Billie Eilish on Homeschooling, Humility, & Overnight Success
Every once in a while, a new young artist comes out of the Soundcloud woodwork with unpredictable, electric waves that effortlessly bend genre and creativity. This time around, look no further than upcoming singer and artist Billie Eilish. Whether you’ve repeatedly streamed “Ocean Eyes”, “Bellyache”, or recognize her voice from her track “Bored” (featured in the Selena Gomez-produced Netflix series 13 Reasons Why), it seems Billie Eilish went from a search on Soundcloud to a ever-present, pop original overnight.
Milk.xyz sat down with the youthful (she’s a mere 15 years of age) songstress for a chat about her style, music, and the power in being young and having something to say; check it below.
What inspires you to produce your own music?
I write music with my brother and he produces nearly everything and I’ve been really pushing myself to learn the producing side because I think it’s important to know what the basics are. I think a lot of young artists right now, don’t know the details that go into writing and producing and then they find themselves sitting there asking people to change this or change that and I think you should at least know what is happening instead of demanding or asking random things and then suddenly it’s great. I’ve been messing around with production and using my ideas and trying to produce it myself but for “Ocean Eyes”, that is a song my brother wrote, and we just sat in his room and we produced it. All of our production is based off of lyrical and contemporary dance because “Ocean Eyes” was built for a dance recital so we strived to make it danceable.
I think if a song doesn’t make you or you can’t dance to it, then it’s not a song.
Do you come from a musical family?
Oh yeah, very much so. My mom is songwriter so she was the one who taught my brother and I all the basics and rules of songwriting. And yeah, there are no real rules in songwriting but there are little details that make something more of song rather than random noises. My mom is also an actress and my dad is an actor and he taught me how to play the piano… Well actually I kind of taught myself but he really encouraged me to continue it. My brother and I have been in choir like our entire childhood. I’ve always been surrounded by tons of music and I love it.
Wait, you’re still in high school right?
Yeah, I’m homeschooled and have been my whole life so yeah but like… no.
So with an album and upcoming tour on the way, what else are you looking forward to?
I mean, we’ve never thought about it like, “Oh we are sitting down to write an album.” We always just write and we never force labels on what we are writing because well… We are constantly writing. When something works we decide to produce it and put it out there because, why not? It’s been very consistent for about a year and a half just with us. I started writing music at age 11 and it’s just in my blood, I guess.
Dude, I love performing live. I’ve never not loved performing and being on stage. I mean, with performing, it’s freeing in so many ways and I feel more connected to this world… That sounds totally cliche when I say it out loud. But a fact surrounding music that always blows my mind is when I see a musician live, whether I follow them or not, and their music hits me in that certain way where you feel it physically but also share a mutual feeling with the musician. That’s power; I think music is the most powerful thing in this world.
Also, it feels unbelievable to have written music and put it out there for people to do whatever with and then have a show and people come to see my show who know my music, feeling the way I feel listening to other artist’s music, it’s absolutely crazy in a kind of full circle way. I wake up and can’t believe people know that my work and my music exist.
Who are some musicians and artists that have helped shape your style and wavelength?
I think a lot of it comes from rap and hip-hop and R&B influences. I grew up listening to like The Beatles and Avril Lavigne and would also bum a lot of music from my brother but then I really started digging into Soundcloud and finding tons of different artists some with a notable following and most with none. Some specific artists who have kind of shown me who I am or have really inspired me are Tyler The Creator, I always say his name because he is such an inspiration for me. For awhile it was Lana Del Rey and Aurora. I mean, Drake, who has had like every hit in the world. I love Young Thug and XXXtentacion and $ki Mask The Slump God. Also Spooky Black, who is a total genius.
Has there been any point where you could see yourself doing anything other than music?
Dance was my entire passion for a long, long time. I mean, I was an equestrian for awhile and that takes up so much time and is so expensive, so I stopped doing that. But dance has been in my life since I was really little. I got injured about a year and a half ago so I haven’t been able to pursue dance in the same way recently. I’ve been able to dance and jam a little because I always dance when performing live and I make it a point to incorporate it into my videos. I think it’s cool that dance isn’t a forgotten or lost dream of mine because as an artist and singer, I get to dance. I also find that movement is a great outlet for me to feel, however it is I’m feeling inside, and give the most honest performance of song.
Can you speak on gender and being a young woman in the industry?
It’s weird when people ask me this because my initial reaction is: it’s never not been like this for women; it’s always been harder, but because it’s under a brighter light, suddenly, people care. It’s hard to put into words but it can be difficult. I mean I haven’t seen much of it because people treat me like a kid and not really like a woman yet. It’s kind of trick on them when they speak or approach me as a child and then I’m like, BRO. And since female is rooted in my gender, I choose to hold that as part of who I am and not as a conversation that needs to brought into the room. I’m a walking conversation.
I think there are women who are in the spotlight that have a lot of power. I have a lot of power. Reality is, there are lots of women who don’t and they feel kind of stuck or trapped and it’s incredibly difficult to get out of that place; that hole of feeling like you’re not good enough. When actually, you are good enough but are just treated like you’re not. It’s so stupid that people treat people different because of their gender or race. That’s stupid and should never be reason for something or someone to hold you back.
Tell me about onstage Billie’s style versus offstage.
I don’t actually dress any different onstage versus off. I dress like I’m onstage all the time. I either thrift or I source pieces of from certain designers I like. Super-cheap meets fancy. Which caters to my style because I always dress really insane with a lot of different colors. I always try to be really creative with what I’m wearing. I’ll wear pants on my arms or I’ll cut up a shirt and wear the sleeve as a headband or I’ll wear a different shoe on each foot. I’m working on the tour merch now but fashion is everything to me. Fashion and style inspire me and I’m actually learning and making some of my own pieces that I hope one day could be a brand or a collab or something. Who knows?
What does the rest of 2017 look like for Billie Eilish?
I have some tracks and visuals that are on the roster. Right after that, I’m releasing a seven track EP which will also follow with some videos. I’m performing a couple shows and then it’s tour time at the end of summer. I’m ready to get stuff out and work with the people I love and have the time of my life.
Images via Nylon and Billboard
Stay tuned to Milk for more rising stars.