fifteen and fearless — billie eilish is music’s new teen star
Talking injuries and fashion with one of pop's promising talents.
Photography LLOYD PURSALL
One of the first things you notice about Billie Eilish is her incredible presence. Her eyes seem to hold secrets beyond her fifteen years and her music is so rich and confident you can't help but want to hear more. Off the back of her luscious, 2015 breakthrough track Ocean Eyes and its catchy follow up Belly Ache, Billie has quickly captured the attention of the music industry and media, garnering comparisons to talents like Lorde and Lana Del Rey. She has the kind of cool, authentic, reckless quality that's impossible to fake and that's totally formidable when combined with real talent.
Speaking to Billie at her home in L.A, it's quickly clear that this is what she was destined to do. Growing up singing in choirs and going to dancing lessons, she writes songs with her musical brother, Finneas, in an environment that's nurturing and supportive. What's different about Billie is her determination to be creative on her own terms — she knows what she wants and no one is going to tell her otherwise. Really, when you think about it, why would you have it any other way? With an EP in the works and a tour on the horizon, we caught up with Billie to discuss her art and getting stuck in people's heads.
Your first track Ocean Eyes was an instant success, how do you cope with that kind of attention when you're so young?
I mean I'm not sure how you're supposed to cope with it. How does anyone of any age wrap their head around any kind of success or fame. I'm just feeling how I feel and doing what I do. It's crazy, I'm so happy. Everything that's happening is just so unreal and it has been since the beginning. I'm just riding with it.
How do you feel about the fact that everything written about you is so focussed on your age?
I mean, it makes sense, it's an age where a lot happens, a lot of mood swings and a lot of learning so I do understand it. At 15 you start feeling ways that you never knew you were going to and while that's terrible, it's also really good because you're just learning the whole time. I think a lot of people base talent on age, which is unfair. Just because I'm 15, it doesn't mean that I don't feel or haven't felt pain or elation. You should think I'm good because I'm good, regardless.
Can you tell us the story of how you were signed?
I was signed in August last year to Dark Room which is a subsidiary of Interscope. Justin Lubliner over there is baller and just the best. Once I released some music tonnes of people actually approached me and everything grew really quickly. It was insane. We met with Interscope and they just had a lot of energy and were really sincere. I felt like they really believed in me and wanted to help me.
Singing and dancing have both been a big part of your life, do you plan to keep giving both practices your focus?
I've always loved singing, dancing and performing. For a while everything was about my dancing, I used to dance for like eleven hours a week, everything was for dance. It was what I loved to do. Then I was injured so I haven't really danced for a year and a half. It's given me time to focus on the other aspects of what I do but it's pretty annoying. Sometimes I just dance through the pain but I'm not sure I'll ever be where I used to be with my dancing. When I see artists dancing and singing I'm so impressed because I know how hard it is. I'll always incorporate it into everything, it'll just be adapted.
Your Instagram account would indicate that you're also into fashion. Do you have people asking to dress you?
I've never let anyone dress me and I've never listened to anyone who has tried to dress me. It's always me and my vision. I know exactly what I want and how I want to look. It pisses people off sometimes but it makes things go quicker to be honest. My fashion is wild. I try to wear things that have never been worn in that way before. I've sometimes worn pants on my arms, underneath a jacket - like huge camo pants on my arms, I did that once. Who am I? I don't know, but I love it. I also wear different shoes on each foot, like not even different colours, totally different shoes.
You're having fun with it.
Dude, I love it! I love making people look at me. That's like almost the motive. I love being judged, which I know sounds weird but I love being judged and I love it when people think I look weird or crazy. I love being in peoples' heads. If they think I look bad or I'm really annoying I'm like, "whatever, at least I'm in your head and you're thinking about me". I always try to dress in a way that people are like, "what in the world?".
I love that. Why not?
That's why I'm currently also designing a bunch of clothes, for merch, and I really want to have a clothing line beyond that. So I've just been designing all this stuff. I'm so excited for it.
That's so exciting. So is it essentially merch that's more fashion focussed or will they be independent?
Right now I'm trying to get the merch that I'll sell at shows out first. I don't want to launch with super expensive crazy designer stuff. Right now it's the basics, like hoodies with my logo. It's really weird but I think it's really cool.
Are you working with anyone on the clothing?
Not really. All the ideas are mine. I really like to do things myself and I don't like it when people do things for me. I'm going to ultimately have a lot of help for the merch, but I'll never put out anything I don't like.
I think it's great when your fans can have your music and your merch that is very much a reflection of you too.
I really want to be able to have people doing more than just looking at my Instagram. I love talking to my fans. I want them to be able to wear the same clothes as me. If they want to wear something I made then that's sick.
What are you most excited about in your future?
Honestly, I'm really excited about the fashion. Of course I'm also so excited to get the music out. I have so many ideas and I just want them out. I'm super visual, I think I'd call myself more of a visual artist than a pop artist. I have a lot of ideas for my videos too, like I said, I just want to get them out.
Text Briony Wright
Photography lloyd Pursall