Billie Eilish: ‘I'm More Confident in Myself'Posted by Mike Schuck
Billie Eilish's existence in 2021 may be summarized by the fact that she awoke one morning last month, turned over to check her phone, and discovered she'd received seven Grammy nominations. She'd slept through the official announcement. "I stayed up late last night watching Fleabag. Again!”
We're talking over Zoom from her Los Angeles home. "I'm watching Fleabag for the third time. I've just interrupted it again to do this interview.
Andrew Scott is my all-time favorite actor! And Phoebe [Waller-Bridge] is incredible. I can't say enough about her. When I first met her at the Bond premiere, I spent the whole night trying not to blow smoke up her arse."
Eilish would be a prominent person in 2021 thanks to her Grammy-winning title song for No Time to Die Alone, which she co-wrote with her older brother Finneas. It debuted at the pre-Covid 2020 Brit Awards and was released in theaters little over two months ago ("We saw the entire movie in December 2019... we had to keep all the secrets for two years... that was difficult!"). However, considering all that has transpired this year, the Bond motif is old news.
Happier Than Ever, Billie's second album, was a great worldwide smash when it was released in July, pushing her characteristic glitchy-moody pop into new regions of torch ballad and bossa nova. The Eilish-directed picture that preceded it also went viral, owing to the fact that the green-and-black-haired, shorts-wearing punk everyone knew had suddenly transformed into a blond, pink-corseted, Marilyn Monroe-esque stunner.
Then there was her emotional comeback to live music during the summer at a series of festival appearances ("to see how the fans reacted in real life to my new songs was amazing and surreal... thousands of kids singing at the top of their lungs") Billie Eilish: The World Is a Little Blurry, a warts-and-all documentary about her early years, was released in February. Eilish "literally sobbed all the way through it" when she watched it.
Why? "It's amazing to think about how young I was at the time, how much was going on, and what I had to deal with and cope with." I was both proud of myself and pitying myself, and I was jealous of that girl, the 16-year-old me, who was so reckless and carefree." She realizes what she's done. "It was necessary for me to snap out of it!"
Happier Than Ever is a challenging but sweetly dreamlike second album written in Covid lockdowns, mostly about growing up, as songs like Getting Older, My Future, and Everybody Dies demonstrate. Given that Eilish's career started at the age of 13, when she posted her debut song, Ocean Eyes, to SoundCloud (the tune had 700 million Spotify listens by February this year), it's safe to assume she didn't have a conventional adolescent. She continues, crushing ice between her teeth as she twists her thoughts around, "I was always very afraid of getting older – I dreaded it."
"And, aside from a few hiccups, I've mostly found that I've been enjoying just having a little adulthood." Doing things on your own for the first time, such as obtaining petrol, doing laundry, and contacting your doctor." She chuckles. "Standard nonsense!" It's not always enjoyable, but it's thrilling to be a human, isn't it?"
However, Eilish became "super-worried" after the release of her second album. Why? "As you grow in size, more people despise your guts." Finneas' first solo album, Optimist, was released in October, and she felt the same way. "'Don't forget how you felt when you originally created this,' I replied. It was a hit with you.' I believe that we should all love our work as much as we did when we originally created it."
In May, Eilish shared a photo of her Marilyn-styled UK Vogue cover on Instagram. It received a million likes in just six minutes, making it her second record-breaking achievement on the site. A Daily Mail headline raged, "Proof that money can make you change your values and sell out!"
"That shoot was so much fun," Eilish says now. "It was like a game of dress-up, you know?" "Because that's what a fucking photoshoot is," she says, her voice hardening against the naysayers.
She thought it was amusing when some people said she looked different after the session, she continued. "I'm just having fun!" You know, I and everyone else are free to wear anything we choose at any moment.
It was a lot of joy to put something out there in the public. You are free to alter your mind. It's also OK if you don't want to change. You are free to dress whatever you want, say whatever you want, do whatever you want, and be whatever you want."
The photo session had a significant impact on her: it helped her feel more at ease in her own flesh, she claims. "I used to despise the way I looked; I still don't, but I'm more confident in myself, and I've become a lot more proud of who I am and more open to new experiences." I believe [that shoot] prepared me to have an open mind in the future."
She's also increased her environmental advocacy this year, performing live at the 24-hour Global Citizen event, urging for urgent action ahead of Cop26, and executive producing the "food justice" documentary They're Trying to Kill Us.
She isn't averse to donating her celebrity to worthy causes. "I mean, what else is the point of it?" says the narrator. We are capable of accomplishing what we are capable of doing, and I believe that is quite essential. And, again, I'm not invincible, but I do my damnedest to aid the world because, well, why not? "Someone has to do it."
She hasn't slacked off since the end of the year. She just released Eilish, a new perfume inspired by her synaesthesia and fascination with fragrance and memory ("I can't wait for people to smell like how I dream they smell!"). She'll also be hosting Saturday Night Live this week ("I don't know anything about it yet – but I'm very, very, very fucking excited"), just before her 20th birthday.
How does she want to exit her adolescence? Crunch. "To be honest, I'm not sure." Her mother would dress up as a fairy and bring out sweets, and young Billie would be given puppies to play with, as well as a "bounce house" and a piata.
For the time being, she's content driving at 300 mph, anticipating the release of the new Pixar film Turning Red, for which she and Finneas wrote songs, and listening to Gorillaz nonstop ("I've known them my entire life, but it's like they've taken over my body these last few weeks – I've become completely infatuated!").
What does she want for the next year? At first, she responds in the manner of a seasoned adolescent. "Gosh, I'm not sure." "You know, there are so many unknowns?" Then there's Billie, the newcomer. "I'll just say I wish for joy, happiness, and love, because that's all I really want." "I'm not interested in anything else."
Thanks to Jude Rogers at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.
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