“The thing is, I’m really not at all on any sort of fame level as say, the Kardashians or like Justin Bieber or that kind of thing and when I think about that I feel for them. I don’t pity them. I don’t feel happy for them. I feel for them. You know what I mean? It’s a really difficult thing.”
Billie Eilish is not your typical singer-songwriter. She sings, yes, and writes songs alongside her brother Finneas, but she also dresses like she’s just dropped 2018’s hottest mixtape, she gets artists like Vince Staples to collaborate with her on tracks and she pens lyrics about murdering her friends and stashing their bodies in the back of her car.
Billie unapologetically pushes the boundaries of every genre that could define her music and creates exactly what she wants to make in the moment. She is bubbling with energy and ideas and has no intentions of being confided to a category just so people can understand her more easily.
When I call Billie she’s in the UK half way through a press day. She is without a doubt the most interviewed artist I’ve ever spoken to. A quick Google search will throw back pages and pages of results so I started by asking her is there anything that she is sick of talking about. I got just the answer I predicted; do not ask Billie Eilish about her age (she’s just turned 16) and do not ask Billie Eilish about being home-schooled.
“Can people just leave me alone about that shit? Oh my god! Seriously like, how does that add to anything that has to do with music? Gosh.”
Glad that we got that out of the way. One question that Billie, full title Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, was never asked in past interviews and one that I really wanted the answer to was the origin of her very Irish surname, a surname that we share.
“I don’t even know. I think my dad’s grandfather is Irish,” Billie turned away from the phone for a moment to get confirmation. “Right, my mom is agreeing with me. He’s from Ireland.”
Billie’s career almost happened by accident. It was probably inevitable that she would end up doing something creative having been raised by a family of actors and musicians, but it wasn’t until her dance teacher asked her to make a song for class that she recorded her debut ‘Ocean Eyes’. She shared it on SoundCloud in 2016 thinking nothing of it, but two years later a YouTube video of Billie dancing to the song has been viewed over six million times and the track has racked up a cool 42 million streams on Spotify.
Not to dwell on her age, but she was just 15 at the time. It’s hard being a teenager, really hard sometimes, and that’s without the extra added pressure of millions of people watching your every move. I asked Billie how she’s been handling fame.
“It’s rough, I don’t know… I don’t really want to say that it’s not good or it’s hard but… I don’t even think of myself as famous because I just don’t, but I definitely have some sort of element of it, whatever it is that I have, I don’t know what I’m saying but it’s a very difficult thing and I hate it a lot of the time because it sucks a lot.
“I feel like me saying that sounds so ungrateful and I really don’t mean it to, but it’s just true and I think everyone knows that. I’ve been realising more and more and understanding the way a lot of celebs and people in the public eye act the way they do and why people have breakdowns. People are like, ‘Oh every famous person is crazy and acts out’. They’re just people and I understand that now because it’s really hard. Fame takes over your brain, it can destroy you.”
She takes a second and then continues.