Ellie Goulding is the first to admit it's not the most ideal time to release an album — but she's making the best of it.
"It's being released in a strange time. There's no doubt about that," the 33-year-old singer tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "But when I listened to it the other night, I was kind of taken aback by how relevant the lyrics are right now."
During a time when most people are still staying safe at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the themes of Goulding's latest album, Brightest Blue, reflect the self-work many have taken on during this time.
"It does have this sense of finding love for yourself, which I think a lot of us have had to do," she says. "This is a time of confrontation whether we like it or not."
Goulding's own time of confrontation came after she wrapped her Delirium World Tour in 2017. "I realized I had not for a second stopped to think about who I'd become," says the star, who first broke through in 2010 with her debut album Lights. "I was a nonstop train and it was just 'Go, go, go.' "
Moving to New York City for a couple years, the London-based musician purposely faded into the background. "It was quite nice to have that escape and be in my own kind of world for a bit," says Goulding.
For the last several months, the star has been social distancing with her husband, Caspar Jopling, at their cottage in Oxford. While she's now back in London, the slower pace of life allowed her to "think about my weaknesses and flaws but also my strengths and powers," she says. "I'm still a little bit insecure, but I've got more love for myself than ever."
By reflecting on both the "hard times and the good times," Goulding found inspiration for her new emotionally honest album.
"Twenties was just a disaster in so many ways. I had these relationships at the time that were everything. A couple years later, I'm like, 'Why did I waste their time and mine by thinking it was something more than it was?' " she says. "I clearly really needed that comfort and someone to be there for me. When I think back to some of the parties and people I was with, I'm like, 'What the hell were you doing?' It's like a whole other girl."
With a new lease on life, Goulding says she's been navigating her 30s with a confidence that was difficult to grasp in her 20s.
"I always joke I'm getting old or I've got wrinkles, but I feel like I've had this time to mourn my 20s. Now I'm in a much better place and grateful for that," she says. "I've learned things about myself that I perhaps would never have learned in the world I was in with touring and working as hard as I did."
For all the details on Ellie Goulding's new album Brightest Blue and how she hopes to inspire love and empowerment with her music, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
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