer, 26, who regularly documents her life in journals.
“I’d experienced a breakup and all that stuff, and I felt like everything had changed,” she says. “So a lot of what I wrote was based on a lot of sad things that I was experiencing at the time — I didn’t intentionally write the songs as breakup songs, but that’s how it ended up sounding.”
Growing up in rural Herefordshire, Goulding says, made romantic splits difficult, since you constantly bump into your ex around town.
Now, she can simply pack all her disappointment in a suitcase and gradually forget it on tour. “Because that’s your only option, really,” she says. “No matter what happens in my life, I’ll take it on the road with me, so you tend to get over things quicker.”
Currently, Goulding is seeing renowned DJ Skrillex — aka Sonny Moore — and the pair even have matching asymmetrical haircuts. She’s also planning a more minimal electronic side project this year, which explains the optimism thumping through “Anything Could Happen” from “Halcyon.”
“Could happen. And did happen!” she says. “I’m in such a good place at the moment.”