You flew into Vancouver from London yesterday. Are you jet-lagged?
That’s why we are drinking—we genuinely need the buzz of something to get us through the day. I hadn’t been on a long-haul flight for a few weeks, so I thought, I’ll just have a little tipple to take the edge off. I made the mistake of having too many drinks, and then I watched Carol, and for the rest of the flight I was thinking about feminism and women’s rights—like, so seriously that it bummed me out.
What are your feelings on the current state of feminism?
It’s always tempting to talk about negative things when I get asked this, but I’m also seeing positive changes. A decade ago, a woman would have been too scared to go into the weight section of the gym. Now every time I go to the gym, I see more women lifting weights. But with music, I’m not going to lie—I’ve experienced the misogyny that comes with writing songs like “On My Mind,” where I talk openly about a one-night stand. It’s almost like girls aren’t allowed to have one-night stands, but I’m like, f-ck that.
Have you ever been slut-shamed?
I have been, 100 percent, on social media. I work out a lot; I’m proud of my body. I put up a picture of myself, and people are like, “Put it away; you’re supposed to be a good influence on young people.” Young women should have the freedom to post a picture with no makeup and wearing a track suit or in full makeup and a tight dress.
What did you think of Kim Kardashian’s naked Instagram selfie?
Honestly, it did not phase me. I feel like I have the right to do the same thing if I ever wanted to. She’s a mom; she’s had kids; she looks incredible. She works hard for her body, and it’s beautiful.
You seem to work pretty hard for yours, too.
I work hard, but I don’t have the perfect body. When I put up a fitness video [Goulding is a Nike ambassador and has designed workouts for the brand’s Training Club app], I’m encouraging other women to be physically strong. I’ve been boxing for years. If I was ever attacked, I could look after myself.
I think so. I grew up in a village that was very rough with some very tough girls who could truly look out for themselves. [Goulding grew up in public housing in Herefordshire, England.] We all ran around and were active. I think that’s where my love of fitness and being agile comes from. So when I post stuff, it’s for a good reason. I don’t expect people to say, “Nice ass.”
Do you feel like social media is necessary to build your brand?
I wouldn’t have said that a few years back, but then I suddenly got 10 million Instagram followers, so maybe I’m doing something right. I don’t have Snapchat. My fans keep telling me to get it, but I’m not quite ready.
Unlike a lot of celebs, you’ve talked about the famous men you’ve dated [like One Direction’s Niall Horan and McBusted’s Dougie Poynter, from whom she recently split]. How do you decide what is private versus public?
There are private things people wouldn’t know because I haven’t mentioned them, but I’m pretty open, and that’s just how I’ve always been. The guys I’ve been with know this about me. I have the same vulnerabilities, the same fears, the same insecurities as the next girl, but I’m very open about them. So rather than put up a front, if I’m scared of something, I’ll just say it or tweet about it.
You struggled with panic attacks earlier in your career. How did you learn to cope?
By having cognitive behavioural therapy. I was skeptical at first because I’d never had therapy, but not being able to leave the house was so debilitating. And this was when my career was really taking off. 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.
Do you still have attacks?
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 controlling anxiety.
You’re pretty tight with Taylor Swift. Do you rely on her or other famous friends for advice on dealing with the intensity of the music world?
Not necessarily famous people, but people who make a living doing music. It’s good to get the perspective of people who have been through the same things I have.
You were in Taylor’s “Bad Blood” video, which basically kick-started the girl squad movement. Why do you think it got so much attention?
It was a really powerful thing to do. But it’s not like it’s an entirely new movement. It’s important to remember the women who literally gave their lives—like the suffragettes—for women’s rights. Women have been fighting for their rights for years. It’s just that now it’s a snowball effect, and it’s not stopping any time soon, and rightly so.
Let’s talk about your latest album. How would you describe the sound of Delirium?
I can’t, really. Nobody’s ever been able to describe my music that well, and that’s a good thing. My voice is the thing that makes it stand out. My mom was into rave music. I was never brought up on The Beatles or Fleetwood Mac or Bob Dylan. It was all…[makes drum machine noises].
Do you think people’s taste in music is becoming more sophisticated?
Yes. Music is now spread and streamed so quickly, and you have immediate access. It just means people can be like, “No, no, no, no, yes!”
If you were able to make an album without worrying about whether it would sell or have hit singles, what would you record?
It would be something inspired by Lisa Gerrard or Hans Zimmer [both Hollywood composers]. There are certain soundtracks that have really resonated with me: Man on Fire, Gladiator. I’d like to do an entire soundtrack.
Speaking of soundtracks, this year you were nominated for a Grammy and a Golden Globe for “Love Me Like You Do” from Fifty Shades of Grey. What did you think of the movie?
The film was very popular, but I don’t think it was what people wanted it to be, which is a shame, because I love [director] Sam Taylor-Johnson. I just think she and the film weren’t the right pairing.
Who are some other female artists you admire?
Björk is my hero. Joni Mitchell, for her honesty. Dolly Parton. Stevie Nicks. Beyoncé. Adele. Taylor, of course.
Speaking of Stevie—our shoot had a ’70s thing going on. What’s your own go-to red carpet look these days?
I’m not really doing any red carpets at the moment, and it’s quite nice because red carpet is stressful—oh, my god, it’s so stressful. I feel like I need a long time to get ready, so it’s easier for things to go wrong. For some people it’s effortless, and they just walk out in a simple dress. Actually, the Grammys was relatively simple: I wore a beautiful Stella McCartney; Chris McMillan did my hair; Lucy Wearing did my makeup. It was quite chill. I think that’s why my performance went so well.
Do you feel a connection with the fashion world?
It’s not something I’ve tried to be a part of, but I do get amazing opportunities. When I find out designers—like Donatella Versace—are fans, I’m genuinely shocked. They invite me to their shows and ask me to do things for them, but I just never can because my dedication to music is crazy.
Your life is pretty intense these days. What do you miss most about your pre-fame existence?
Being recognized and asked for photos is the thing I could gladly do without. But I appreciate that people are genuine fans.
Are your Canadian fans different from those in other countries?
Fans here are very loyal and passionate but not crazy. There’s a parallel with my British fans, in that they can be quite reserved. It’s cool that we have that in common.
And we have a similar love of the monarchy.
Yes…. OMG, your prime minister is really hot. Oh, my days. He’s handsome and a feminist. I wish there were more leaders like him in the world. Unfortunately, there are people who are the opposite of him—like people up for the [American] presidency.
On Twitter you said you were going to take a break from music after this tour. True?
Yes. I’m still going to be writing, but it’s been so overwhelming the past few years that it’s time to go away for a little bit and be out of the limelight. It’s really a commitment, being on the road; you almost put everything on hold—seeing family, seeing friends. I’ve missed so many weddings and births. It will be nice to wake up and know I don’t have anything to do.
Hair: Jayson Medina, R+Co Hair Care and T3 Tools, Exclusive Artists Management.
Makeup: Lucy Wearing, Sisley Paris.
Nails: Christina Culver, M.A.C, THEYRep.com.
Editor: Briony Smith.