At 15, she started songwriting and while at Hereford Sixth Form College entered a singing competition and won.Although Ellie Goulding signed to Polydor Records in July 2009, her debut single, "Under the Sheets", was released through the independent label Neon Gold Records as a deliberately low-key debut, appearing digitally in the United Kingdom on 15 November 2009.
The single became her second highest-charting single to date, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart.
In August/September 2010, Goulding was an opening act for U2 on the U2 360 Tour in Zurich (two nights), Munich, and Vienna.
After signing to Polydor Records in July 2009, Goulding released her debut extended play, An Introduction to Ellie Goulding, later that year.
In 2010, she became the second artist to top the BBC's annual Sound of...
The song charted before it was released, and made its way into the Top 40 in the UK, peaking at number 33.
Goulding contributed a track titled "Bittersweet" (produced by Skrillex) to the soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, released on 13 November 2012.
On 19 November 2012, the music video for Goulding's second single from Halcyon, titled "Figure 8" was released.
The single was released digitally in the UK on 12 December 2012.
She also played live at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April 2011.
She made her American television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! She appeared as the musical guest on the 700th episode of the Saturday Night Live, broadcast and hosted by Tina Fey.
Goulding's debut album Lights was released in March 2010, reaching number one on the UK Albums Chart and number six on the Irish Albums Chart.